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Feeding

How to Feed a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu eating
Overview

This is an interesting breed in regard to quantity of food. Though toy breeds eat a relatively small amount of food, the Shih Tzu eats a fairly good amount, since he is a sturdy dog on the larger end of the toy breed scale. Each dog is different; some may tend to be finicky eaters and others will have a heartier appetite.

Making sure that you feed your Shih Tzu quality meals, as well as healthy snacks, will play a huge role in keeping him/her healthy. Various health issues will emerge if a Shih Tzu is underfed, fed foods with too many chemicals (coloring, additives, etc.) or fed too much.
How Much Food to Give a Shih Tzu

Many owners want to know exactly how much food to offer for each meal. However, it should be noted that different foods will have varying levels of calories. Wet VS dry and high quality VS lower quality are factors that can change the amount of calories and nutrients by more than 1/2 a cup.

In general, a puppy should eat an ounce of food (28.4 grams) for each pound that he or she weighs. For an adult this is cut down to approximately 1/2 ounce per pound. This is because puppies need more calories per pound of body weight than adult dogs.  
Determining Proper Weight

Too much food and just like a person, your Shih Tzu will gain weight. Do keep in mind that puppies should be round and adults will have a squared, sturdy body.When a dog is overweight this will first show in the rib area.  Due to the coat, it's best to determine this by touch as opposed to just visibly.

If you can immediately feel ribs that are seem to be almost poking through the skin, your Shih Tzu is extremely underweight. If you can feel the ribs but also feel a thin layer of fat and muscle, your dog is most likely an appropriate weight. If you cannot feel the ribs at all because so much fat and tissue is covering them, your dog may be carrying too much weight. 

How Often to Feed a Shih Tzu

After the age of 3 months, it is recommended to never "free feed". This means that you should not leave out dog food for your Shih Tzu to eat whenever they wish. Meals should be scheduled.

When your Shih Tzu is still a puppy you should feed your dog 3 times each day. This steady method of small meals spread throughout the day helps to keep blood sugar levels steady. You can also give your dog some treats in between meals as long as they are healthy.

Some adults will do okay with one large meal per day with several good snacks. However, most adult Shih Tzu will do best with two meals per day. This can cut down on upset stomach problems that can occur due to the stomach being empty for too long of a period of time.

It is recommended to reserve snacks as either rewards or to reinforce good behavior.
Is Human Food Okay?

If you are wondering what to feed your Shih Tzu and if human food is okay, the answer is yes and no. Processed human food is undoubtedly not healthy for your Shih Tzu. This means any food that you could buy at a restaurant, fast food restaurant, microwave meals and more.

We highly recommend home cooking for your Tzu. This does not mean that you would give your Tzu your food. This would mean preparing simple, yet extremely healthy home cooked meals to provide optimal health.

Any manufactured dog food has fillers, coloring, additives and more (or we should say "less")... Some great wholesome food that are great for this breed include:
  • Organs (liver, heart)
  • White chicken meat
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Sweet potato
  • Green beans
  • Sweet peas
  • Baby carrots
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cottage cheese
  • Whole yogurt
  • Plain white or brown rice
  • Pasta
Dangerous Foods

While it is always suggested to feed your Shih Tzu a quality dog food, an owner must be aware of basic human foods that are toxic. Some are quite surprising:
  • Grapes and Raisins: It may seem odd that such a healthy fruit for humans can be so dangerous to your Shih Tzu; however these foods can cause serious kidney damage and it does not take a large amount
  • Chocolate: Most people have heard that chocolate may not be good for a dog; the facts are that it can cause seizures, coma and death to a small dog such as the Shih Tzu
  • Onions: Beware of giving any meat to your dog if it has onions on it or mixed in. This can destroy a dog's red blood cells.
  • Coffee, Tea and Soda: Caffeine can produce seizures, coma and eventual death
  • Salt: While this is needed in small amounts, a large quantity of salt will cause kidney issues
  • Macadamia Nuts: This expensive and sought after nut can do great harm to a Shih Tzu or any other dog. The results of ingesting this can be muscle tremors and paralysis.
  • Fruit pits and seeds: All fruit seeds and pits can cause a range of medical issues including breathing difficulty, and/or fluids that fill up in a dog's abdomen and heart. Some fruit seeds can kill a Shih Tzu within 24 hours!
Which Commercial Brand is Best

If you do choose to feed manufactured dog food, we would recommend a brand such as Orijen or Whole Earth Farms. You'll want to choose a high-end brand and certainly not pick up a bag of something at your supermarket. 

The problem that occurs with many dog owners, is that there are so many commercials for certain brands...and people here a name said over and over, to the point that it is so recognizable that one starts to believe, "Well, I hear about this dog food all the time, it must be good!"...But it's not.

What holds true for many commercial foods is that a high level of advertising does not equal a high level food. If a name becomes well known, it does not make the food a high quality product. 

Then, owners walk down an aisle in a store, see a name that sounds so familiar, pick up the bag...and their dog ends up eating something stuffed with fillers, additives and preservatives...and sometimes, ingredients that should never even pass as "meat". The really good brands are not often found at local pet supply stores or food markets.
Read detailed information regarding home cooked food VS manufactured dog food, to help you make a choice.
Nutritional Needs

What are the nutritional needs of a Shih Tzu? A Shih Tzu, and all other dog breeds need to have:
  • Amino acids from protein
  • Fatty acids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water
Protein and Amino Acids - Dietary protein contains 10 amino acids that a dog cannot make on its own. They provide the building blocks for many important biologically active compounds and proteins for the Shih Tzu. Also, they give the carbon chains needed to make glucose for the dog's energy.

High-quality proteins have a good balance of all of the essential amino acids. Studies show that dogs can sense when their dog food lacks a single amino acid and will usually avoid eating it. A Shih Tzu should be feed a high quality dog food that contains the 10 essential amino acids.

Fatty Acids - Dietary fats, mainly derived from animal fats and the seed oils of various plants, provide the most concentrated source of energy in a dog's diet. 

Fatty acids play a role in cell structure and function. Essential fatty acids are needed to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Puppies fed ultra low-fat diets develop dry, coarse hair and skin lesions that become increasingly vulnerable to infections. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are most crucial.

Carbohydrates - Dogs need a certain amount of energy to sustain the normal activities of their daily lives. Growth, pregnancy, lactation, and exercise all increase these normal energy requirements. This energy comes from 3 major dietary components: carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Vitamins & Minerals- These are extremely important:
  • K actives bone proteins
  • B1 and Pantothenic Acid helps with metabolism
  • Riboflavin, Niacin and B12 - helps with enzyme function
  • B6 helps with glucose generation, red blood cell function, nervous system function;, immune response, hormone regulation and gene activation
  • Folic acid helps with protein synthesis
  • Choline is a Phospholipid cell membrane component
Water - How much water does a Shih Tzu need? As much as they want! Fresh, clean & preferably filtered water should be available at all times.

Calorie Requirements

Often, how much you feed your Tzu depends on the type of food; 1 cup of calorie dense food is not the same as 1 cup of filler filled kibble. Also, how many calories a Shih Tzu needs will vary depending on age and activity level.

Using the Right Bowls

Don't let the bowls be an afterthought. The right dishes will help with everything from preventing facial hair staining to easing stomach distress. You'll want stainless steel, non-skid bottomed bowls, being sure to avoid plastic at all costs. Whether you plan on bringing home a new puppy or your current dog's dining ware may need an update, be sure to choose the best bowls for the Shih Tzu breed.

Important Information

Proper feeding includes many issues! These can include:
  • Finicky Eaters
  • Home cooking
  • When a slow change in food changes is absolutely necessary
  • Salt issues
  • When a change in food is necessary based on the age of your Tzu
  • When supplements are & are not needed - and which type are needed
  • Odd eating habits
  • Hiding food
  • Begging for food...and Much More! Find out about how you can read about all of these issues in the new-edition AllShihTzu Book. Now in both print & eBook.
Food and Eating Red Flags

The relationship between your Shih Tzu and their dog food can give you an early warning sign of many issues. If your dog suddenly begins to eat less food there may be many reasons including:
  • Your dog may be ill. Changes in appetite - either being ravenously hungry or a sudden lack of appetite - are the early warning signs of many health issues.  
  • Heat - The Shih Tzu is very sensitive to heat and hot weather stress can cause a dog to stop eating. A dog will also eat less during hot summer months. 
  • Your Shih Tzu may be allergic to an ingredient in his food and because of an upset tummy, is eating less.
Related: Why is My Shih Tzu Puppy Not Gaining Weight - All of the reasons why a pup may struggle and exactly how to help. 
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