While there is no one perfect diet for canines, there are a number of factors that should be kept in mind when choosing food for a furry companion. The age and weight of the dog are two of the most crucial factors in determining dietary needs.
The diet of a puppy will look different from an adult dog or that of a senior dog, because a dog’s dietary needs change as it grows. While the core nutrients needed remain the same for most dogs, the ratios may vary across breeds and the food must be chosen with regards to the dog’s size.
Other diet considerations include the activity level of the dog, any individual health concerns, and occasionally the health and relative capabilities of the dog’s owner.
One of the first factors to address is the stage of life of the dog. Growing puppies and even young adults will burn through more calories than an adult dog, and have a slightly different ratio needed for healthy growth.
For example, while the Association of American Feed Control Officials recommends a diet that is a minimum of 18% protein for adult dogs, the percentage for growing puppies and young adults skews closer to 22% protein. Similarly, the fat needed in an adult dog’s food is roughly 5% while that needed for puppies and young adults is closer to 8%.
Another concern in feeding Shih Tzu puppies, as with many toy breeds, is maintaining the dog’s blood sugar. Shih Tzu puppies and those of other small breeds can be prone to low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
While most dogs grow out of this problem once they are a bit older and have gained weight, for the first few months, it is recommended to let the puppy free feed and then move them to 4 or 5 discrete meals a day until they are roughly a year old, and then to further decrease it to 2 or 3 meals a day.
Note that, regardless of age, a dog’s diet should correlate to their activity level. An adult getting a fair amount of exercise will need a higher calorie intake than a dog that spends most of the day lying about the house. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered will also tend to need fewer calories.
As with any dog, the specific amount of food needed is calculated based on the dog’s size. For example, for a Shih Tzu weighing 10 pounds (4.5 kg.), the daily caloric intake recommended by the National Research Council of the National Academies is about 400 calories. For a Shih Tzu that weighs in at 16 pounds, the caloric intake recommended is closer to 650 calories.
As discussed above, dogs generally require a diet somewhere between 18 and 22% protein. When shopping for dog food for Shih Tzu and other toy breeds, it is recommended to keep an eye out for “high protein” foods. While toy breeds are small, they also tend to burn calories at a rate faster than large dogs, even when their lifestyle is mainly sedentary. As such, toys breeds need a food that is calorie dense – their small stomachs require food that is low volume while still high in the proteins and fats needed to maintain health. While a low fat diet may sound good in theory, dogs do not have the same cholesterol concerns as human and require fat in their diets. For maintenance of the iconic fur for which Shih Tzu are known, the fats most specifically beneficial are Omega 3, Omega 6, and Vitamin A.
When dealing with purebred Shih Tzu, as with any purebred dog, there are some breed-specific health concerns to be aware of before obtaining a new dog. While diet does not affect some of these, such as their protruding eyes and the eyelid abnormalities that many of the breed feature, the dog’s diet is not unrelated to overall health concerns.
The round shape of a Shih Tzu skull, which contributes to the eyes being pushed further forward and laterally, also leads to a significantly higher risk of dental disease in the dogs. In conjunction with what is known as an undershot jaw – the lower jaw of the breed tends to be longer than the top – Shih Tzu are rather poor chewers.
While most dogs in this breed can be fed either wet or dry dog food, it is important to keep an eye on the dog’s intake to ensure that the food consistency is not contributing to a dog under-eating. Similarly, if feeding dry food, it is imperative to determine an appropriate kibble size for the dog. While a dog may be able to eat larger kibble, when combined with poor chewing, it can lead to digestive distress in a breed already somewhat known for having sensitive stomachs.
The exact diet needed for a dog is unlikely to be the same as any other dog. By and large, most dogs can eat most dog food safely, but it is important to monitor a dog for any sign of allergies or other food sensitivities that would be specific to the dog.
It is also helpful to know broadly which foods are toxic to dogs, as – for example – there still exist some dog foods available which contain garlic, a food that can cause sudden and lethal kidney failure. While there are recipes online for making fresh or raw dog food at home, it is often better to do research on the best brand to buy rather than attempting to cook at home.
While dogs are obligate carnivores, and can get their nutrients from meat, plants, and synthetic sources, getting the right balance can be tricky and can impact a dog’s health. Becoming educated about nutrition needs and choosing amongst specially formulated dog foods will often by the best course for the long term health of a canine companion.
Adam Conrad is passionate a dad of 5 Shih Tzu pups. He loves to write about best food for dogs, GPS and invisible pet containment systems and CDV (Canine Distemper Virus). His guides are aimed at pet parents to help them look after their pups better. He writes for the blog The Shih Tzu Expert. In his spare time he is an avid scuba diver and a trail runner.
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