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How Many Calories a Shih Tzu Needs


The amount of calories that a Shih Tzu puppy needs to fuel his growing body or an adult needs to maintain weight depends on a few different factors.

Activity level - This is one of the most significant factors. There are surprisingly very few studies that have been done in regard to how many calories canines burn when walking or doing other activities. 

However, two different studies have both suggested the same essential findings that a typical canine will burn 64 calories during a 1 hour walk. This may not seem like a lot, since humans can burn anywhere between 200 and 400, depending on their pace, weight and so forth. However, since a dog requires much less calories per day than his human family members, those 64 calories are going to count against a much smaller number.
The rate of 64 calories per hour was determined to be the average number if a dog walked at a pace of 3.8 to 4 miles per hour - which means that a mile would be covered in 15 minutes.

Since the Shih Tzu is a toy sized dog with relatively short legs and is a Brachycephalic breed (compressed upper jaw and flat face that often affects the respiratory system), walking at this fast pace is not reasonable. 

A 20 to 25 minute walk to cover 1 mile may be more common for a Tzu and therefore, a slightly lower number of calories would be burned; somewhere in the range of 50 to 55 calories.
female Shih Tzu small
Age is another important aspect to factor in when figuring out calorie needs. Puppies have a higher metabolism than adult dogs. This evens out around the age of 1 to 1.5 years old. Then, as a dog matures into a senior the metabolism slows down even more. Senior Shih Tzu dogs 8 years and older may burn anywhere from 50 to 100 less calories per day. On top of this, activity for the senior dog often decreases as he/she may suffer from arthritis or other age related medical issues that affect mobility.

In regard to puppies, the 1st year is one of rapid growth, which requires nutrients and calories to fuel a growing body. It is normal for a Shih Tzu puppy to look very rounded and for ribs to NOT be visible even when soaking wet after a bath. Puppies need a good layer of fat and food should not be restricted during the time that a Shih Tzu is growing.

In fact, going without food for any length of time - and this varies from dog to dog- can cause hypoglycemia which is a dangerous fast drop of blood sugar levels. For this reason, it is recommended to free feed a puppy until the age of 3 months (fresh food is always left out) and then to transition to 3 meals per day plus snacks. Snacks can be given any time; however it is suggested to reserve snacks as reward for following house training and basic commands so that those calories will go to good use.

With toy breeds, adults should NOT be given just 1 meal per day. For the adult Shih Tzu, 2 meals per day is recommended.
Medical Issues - There are some health conditions that may affect a dog's metabolism and therefore his or her calorie needs. This includes but is not limited to:

• Hypothyroidism
• Heart problems
• Medications - some medications may cause weight gain even if a dog is not eating more food (usually water retention) and others cause increased appetite so that a dog will consume more food and calories

Spayed/ Neutered Dogs - It's amazing how a myth can be so widespread, but to set this straight, a spayed or neutered Shih Tzu (or any other dog breed for that matter) does NOT need less calories than those that are not fixed. Calorie needs will be the same. 

Of course, a spayed female puppy will need calories adjusted as she matures into an adult- just as a non-spayed female would- and a neutered male will need fewer calories as he matures into a senior- just as a non-neutered male. And as a side note, spaying and neutering does not cause weight gain or make a dog lazy.

Now that we know the factors that combine to affect how many calories a Shih Tzu needs, let's take a look at a guideline for puppies and then for adults.
How Many Calories Are In the Food You Feed Your Shih Tzu

Home cooking is one of the healthiest choices in regard to feeding a Shih Tzu nutritious, high quality food since you know each and every ingredient and there, of course, will be no fillers, by-products, artificial colors or preservatives. With wholesome ingredients such as no-skin white breast chicken meat, fresh vegetables and fruits, meals will be calorie dense. While you will have many choices of ingredients, here are the counts for some of the most popular ingredients:

White breast chicken (no skin) = 124 calories for 4 ounces
Sugar snap peas = 20 calories per 1/2 cup
Yams = 78 per 1/2 cup
White rice = 133 per 1/2 cup

With this said, many owners do choose a commercial dog food. Please be careful to choose wisely. The cheaper the food, the cheaper the ingredients and this can greatly affect the health of your Tzu. Inexpensive food can cause a Shih Tzu to be hungry all of the time, be malnourished, have digestive problems, allergies and other issues.

With manufactured brands, the choice will be dry or wet. Both have their pros and cons. Cup for cup, dry food will generally have higher calories than wet, since wet contains much more water weight. (A cup of wet food can contain as much as 30% water, which leaves fewer calories in the 70% food). 
Any quality food will have nutritional labeling that shows you all of the facts you need to know, including calorie count.

One of our top recommended commercial brands, Wellness Core, is tightly packed with quality nutrients and therefore has a high calorie count per cup. (Cheaper brands will fill out the cup with fillers and low nutritional foods that keep the calorie count down, thus causing a Shih Tzu to need to a larger amount to receive a comparable amount of nutrients). 

Wellness CORE for Small breeds has 369 calories per cup, with 36% crude protein, 15% healthy fats, and 5% fiber. 

There is also good amounts of Omega 3 and 6 (3 and .5%) and glucosamine (250 mg per serving). 
5 year old Shih Tzu dog male
Another of our top recommended brands, Merricks Lil' Plates, is also tightly packed with quality ingredients. The lamb and sweet potato recipe has 393 calories per cup with 30% crude protein, 15% healthy fats, and 4.5% fiber. It also has a total of 3.9% omega, and 800 mg of glucosamine.

Other brands (per cup) - Alpo has 375 calories, Artemis ranges from 308 to 348, AvoDerm ranges from 298 to 430, Beneful ranges from 306 to 392, Breeder's Choice has between 365 to 400, Diamond falls between 338 to 419, Eukanuba contains between 396 to 457 and Iams has 341 to 421.

So, as you can see, the higher quality the food, the more calorie dense it will be since fillers weigh barely anything at all while they bulk up the kibble.
Snacks - Remember that if you are counting calories for your Shih Tzu, you will want to add in any snacks that you are feeding your dog - and they can add up quickly. We recommend healthy treats such as raw baby carrots which have 35 calories in a 1/2 cup or raspberries (32 calories per 1/2 cup) and plain white yogurt (75 per 1/2 cup). 
How Many Calories a Shih Tzu Puppy Needs

Please keep in mind that 'puppy' refers to a Shih Tzu from the age of 2 months to 12 months and therefore these numbers are a general guideline only. There will be starts and stops to growth; during growth spurts there will be a need for more calories. Varying activity levels will also affect these numbers. Therefore, you can use this as a general guideline but there is no need to be fixated on the number or work hard to meet it exactly. 

Your best guideline for a puppy's calories needs will be that he/she is gaining weight steadily. Puppies should be weighed every month to look for increases. In addition, your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your Shih Tzu is gaining as needed.  

If you think that there is a stall or a loss, this should be reported ASAP. 

Note: When people say that puppies need more calories than adult dogs, this means that they need more calories per pound of body weight than adults. 

For example, a Shih Tzu puppy needs roughly 55 calories per pound of body weight, while an adult needs approximately 40 calories per pound of body weight, if an active dog. 

The following numbers are based on a healthy puppy that is fairly active (play, running around the house, etc.) and is taken for daily walks of 20 to 40 minutes. Please keep in mind that due to growth spurts and stops, these numbers are very general and should not be strictly adhered to; remember that a healthy, gradual weight gain is what will be your guide that you are feeding your Tzu enough, along with recommendations from the veterinarian.

Weight 3 lbs. (1.36 kg) = approx. 165 calories

Weight 4 lbs. (1.81 kg) = approx. 220 calories

Weight 5 lbs. (2.26 kg) = approx. 275 calories

Weight 6 lbs. (2.72 kg) = approx. 330 calories

Weight 7 lbs. (3.17 kg) = approx. 385 calories

Weight 8 lbs. (3.62 kg) = approx. 440 calories

As you Shih Tzu matures from puppy to adult (the 1 year mark), you can then refer to the guidelines below for the calorie needs for an adult Tzu. 
How Many Calories an Adult Shih Tzu Needs to Maintain Weight

The following is a general guideline only, as each dog is an individual. These figures are for adult Tzu that is done growing and had reached his/her full width and height.

Weight 9 lbs. (4.08 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 320 calories

Weight 9 lbs. (4.08 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 360 calories     
Weight 10 lbs. (4.53 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 350 calories

Weight 10 lbs. (4.53 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 390 calories     
Weight 11 lbs. (4.98 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 370 calories

Weight 11lbs. (4.98 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 415 calories   
Weight 12 lbs. (5.44 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 390 calories

Weight 12lbs. (5.44 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 445 calories    
Weight 13 lbs. (5.89 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 415 calories

Weight 13lbs. (5.89 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 475 calories       
Weight 14 lbs. (6.35 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 440 calories

Weight 14lbs. (6.35 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 505 calories       
Weight 15 lbs. (6.80 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 465 calories

Weight 15lbs. (6.80 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 530 calories     
Weight 16 lbs. (7.25 kg), exercise 1x per day = approx. 490 calories

Weight 16lbs. (7.25 kg), exercise 2 x per day plus extra time playing fetch, command training, etc. = approx. 555 calories
Senior Calorie Needs

Older, senior Shih Tzu will often need fewer calories than their active, adult counterparts. The number of calories needed per day will vary greatly from dog to dog. This is because health and activity level varies so much. Malnourishment at this stage in life can affect life span and exasperate any medical issues. 

The senior dog may have trouble eating due to tooth loss or loss of appetite due to health conditions or side effects of medication. While the following can be used as a general reference point, it is highly recommended to discuss calorie and nutritional needs with your Tzu's veterinarian. These figures are for Shih Tzu 8 years and older that are fairly inactive.

Weight 9 lbs. (4.08 kg) = approx. 260 calories

Weight 10 lbs. (4.53 kg) = approx. 280 calories

Weight 11 lbs. (4.98 kg) = approx. 300 calories

Weight 12 lbs. (5.44 kg) = approx. 320 calories

Weight 13 lbs. (5.89 kg) = approx. 340 calories

Weight 14 lbs. (6.35 kg) = approx. 360 calories

Weight 15 lbs. (6.80 kg) = approx. 380 calories

Weight 16 lbs. (7.25 kg) = approx. 400 calories
A Final Thought

Always use common sense over charts if you are keeping track of calories, and in most situations calorie counting is not needed when a Shih Tzu is healthy, eating quality meals and receiving regular exercise.

If you notice any losses, unexplained gains or signs of eating problems, do bring this to the attention of the vet since many issues are best resolved when detected early.      
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