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Approved By: Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM
Who can resist that adorably flat face and those big round eyes of the Shih Tzu? Being a sweet, easy-going and fun-loving dog, the Shih Tzu has become a popular family pet all over the world. The breed is ideal for families with children, for cramped living spaces like apartments and for anyone who wants a faithful companion that will always come greet you at the door! Their long and silky coat requires some grooming, and they have specific nutritional needs to keep that fur growing strong, and for their small bodies to function properly. Dog nutrition is a complex subject, and many dog owners make mistakes without even realizing when feeding their Shih Tzus. Some of these mistakes are (but are not limited to) the following.
Wrong Food Choice
A common mistake with all dogs and with all breeds is feeding a food that isn’t suitable for their individual needs. It could either be a low-quality food that does not provide the dog with adequate nutrition – resulting in poor coat quality, low energy, loose stools, kidney- and heart problems and more – or it could be a dog food that simply does not suit your dog. All dogs are different, and what is the ideal dog food for a Shih Tzu in one household might not work for another.
It is important to pay attention to signs, and not necessarily signs of something being wrong, but signs of something that could be better. The best dog food for your small pup is out there, it is just a question of finding it. If your Shih Tzu sheds a lot, it could mean that a food change is in order; because even if shedding is normal in dogs, if you consider it excessive, there might be a nutritional deficiency affecting the quality of the coat. A dog that poops all the time could possibly also do with a different food brand, as a lack of fiber can cause irregular bowel movements and loose stool. Make sure you have a pooper scooper when the time comes!
When thinking about dog food, many dog owners only think about choosing a quality dog food over low-quality dog food, but the issue is more complex than that. You could be feeding your Shih Tzu the top kibble brand, but anything from food allergies, to sensitivities and to just not liking the taste of it could cause problems. Pay attention to physical signs of nutritional deficiencies, and you should also consider a food change if your pup is a picky eater or does not finish his or her portions.
Low-Quality Food Brands
This leads us on to the quality of the food dog owners feed their Shih Tzus. They may be small and adorable, but they have the same need for a highly nutritious food as any larger dog, and as an owner, it is crucial to know how to single out a quality dog food in a jungle of low low-quality options. The dog food industry is a booming business, and while this means that there are many great options available – there are also twice as many bad ones, where their only interest lies in monetary gain.
If you have never read through the list of ingredients printed on the package of your dog’s kibble or wet food, then you have made a mistake. You could have lucked out and unknowingly chosen a quality dog food, but there is a significant risk that you may not have. Many low-quality brands show delicious images of meat and vegetables on their packaging, but just because they are great at marketing, it does not mean their dog food is as great as they make it seem.
Make it a habit to always read on the back of a product before purchasing and look for real meat (not animal by-products) among the first ingredients. This is a sign of a good product, and it helps you see that the product has enough protein to keep your Shih Tzu strong, healthy and energetic. Avoid dog foods with corn, since it is a filler with little to no nutritional value for a dog and try to choose a dog food made with natural products. Artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives are unnecessary and can be harmful, and it is not something you usually see in nutritious and healthy dog food products. With the Shih Tzu having such a delicate metabolism you owe it to your hairy friend to feed them something great.
Giving in to Puppy Eyes
It is hard to blame a Shih Tzu owner for this because let’s face it – they have the most adorable eyes! A Shih Tzu looks up at you; asking for a piece of that peanut butter sandwich you are trying to eat before work, and before you know it – your Shih Tzu is the one having the sandwich for breakfast and not you. As hard as it is, you need to resist, or you could create an imbalance in your pup’s nutritional intake. This could be a reason for why your pup is not finishing his or her meals, and while they might prefer the peanut butter sandwich (or whatever else your pup begs you for) – it is not what they need to thrive.
Lack of Exercise
Small dogs don’t always complain when not being exercised properly, which can be an issue since it is easy to forget that they need to work out too to stay in shape. Small dogs, like the Shih Tzu, need to be walked daily, they need to run, and they need time to play, or they could end up gaining weight no matter how carefully you measure their portions. Make exercise part of your daily routine, even if your Shih Tzu looks perfectly comfortable on the couch.
It is important to revise the feeding instructions on the back of the food bag or can since these will tell you how much your Shih Tzu should eat. Overfeeding is a common mistake made by dog owners, and it is almost always because of a lack of knowledge. The recommended amount has a lot to do with what goes in the dog food, so one product won’t require the same portion size as another. For example, a high-protein food is richer in nutrients, which means a smaller quantity is needed to fill your dog’s stomach and to comply with their nutritional needs. A low-quality dog food, on the other hand, requires larger amounts to achieve the same effect.
Overfeeding leads to excess weight, which in turn can lead to painful bones and joints, diseases and a shortened life-span. None of these things is what you should want for your best fur friend, so pay attention to feeding instructions, but also keep an eye on your dog’s weight. Not all dogs have the same metabolism, and if you notice that your Shih Tzu is starting to pack on weight, then it is time to reduce the daily food intake. The same applies if your dog is on the skinny side – then you want to start feeding him or her more.
It is not just the food that matters, in terms of quality, so make sure you repeat the process of reading through the ingredients before purchasing a new dog treat and look for the same that you would when choosing dog food. Natural ingredients, real meat, and no artificial preservatives or food colorings is what you want. It is not uncommon for dog owners to forget to check the treats, even though perhaps being very strict with food quality. Low-quality treats can have a bigger impact on a Shih Tzu’s overall health than what one might think, and it is another common mistake you want to avoid making, if possible.
Humanizing the Dog
Thinking of your fur baby as your actual baby is not an issue in itself, but if you start depriving your dog of basic needs like exercise, it can quickly become an issue. Dogs are excellent at adapting to the lifestyle of their owners, so if you are not a big walker yourself, it might come naturally for you to think that quality time with your dog means cuddling on the couch together for a whole day. The dog will love it, no doubt, but it is important to remember that dogs have needs that need to be met for them to live long and healthy lives.
Quality time, for a dog, is spending time with their human, but this can be done by walking and playing outside as well; something that will also benefit the dog’s weight and general health. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a treat for a Shih Tzu is a whole day in bed (like it might be for you) since dog’s need to live active lives no matter their size and breed.
Last, but not least – being too protective of your Shih Tzu. It is not uncommon for small-dog owners to want to protect their fur babies from the world, much due to the fact that they are so small and potentially fragile. Perhaps you refrain from taking them to the dog park, from letting them play with other dogs or from going on long and challenging walks, thinking they will either get hurt or too tired.
Small dogs are generally more resistant than what one might think, and they usually do fine when playing with bigger (and nice) dogs! When it comes to walking, it is probably more likely that you will get tired, than that your Shih Tzu will; assuming he or she is in good health. Don’t rob your Shih Tzu friends of important experiences just because you worry something will happen to them and try to treat them like the dogs they are, while still being considerate and responsible.