Shih Tzus are adorable; they’re a friendly, sweet-natured breed that make for a wonderful companion. So to ensure they’re always healthy and at their best, it’s important that their eating habits meet their unique requirements as a toy dog.
We know that looking after a pet is hard work - there can be a lot to remember! So we’ve compiled all the information you need about feeding your furry friend in this Shih Tzu feeding guide.
For such a small dog, the Shih Tzu has a rather extensive and interesting history - but not without dispute.
Their recorded history starts in Tibet and is thought to go back more than 1,000 years, making them one of the oldest breeds in the world. Many have suggested they were kept in Buddhist monasteries throughout Tibet and turned prayer wheels during rituals, although Tibetan Monks have dispelled this as just an amusing myth.
From Tibet, it is presumed Shih Tzus were gifted to Chinese emperors and became royal court dogs. The name ‘Shih Tzu’ actually translates to ‘lion son’ in Chinese, perhaps linking their fuzzy features to the lions’ important symbolism within the Buddhist belief system.
It’s believed that this beloved breed was brought to the UK in the 1930s and was bred into what is now the UK’s 14th most popular dog breed!
Unlike many breeds, both male and female Shih Tzu dogs have the same average size and life expectancy figures.
The average weight for these small dogs can vary between 4-7kg depending on their build. In general, you should expect for your dog to grow to around 8-11 inches up to the shoulders.
It’s a well known fact that the smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan tends to be. The Shih Tzu is no exception as its life expectancy ranges from 10-16 years, averaging at around 13 years.
Marnie the shih tzu is one of Instagram’s most popular pets. Queen Elizabeth II also has a Shih Tzu who goes by the name Choo Choo, and a certain Queen B of pop, Beyonce, has been spotted with her white and liver pup named Munchie.
It seems that a thousand years later, Shih Tzus are still charming their way into royal courts and important celebrity roles!
Source: Oscar Rohena
Luckily there aren’t any outlandish requirements when it comes to the Shih Tzu diet, but there are a couple of things you should keep an out for when choosing their food.
Much like other toy dogs, the best food for the Shih Tzu is one that’s high in protein. This is because they burn calories faster, but as their stomachs are small, the food has to be low volume but calorie rich. You can easily identify if your dog’s food is suitable by looking at the ingredients: if it’s 25% protein (fish or meat), it’s good-quality and high-protein.
The Shih Tzus’ defining luscious locks require care and attention, especially by including fat in their diets. Because their hair grows so rapidly, it’s important to ensure they’re getting all the good fats (Omega 3 and Omega 6) and Vitamin A to keep their skin moisturised and hair healthy. You can do this by checking the levels of Omega in the ingredients list, but don’t worry - dogs can’t get high cholesterol like us humans!
A much disputed topic is whether to feed dogs dry or wet food. Many suggest that you should feed dogs dry food because it’s healthier for the teeth and wet food may cause dental issues. However, this has been dispelled as a very common myth. In reality, the texture of your Shih Tzu’s food has little impact on tartar build up. Whether you feed your pet wet or dry food is up to you, but what is important to your dog’s dental health is brushing their teeth and giving them chew toys or treats.
Our experts at Lovejoys recommend a hypoallergenic diet for puppies as this will make it easier to determine if your pup is allergic to any flavours. For adults, we recommend a mixture of grain free or hypoallergenic dog food.
How much your Shih Tzu should be fed can differ depending on two key factors: age and level of activity. This Shih Tzu feeding chart can help you figure out how this applies to your pet and whether you need to adjust portion sizes accordingly.
We’d advise you break up the portion into two or three feedings per day - usually morning and evening is easiest.
Whether it’s your first dog or not, getting to grips with looking after a puppy can be overwhelming.
We recommend that you feed your puppy hypoallergenic food to begin with. This makes it really easy to identify what your Shih Tzu is reacting to if they develop an allergy to something - it will be something you’ve recently introduced.
Because puppies grow so rapidly and use up loads of energy, their calorie intake should be higher than adults. We’d recommend feeding your puppy this amount over four different meals throughout the day to make sure the volume isn’t too much for their tiny stomachs to handle! After nine months, you should switch to the adult portions.
No one can deny that a little chubby puppy is cute, but piling on those pounds can be very dangerous for dogs.
Shih Tzus in particular have a tendency to overeat and become obese if an eye isn’t kept on their eating habits. Excessive weight gain can lead to a host of health issues: breathing and heart issues, strain on the muscles and joints, and an increase in the chance of other serious diseases developing. Despite their proneness to obesity, there are always things you can do to keep them at a healthy weight.
We know those puppy eyes can be really hard to resist, but try not to give into your pup begging at the table. Even if it’s infrequent, their curiosity is indulged and human foods become a familiar smell to them, creating a tricky habit for them to break. Sometimes they’ll be so eager for more human food they’ll go as far as rummaging through the bin, and that definitely doesn’t fit into the Shih Tzu diet! It’s not just those extra calories which can be harmful to their health: the human food could actually be toxic to your pet.
If you’ve found that your dog always seems to be hungry and tends to overeat, it could be worth checking the ingredients of their current food. Sometimes cheaper dog foods can be full of byproducts and filler that don’t actually fill them up. As mentioned before, food with a high percentage of protein will be more effective at satisfying your Shih Tzu’s hunger and kerbing their overeating habits.
As touched upon before, some foods that humans can consume without thinking twice can actually be extremely harmful to our pets. Even some vegetables, which can easily be assumed to be good for them, can have adverse effects.
Although these vegetables are easily avoided in your Shih Tzu’s diet, there are some allergies that could be caused by your dog’s normal food. A common but lesser known allergy that dogs suffer from are some types of protein and carbohydrates such as wheat, wheat gluten, dairy, pork, beef and soya. This type of allergy can provoke a wide range of symptoms. From ear and skin infections that can cause irritation around the face, eyes, paws, legs and anal area to intestinal symptoms such as gas, vomiting and diarrhea.
The best way to combat this is to ensure that what you’re buying is a complete, hypoallergenic dog food that excludes common allergens. These hypoallergenic dog foods are specially formulated to stop these symptoms and most are suitable for all dog breeds, including Shih Tzus.
Here at Lovejoys we want to make sure you’re informed with all the right information when it comes to your pet. We hope this Shih Tzu feeding guide helps put your mind at ease and find what’s best for your dog’s diet. Whatever you end up choosing to feed your dog, remember that if you make a change, this should be introduced to your Shih Tzu in gradual stages rather than all at once. Happy feeding!
If you wish to use our tailored Shih Tzu Feeding Chart, please feel free to use this code:
And if you're in the US, please feel free to use this chart in pounds and ounces:
Thank you for this useful advice.