5 Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus – A Wonderful Family Pet 2019

If your shih tzu struggles with weight gain, skin allergies, or a dull coat, you’re not alone. These are common problems to the breed and ones that are often made worse by poor diets.

Read on to find out if your current food might be the problem and what the best dog foods for shih tzus are.

Small Breed Diets are the Best Choice for Shih Tzus

It used to be that you could pick any dog food off the shelf and it would be about the same as any other food in that price range. Today, when you go to the store you are met with hundreds of options from size specific foods to age and breed specific foods.

All this choice can be overwhelming, but it really is in the best interest of your dog. Especially when looking at a breed with such specific nutritional needs as the shih tzu.

Tiny breeds like the shih tzu have higher metabolisms than their larger canine friends, according to petmd.com. Small breed specific dog foods are calorie dense to help support their metabolisms.

But picking any small breed formula off the shelf isn’t enough. You need to look for one that will support your shih tzu in other ways as well.

Want to learn more about what makes a shih tzu unique? This article discusses the breed in depth.

Finding a Quality Dog Food for Your Shih Tzu

Did you just bring a new shih tzu into your family? Or are you in the market for a new food because you believe your current food is causing digestive issues or allergic reactions?

There are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when buying a new food for your dog.

First, you’ll want to find a food that contains a high level of animal-sourced protein. Yes, even your tiny shih tzu is descended from wolves and does best on a carnivorous diet.

Look for a meat ingredient like chicken, lamb, or turkey meal to be listed as the first thing in the ingredients list. The more meat ingredients at the top of the list, the better the food.

Because shih tzu’s can suffer from allergies and eye issues, according to akc.org, it will be beneficial to find a food without corn, wheat, and other fillers and with added vitamins to support eye and skin health.

Reviews of The Best Dog Food for Shih Tzus

#1. Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed & Toy Breed Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food

Best Overall

Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed
Score: (5/5)

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High animal-sourced protein, nutrient dense food for shih tzus.

High in animal protein

Quality ingredients

Nutrient dense



We’ve chosen Instinct’s Raw Boost small and toy breed as our number one choice for shih tzu’s because of it’s quality ingredients, outstanding protein levels, and numerous healthy additives.

Don’t let their tiny frames fool you, shih tzus are carnivores at heart, and this food delivers with an impressive 37% protein. And because this food includes four animal-sourced ingredients in the first six ingredients, including chicken, turkey, and herring, you know most of that protein percentage is bioavailable to your pup.

This food also contains added raw bites. These “lucky-charm” like bits aren’t just a sales tactic. Because these bits are unprocessed, freeze-dried raw meat, they contain higher nutritional content than traditional kibble.

On top of the naturally occurring nutrients in this food, they’ve also added glucosamine, omega fats, and probiotics. All these additives mean healthier joints, coat, and digestive system for your shih tzu.

Those probiotics paired with the quality animal ingredients and grain free recipe also make this one of the best dog foods for shih tzus with sensitive stomachs.

As with all the foods on our list, this formula was made specifically for small and toy breeds. What sets it apart, though, is the combination of calorie dense kibbles and a high nutritional profile.

#2. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Small Breed

Runner Up

Wellness Core Small Breed
Score: (5/5)

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Quality ingredients with healthy skin and coat additives for shih tzus.

Quality ingredients

High protein

Healthy additives for skin and joints



Wellness has a variety of foods made specifically for small breed dogs which is why we consider them one of the best dog food brands for shih tzus. We chose their Core formula to be number two on our list for its rich protein content and quality ingredients your shih tzu is sure to love.

This food has almost as much protein as our number one food with 36%.

In fact, this food is similar to Instinct in fat content and total calories as well. The only reason it scores slightly lower on our list is because it contains fewer animal-sourced ingredients.

Still, the first three ingredients in this food are turkey, turkey meal, and chicken, which is an impressive list for any dog food.

Your shih tzu will also appreciate the additives in this food, which include healthy fats for skin and coat, glucosamine for joints and probiotics. If your pup has ever struggled with dry skin or dull coat, this food is a great choice.

Like our first choice food, this one is high on the price scale, but worth it if you’re looking for a quality food to keep your shih tzu healthy for the long run.

#3. Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe

Best for Allergies

Merrick Lil Plates Small Breed
Score: (5/5)

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High-protein food with different flavors and novel plant ingredients for sensitive shih tzus.

70% animal-sourced ingredients

High protein

Allergy friendly


High in legumes

Our number three pick packs a mean protein punch and a super-calorie dense formula for young and active shih tzus. Merrick’s foods always stand out for quality ingredients and their small breed recipe is no different.

This formula comes in three flavors: beef, chicken, and salmon. All three flavors use sweet potatoes and peas as their plant-sourced back up.

Because this formula allows you to choose different, unique proteins while using novel grain-free plant ingredients, we’ve named it the best dog food for shih tzus with allergies. If your pup has itchy, red skin or frequent gas or stomach upset, this food is definitely worth a try.

Did I mention this recipe has a lot of protein? In fact, at 38%, this food has more protein than any other food on our list.

And, because this recipe contains 70% animal-sourced ingredients, you know where all that protein is coming from.

For all that protein, you might expect this food to come with a price tag similar to our first two choices. But this food actually sits in the middle of the price scale, making it very budget friendly.

#4. Nutro Lite And Weight Management Adult Dry Dog Food

Best for Weight Maintenance

Nutro Lite Weight Management Small Breed
Score: (4.5/5)

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High-protein, low-calorie food for less active or overweight shih tzus.

Low calorie for weight management

High protein

Natural ingredients


Higher in plant-sourced ingredients

All the foods so far on our list have been calorie dense, which is great for the high metabolism of most shih tzus. However, obesity is a growing problem in the pet population, and shih tzus are one of the many breeds affected by it.

If you shih tzu is more of a couch potato than a high-velocity pooch, you’re going to want to check out our number four pick. Nutro’s small breed weight management formula is perfect for less active and older shih tzus who struggle to stay thin.

This food has less protein than the others on our list, but at 25% it still contains more than the average diet food. It also has almost half the calories as our first three picks and is sure to help your shih tzu cut weight and keep it off.

This formula contains chicken as the first ingredient and lamb meal as the third, giving it a respectable amount of animal-sourced protein.

Unlike the other foods on our list, this formula is not grain free. However, it does not contain corn or wheat and is still a suitable choice for most shih tzus.

As a specialty diet for weight management, it is higher on the price scale but well worth it as a diet food that retains quality ingredients and high protein.

#5. Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Natural Puppy Small Breed Dry Dog Food

Best for Puppies

Blue Buffalo Freedom Small Breed Puppy
Score: (4.5/5)

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High-protein, high-fat puppy food for shih tzus.

Made for small breed puppies

High protein

Quality ingredients


High in plant protein sources

Our number five food is featured on this list especially for the youngest shih tzus out there. This puppy food is packed with quality ingredients to help your new addition grow up happy and healthy.

Blue Buffalo’s small dog puppy formula is crafted with the high metabolism and short growth period of a shih tzu in mind. For this reason, we’ve named this the best puppy food for shih tzus.

This formula contains 30% protein and 18% fat to help your growing shih tzu get the calories they need while maintaining strong muscles. Like our other foods, this one contains quality animal-sourced ingredients like chicken, chicken meal and turkey meal.

This food also contains added omegas and DHA to help your pup’s brain grow as well as their body.

As another specialty small breed puppy food, you can count on this one to cost you a little more than typical puppy food. But it is worth investing in a formula made with your tiny dog in mind.

What is the Best Dog Food for a Shih Tzu?

After reviewing the long list of available small breed dog foods on the market, we have named Instinct’s Raw Boost small breed as the best dog food for shih tzus.

This formula contains high animal-sourced protein, raw nutrition, and additives to keep you shih tzu looking and feeling their best. And because this is an Instinct food, you know you can trust the quality of what’s in the bag.

Best of all, even the pickiest of shih tzus can’t turn their nose up at the added raw bites in this food.

While this food might be on the pricey side, it is worth it to feed your dog one of the best dry dog foods for shih tzus.

Frequently Asked Questions

My shih tzu has red around his paws and eyes. Is this a sign of a food allergy?
Shih tzus are prone to getting red tear stains around their eyes like many light colored small breeds. While this is not necessarily a sign of a food allergy, similar coloring on the paws can mean that your dog has been licking which might indicate itchy skin that could be caused by a food sensitivity.
How much should I feed my shih tzu?
How much to feed your dog will depend on their activity level and age, as well as the caloric density of their food. Follow the feeding instructions on the back of the bag, but keep in mind neutered and less active dogs will likely need less food than what is recommended.
Can my shih tzu puppy eat the same food as my adult dog?
It is less important that small breed puppies eat puppy specific food than their larger counterparts so long as the food they get is high in protein and fat. However, most puppy foods also have healthy puppy-specific additives like DHA that many adult foods do not.

Summed Up: The Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus

Instinct Raw Boost Small BreedWellness Core Small BreedMerrick Lil Plates Small BreedNutro Lite Weight Management Small BreedBlue Buffalo Freedom Small Breed Puppy
Features for Shih TzusNutrient dense, high protein, quality ingredientsHigh protein, calorie dense, quality ingredientsVery high protein, allergy friendlyLow calorie for weight loss, high proteinHigh protein, high fat, added DHA for puppies
Ingredient Quality5/55/55/54.5/54.5/5


  1. Jennifer Coates. “Nutritional Differences for Small, Toy, and Large Breed Dogs.” petmd.com, 3 Feb 2012.
  2. Various. “Dog Nutrition Tips.” aspca.org.
  3. Jennifer Coates. “Defining Hypoallergenic Dog Foods.” petmd.com, 4 Jan 2013.

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