What Is the Ideal Diet for Shih Tzu Puppies?
Shih Tzu puppies require a balanced diet to support their growth and development. Like all puppies, they need a high-quality diet with the right blend of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. However, the Shih Tzu breed does have some specific nutritional needs. This diet guide will provide an overview of the ideal nutritional plan for a growing Shih Tzu puppy.
Best Diet for Shih Tzu Puppies
When bringing home a new Shih Tzu puppy, it’s important to continue feeding the same diet they were accustomed to with the breeder for at least the first week. This helps avoid digestive upset from sudden food changes. After that initial transition period, consider these diet tips for Shih Tzu puppies:
- Feed a high-quality puppy food formulated for small/toy breeds. Look for a puppy food that has animal protein (such as chicken, lamb or fish) as the first ingredient. Avoid fillers like corn, wheat, and soy. Small kibble size is best for little Shih Tzu mouths.
- Feed three scheduled meals per day. Shih Tzu puppies do best with set mealtimes rather than free-feeding. This allows you to monitor how much they eat. Feed puppies at around 8-12 weeks old three times per day.
- Follow portion guidelines on the food package. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, while underfeeding deprives pups of necessary nutrition. Stick to the recommended amounts based on projected adult weight to maintain ideal growth.
- Provide constant access to fresh water. Changing water frequently ensures it stays clean. Use a heavy ceramic bowl that won’t tip over easily.
When changing your Shih Tzu puppy to a new food, do so gradually over 5-7 days. Start by substituting 25% of the new food for the old, and increase the ratio of new to old food each day. This gives their digestive system time to adjust. Go slowly to avoid diarrhea or vomiting.
Most puppy foods are complete and balanced, meaning supplements are not needed. However, here are two that can benefit Shih Tzu puppies:
- Calcium: Supporting bone growth. Use until 4 months old if not already added in food.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Aid brain development and skin/coat health. Salmon oil or fish oil supplements are sources.
Always check with your veterinarian before giving any supplements to avoid overdoing certain nutrients.
Avoid These Foods
Some human foods are unsafe and should be avoided when feeding a Shih Tzu puppy:
- Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
- Macadamia nuts
- Fatty foods
These can cause serious health issues like pancreatitis, kidney disease, and gastrointestinal upset. Be careful not to overindulge puppies with table scraps.
The Role of Protein
Protein is essential for Shih Tzu puppies to support their rapid growth and development. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends puppies get a minimum of 22% protein in their diet. However, small breed puppies like Shih Tzus often thrive with 25-30% protein to meet their needs.
The highest quality protein sources for Shih Tzu puppies include:
- Chicken: Lean chicken is easy to digest and provides B vitamins.
- Turkey: Another lean protein that is gentle on the stomach.
- Lamb: Highly digestible red meat protein.
- Beef: Also nutritious if digestible for the pup.
- Fish: Provides omega fatty acids for skin and coat health.
- Eggs: An excellent source of amino acids for muscles, tissues and organs.
Aim for a balance of animal-based (meat) and plant-based (grain) proteins to provide all the essential amino acids growing puppies require.
The Importance of Fat
Along with protein, fat is crucial for puppies to meet their high energy needs. The AAFCO minimum for puppy foods is 8% fat, but most experts recommend at least 15-20% fat for small breed puppies.
Benefits of healthy fats for Shih Tzu puppies:
- Dense energy source
Supports growth and development
- Provides essential fatty acids for skin, coat, joints, brain, eyes
- Enhances flavor and palatability
The best sources of fat for puppies include:
- Chicken fat
- Flaxseed oil
- Fish oil
- Sunflower oil
- Canola oil
Look for omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil in puppy foods to support optimal health.
Carbohydrates – Quality Over Quantity
Carbohydrates provide puppies with energy, but quality matters more than quantity. Complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oats and brown rice are best. Avoid fillers like corn, wheat and soy.
Some key benefits of high-quality carbs:
- Energy for growth and play
- Aid digestion and nutrient absorption
- Help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
Aim for carbs to make up about 40% or less of your Shih Tzu puppy’s diet. Focus on fiber-rich whole grains rather than refined carbs.
In addition to macronutrients like protein, fat and carbs, Shih Tzu puppies need adequate micronutrients. Here are some to look for in puppy foods:
- Calcium and phosphorus for bone growth – ratios are key
- Vitamin D for calcium absorption and immunity
- Antioxidants like vitamin E to reduce cell damage from free radicals
- Vitamin C for collagen production, immunity and antioxidant effects
- B complex vitamins for energy metabolism and more
- Zinc and iron for development, growth and health
Reputable puppy foods will have the right balance of these micronutrients. Avoid over-supplementing.
Support Digestion with Probiotics
The gastrointestinal system of puppies is still developing. Probiotics can provide a boost by populating the gut with beneficial bacteria. Look for these on the label:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
Probiotics help stimulate the immune system, improve digestion, increase nutrient absorption and reduce diarrhea.
Unlike adult Shih Tzus who do well with two meals per day, growing puppies should be fed three or more small meals. This helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Divide the daily food intake into three or four portions throughout the day. Follow the feeding guide on your puppy food but monitor your puppy’s body condition. Adjust amounts as needed to maintain an ideal weight.
Puppies should always have access to fresh, clean water. Change water frequently and wash bowls daily. Proper hydration is vital.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
It’s important to avoid some common mistakes when feeding Shih Tzu puppies:
- Overfeeding. Puppies should be lean to avoid excess weight gain. Follow guidelines and monitor body condition closely.
- Underfeeding. Puppies need more calories per pound than adult dogs. Ensure adequate intake.
- Missing meals. Feed on a consistent schedule to prevent low blood sugar.
- People food. Avoid table scraps and human foods. Stick to a complete puppy diet.
- Feeding adult food too soon. Puppy foods are formulated to meet different needs.
With the right diet and feeding practices, your Shih Tzu puppy will get all the nutrition they need to thrive! Consult your veterinarian with any questions.
Feeding Amount Guidelines
How much to feed a Shih Tzu puppy depends on their age, projected adult weight, and activity level. Use these general guidelines, but adjust up or down as needed to maintain an ideal body condition:
Shih Tzus Under 10 Pounds
- 8-12 weeks old: 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup daily
- 3-6 months old: 3/4 cup to 1 cup daily
- 6-12 months old: 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup daily
Shih Tzus 10-20 Pounds
- 8-12 weeks old: 3/4 cup to 1 cup daily
- 3-6 months old: 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups daily
- 6-12 months old: 3/4 cup to 1 cup daily
Puppies that are very active or at the higher end of the weight range may need more food. Follow label feeding guides but also monitor your puppy’s body condition score. You should be able to easily feel their ribs without excess fat covering them. Adjust food amounts up or down as needed to maintain an ideal weight.
Weigh puppies regularly to ensure they are gaining weight appropriately. Most Shih Tzus gain 2-3 pounds per month on average. Rapid weight fluctuations could indicate an issue.
Top Puppy Food Brands
With so many puppy food options on the market, it can be tricky to select the best one for your Shih Tzu. Here are some top-rated puppy food brands to consider:
Royal Canin Shih Tzu Puppy Food
- Breed-specific formula
- Protein sources: chicken and chicken meal
- Omega-3s for skin and coat
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- Kibble size for small mouths
Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Food
- 27% protein, 17% fat
- Chicken is first ingredient
- DHA for brain development
- Live probiotics
- Small kibble size
Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food
- Chicken meal, pork meal and pea protein
- Omega-6s and vitamin E for skin and coat
- Natural prebiotic fiber for digestion
- Antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Easy-to-digest recipe
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
- Deboned chicken, chicken meal and fish meal
- Brown rice, oatmeal and barley
- 7% fiber, DHA, ARA
- Omega 3s and 6s
- NO corn, wheat, soy or by-product meals
Be sure to gradually transition between foods over 5-7 days if switching brands. This will help avoid digestive upset.
In addition to proper nutrition, Shih Tzu puppies need daily exercise to develop strong muscles, joints and bones. Exercise also helps puppies burn off energy and prevent behavioral problems.
General activity guidelines for Shih Tzu puppies:
- 8-12 weeks: 10-15 minutes total per day
- 3-6 months: 20-30 minutes total per day
- 6-12 months: 30-45 minutes total per day
Activity should be split into multiple short sessions rather than one long period. Puppies tire quickly.
Good forms of exercise include:
- Short walks
- Playing fetch or tug-of-war
- Active play with puzzle toys
- Allowing supervised exploration indoors or in a fenced yard
Avoid strenuous exercise like jumping until growth plates close around 12-18 months old. Activities like swimming should also be avoided before vaccines are complete.
Always supervise young puppies when exercising and stop for rest and water breaks. Signs your Shih Tzu puppy is overtired include panting, limping or lagging behind. Respect their limits.
Beyond choosing the right puppy food and amounts, here are some additional tips for feeding Shih Tzu puppies:
- Always supervise mealtimes to ensure puppy is eating properly.
- Use slow feed dog bowls to prevent fast eating and choking.
- Provide fresh, clean water at all times in tip-proof bowls.
- Never give puppies bones, as they can splinter and cause obstructions.
- Clean mouth and face after meals to prevent staining around the muzzle.
- Monitor treats to avoid overfeeding. Use a portion of puppy’s calories for training treats.
- Brush teeth regularly to control plaque buildup from puppy food.
- Schedule mealtimes around playtime and walks to encourage good digestion.
- Refrigerate unused portion of wet foods to prevent spoiling and bacteria growth.
Physical exercise isn’t the only important piece. Shih Tzu puppies also need mental stimulation for a healthy, enriched life.
Great ways to provide mental stimulation:
- Positive reinforcement training sessions using treats and praise
- Introducing new toys regularly to engage their mind
- Food puzzle toys that dispense kibble as a reward
- Changing up walking routes to explore new sights and smells
By meeting both physical and mental exercise needs, your Shih Tzu puppy will stay happy, healthy and out of trouble!
Feeding Schedules for Puppies
Establishing a consistent feeding schedule is important for Shih Tzu puppy health. Here are some sample schedules based on age:
8-12 Week Old Puppies
- 6am – 1/4 cup puppy food
- 10am – 1/4 cup puppy food
- 2pm – 1/4 cup puppy food
- 6pm – 1/4 cup puppy food
3-6 Month Old Puppies
- 7am – 1/3 cup puppy food
- 12pm – 1/3 cup puppy food
- 5pm – 1/3 cup puppy food
6-12 Month Old Puppies
- 7am – 1/2 cup puppy food
- 6pm – 1/2 cup puppy food
These are general guidelines but can be adjusted based on your puppy’s needs. The key is keeping a consistent schedule of three to four evenly spaced meals for younger puppies. Closer to one year old, two meals is often sufficient.
Make sure food is available for at least 20-30 minutes at each scheduled mealtime. Remove uneaten food until the next scheduled feeding to avoid overeating. Keep some flexibility for occasions when schedules vary, but aim to stick to consistent timings as much as possible.
Monitoring Puppy Weight
Weighing puppies regularly helps ensure they gain weight appropriately as they grow. Here are some tips:
- Weigh at the same time each day, like before breakfast
- Use the same scale each time for consistency
- Track weights on a chart to monitor trends
- Compare to breed weight charts to ensure growth is on track
- Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian
Shih Tzu puppies should gain around 2-3 pounds per month on average. However, large fluctuations in weight week to week or a plateau in weight gain can be signs of issues.
Possible reasons for abnormal weight changes:
- Illness impeding nutrient absorption
- Parasitic infection
- Tooth or mouth pain inhibiting eating
- Inadequate nutrition
- Overfeeding leading to fast growth
If your Shih Tzu puppy has any significant changes in weight or eating habits, consult your vet to identify potential causes. They can check for underlying health issues and ensure your puppy gets back on track.
Common Feeding Mistakes
It’s easy to make mistakes when feeding Shih Tzu puppies. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
Free feeding by leaving food out all day can lead to overeating and obesity. Stick to set mealtimes and portion sizes.
Treats should make up no more than 10% of daily calories. Avoid excess treats or using treats for begging behavior.
With small stomachs, Toy breeds like Shih Tzus need consistent meals. Never skip meals unless a vet advises fasting for illness.
Switching Foods Too Quickly
All food transitions should take place over 5-7 days. Abrupt changes can cause digestive upset.
Feeding Off the Table
People food often contains things that are unsafe for puppies like onions, sugar, spices and more. Stick to the puppy diet.
Not Following Feeding Guidelines
Guidelines are based on nutritional requirements. Over or underfeeding can impair development.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can keep your Shih Tzu puppy’s diet on track!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much water should a Shih Tzu puppy drink?
Shih Tzu puppies need about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Provide unlimited access to fresh, clean water. Change water frequently.
What human foods are safe for Shih Tzu puppies?
Small amounts of lean meat, cooked eggs, vegetables, rice and fruits like bananas or apples are OK occasionally. Avoid spicy, fatty and sugary human foods.
When should a Shih Tzu puppy transition to adult food?
Around 12 months old, transition gradually from puppy to adult food over 5-7 days. Large breed puppies transition earlier while small breeds transition later.
How do I know if my puppy is overweight?
You should be able to easily feel your puppy’s ribs without excess fat covering them. Consult your vet if concerned about weight. They can provide an objective evaluation.
Can I make my own homecooked puppy food?
Homemade diets require expert formulation to ensure proper nutrient balance. It is extremely difficult to meet all of a growing puppy’s needs without veterinary nutritionist guidance. Complete and balanced commercial diets are highly recommended for puppy health.
What is the best puppy food brand for Shih Tzus?
Top brands include Royal Canin Shih Tzu puppy food, Purina Pro Plan Focus for Small Breeds, Hill’s Science Diet Small Paws, and Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy. Consult your vet for tailored recommendations.
How many meals per day should a Shih Tzu puppy eat?
Typically three to four small meals per day for puppies under six months old, then decreasing to two meals per day up until one year old. Follow your puppy food’s feeding guide for amounts based on weight and age.
Should I give my Shih Tzu puppy supplements?
Healthy puppies being fed a complete and balanced diet do not require supplements. Excess supplements can actually cause harm. Check with your vet before giving any supplements.
What should I do if my puppy is a picky eater?
Try warming the food slightly to bring out aroma, adding a bit of water to make a “gravy”, or mixing in a small amount of wet puppy food. Avoid changing foods constantly. Discuss concerns with your vet.