The Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus and Yorkies

The Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus and Yorkies : A guide for our fur babies!

The Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus and Yorkies

Dogs are a man’s best friends and if you own a playful Shih Tzu or an affectionate Yorkie, you know how true this can be. And you will go to any length to keep your best friend healthy. A balanced diet is the first step to taking care of any pet, but with so many options available, it is hard to know where to start. Always discuss nutrition with your veterinarian because they will be able to offer guidance with your specific dog in mind.

Shih Tzu

It is always good to do your homework before a vet visit so that you know the specific questions to ask. Here are some important things to keep in mind when choosing a pet food, specifically for your small-breed Shih Tzu or Yorkie.

General Guidelines

Always look for an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) approved brand. This ensures that the dog food meets the minimum standards of ingredient requirements for all dogs. The label on the package should refer to AAFCO directly and will often say “100% Complete and Balanced Nutrition.” Pay attention to the way that the food is advertised. According to AAFCO standards, a “beef formula” must contain at least 95% beef, but a “beef entrée” may only contain 25% beef.


Always read the ingredient label, but beware of some common misconceptions. In general, dogs need a large portion of protein, a medium portion of fat, and a small portion of carbohydrates. Some preservatives are necessary, to keep the food fresh. Natural preservatives, like tocopherol or ascorbate, are acceptable, but avoid preservatives like ethoxyquin, BHT or BHA.
Ingredients are always listed by weight, so ingredients with a large amount of moisture can be misleading because they are heavier. Similar ingredients can also be labeled as separate ingredients, so a formula that includes kibbled corn, ground corn, and flaked corn can actually contain a lot more grain than necessary. Also, keep in mind that the ingredient list tells you what the ingredients are, but does not tell you the quality of the ingredients. 

Keeping Your Pup in Mind

Once you have narrowed down the possibilities to a quality dog food brand, it is time to consider your dog’s specifications. The AAFCO monitors different nutrient levels based on the dog’s age. Just as human dietary needs change as we grow, a puppy has different needs than an adult dog. Choose a brand that has a variation for your pet’s age.

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Individual pets may have specific dietary requirements. If your dog has allergies, you will need to find a brand without those allergens. Some dogs are allergic to chicken so a less common protein, like bison or lamb, can be substituted. But be sure to carefully read the ingredient label because a lamb formula may also include chicken fat, which your dog will react to. If you are concerned about your dog’s digestion, consider a brand with whole grains and vegetables. Very few dogs have gluten allergies, but a grain-free or gluten-free formula can help address skin sensitivities.

Small-breed dogs have different needs than large-breed dogs. Many small breeds have faster metabolisms so they need to eat more calories more often, especially as a growing puppy. Small-breed dogs that are not fed often enough can develop hypoglycemia. Small-breed dogs also tend to have smaller snouts, so they can easily choke. A small-breed formula will have smaller kibbles to prevent choking.

Shih Tzus, in particular, are known for long, fast-growing coats that distinguish their breed, but these coats can also cause skin sensitivities. For this reason, a grain-free formula rich in Vitamin A and Omega Fatty Acids are good for Shih Tzus.

Keeping Your Pup in Mind

Yorkies can suffer from a hereditary issue called a liver shunt where the blood passes directly into their system without being filtered by their liver. A diet with plant or dairy-based protein can prevent or manage this condition. Excessive fat can also cause pancreatitis in Yorkies, so look for a food low in fat.


Which Brand is Best?

Royal Canin offers breed-specific dog food formulas for both Shih Tzus and Yorkies. These formulas are both AAFCO approved and contain natural preservatives. The kibble size and shape are specifically formulated to prevent choking and dental problems based on the breed’s snout size and shape. They are both rich in Omega Fatty Acids to protect the long coats of Shih Tzus and Yorkies. The Yorkie-specific formula includes ingredients that are agreeable to a Yorkie’s sensitive digestive system. This can be purchased from any pet specialty store or through your veterinarian’s office.     At around $35/bag for a ten-pound bag, this brand is also fairly affordable.


Hill’s Healthy Advantage has a “small bites” product formulated for small breeds that includes ingredients that support healthy digestion, coats, and mobility for small dogs. However,  the cost may vary.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection formula for toy/small breeds offers a formula specific to the energy needs of small breeds like your Shih Tzu or Yorkie. They also include vital nutrients for joint health and for a healthy coat. Blue Buffalo also guarantees that it avoids potentially harmful ingredients like artificial colors or preservatives. This is one of the most convenient brands because it can be purchased at most local grocery stores or online. It is also one of the most cost-effective brands at only $26/bag for a 15-pound bag.

Ultimately, the choice of dog food is up to you, but by communicating with your veterinarian and keeping these guidelines in mind, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu or Yorkie will be happy and healthy for many years to come.


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