Best Dog Food for Shih Tzu With Allergies

  • By: Andrew
  • Time to read: 12 min.

If you’ve raised a Shih Tzu before, then you surely know that this dog breed can be one of the sweetest and most energetic companion dogs. They’re also famous for their beautiful locks and coats. However, Shih Tzus are genetically prone to skin allergies and may be sensitive to some types or brands of dog food.

The best dog food for a Shih Tzu with allergies is Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free because it is highly rated in terms of selective yet nutritionally balanced ingredients, consumer reviews, and value for money. Its formula is specially designed for dogs with allergies.

As you read on, you will find out more about the factors to consider when choosing dog food for a Shih Tzu with allergies and the benefits of feeding such a pet with Nature’s Recipe. I will also discuss other dog food brands and homemade alternatives that can help minimize your pet’s allergy symptoms.

Factors To Consider When Choosing a Dog Food for Shih Tzu With Allergies

Although most allergies among Shih Tzus are not related to food, selecting the right kind of food for your pet matters a lot. That’s because once the dog has started exhibiting allergic reactions, their immune system may become unstable and recognize other possible allergens as threats. As a result, their condition can get worse if they are not fed the right kind of food.

Since there are many dog food brands on the market, with all of them promoting their product’s edge over the others, it may not be easy to find the one that best suits your dog.

Often, finding the right dog food requires a lot of trial and error. This can be complicated as dogs need time to adjust to new food. You have to transition your dog’s diet slowly to avoid further stomach and digestive problems.

Here are some things you should consider when choosing dog food for your Shih Tzu with allergies:

  • Ingredients
  • Customer reviews
  • Value for money

Ingredients

Dog Food BrandIngredientsAuthor’s Score
Nature’s RecipeSalmon, sweet potato, pumpkin10/10
Blue BuffaloSalmon9/10
Hill’s ScienceChicken and barley7/10
Purina Pro PlanSalmon and rice8/10
MerrickSalmon, potatoes, sweet potatoes10/10

Winners: Nature’s Recipe and Merrick

A Shih Tzu’s allergies can be related or unrelated to food. If you haven’t taken your dog to the vet for a thorough medical examination to confirm what they are allergic to, it’s best to find a dog food product that poses the least risk of further allergic reactions.

I Ran Out Of Dog Food
I Ran Out Of Dog Food

Below are some reasons why Nature’s Recipe and Merrick are the best in terms of ingredients:

Grain-Free

Many people tend to feed their dogs with grain-free products when they notice allergy symptoms. While this may be the best place to start, it is important to understand that dogs also need grains for energy.

Most grains provide dogs with the following:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Healthy fats
  • Proteins

However, although rare, some dogs may indeed be allergic to grains like wheat, rice, corn, and barley. That is why your vet may initially advise you to introduce a grain-free diet to your dog and see if there are any improvements.

Both Nature’s Recipe and Merrick use alternative sources of carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and potatoes. Most dogs allergic to grains do not show adverse reactions to these other ingredients, making these two products the best options to start feeding your dog.

However, a Shih Tzu with severe allergies is highly susceptible to a secondary yeast infection. This infection is a result of your dog’s weakened immune system. It can lead to more skin irritation and discomfort in your dog.

Regardless of the food source, yeast feeds on sugar or carbohydrates. A high-carbohydrate diet for a dog with a compromised immune system may result in yeast infection that can be pretty challenging to manage.

Luckily, once you address your pet’s allergies, their immune system will get well enough to control the yeast overgrowth on their skin, which will make the yeast infection go away.

Protein Source

Another good point about the ingredients of Nature’s Recipe and Merrick is that they use salmon as the primary protein source. A Shih Tzu with food allergies is often sensitive to proteins found in beef, chicken, or eggs.

Salmon, on the other hand, does not contain such allergen. It also contains healthy nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, that can help boost the immune system, making it the best protein source for your dog with allergies.

The bottom line: Nature’s Recipe and Merrick may not be the best dog food products on the market, but they are the best place to start if you take care of a Shih Tzu with food allergies. Both brands take dog allergies into consideration when developing the food formula, thus avoiding common allergens. Their formula also ensures that your pet will be getting all the necessary nutrients of a well-balanced diet.

Customer Review

Dog Food BrandCustomer ReviewAuthor’s Score
Nature’s Recipe4.79/10
Blue Buffalo4.79/10
Hill’s Science4.810/10
Purina Pro Plan4.79/10
Merrick4.79/10

Winner: Hill’s Science

Although there are plenty of perfectly healthy Shih Tzus, it is important to understand that allergies are also pretty common among this breed. You may not notice it immediately after you adopt a puppy as the symptoms usually set in after the puppy turns one year old.

In most cases, female dogs with allergies produce only one or two puppies in the litter that will eventually exhibit allergy symptoms, while the others avoid being prone to allergies. Nevertheless, if your Shih Tzu with allergies is pregnant, understand that some puppies will highly likely have the condition too.

At the same time, if the Shih Tzu you got from a breeder starts exhibiting allergy symptoms a year after you got them, chances are their parents or siblings may also have the same symptoms. You may reach out to your breeder to ask for suggestions on how to treat your puppy’s allergies.

The breeder may advise you of dog food brands and management strategies that they have tested and proven effective for their older dogs.

If you and the breeder are at a loss for the best dog food for your immunocompromised pets, you can consult other consumers online. To help you with that, this article has rounded up some of the best-reviewed products that you can see online.

Hill’s Science has the highest consumer rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars among roughly 11,000 customer reviews on Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: While reviews may not always be the most accurate way to judge something, they can give you an insight into how other pet owners feel about these products and how effective they are for their pets.

Interestingly, the other products on the list are not so far behind. They all have predominantly good reviews from other pet owners who may have encountered the same concerns that you have with your pet.

Value for Money

Dog Food BrandPriceAuthor’s Score
Nature’s Recipe$10/10
Blue Buffalo$$$8/10
Hill’s Science$$$8/10
Purina Pro Plan$$9/10
Merrick$$$$7/10

Winner: Nature’s Recipe

Nature’s Recipe is a young company with only 35 years of experience. Nonetheless, it has a good reputation for producing high-quality dog food. Another excellent thing is that it offers great value for money compared to the other products on the list.

Most pet owners worry about the trial-and-error stage when searching for the best dog food for their pets with allergies. This is mainly because hypoallergenic or specially-formulated dog food can be expensive, and it may not always be very effective. As a result, owners have to shell out more money to find a better alternative.

Fortunately, Nature’s Recipe is available in reasonably-priced 4-lb (1.8-kg) packs that you can purchase as you slowly transition your dog to a grain-free, hypoallergenic diet.

Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Is the Overall Winner for Your Shih Tzu With Allergies

Nature's Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe, 24 Pound Bag, Easy to Digest

Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free (Salmon) is the best dog food for your Shih Tzu with allergies because it meets all the essential criteria discussed above.

Several dog food brands and products are available on the market, and it’s always a challenge to determine the best one for your pet. It’s even more challenging if you are trying to find one safe for a Shih Tzu with allergies.

You may want to check out the pros and cons of using this product to help you decide whether it suits your and your pet’s needs.

Pros

  • Selective yet well-balanced ingredients. The product contains salmon, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin, which are safe for dogs with allergies. It also includes all the nutrients your dog needs.
  • It is formulated for all breeds and life stages. You don’t need to buy different dog food brands if you have various dog breeds at home. This food also eliminates the need to transition your dog from puppy food to adult food.
  • The price is reasonable. It is one of the cheapest products on this list and one of the most reasonably priced products on the market.
  • It comes in various packaging sizes. You can select from three sizes: 4 lb (1.8 kg), 12 lb (5.4 kg), and 24 lb (10.9 kg).

Cons

  • Some dogs and owners may dislike the smell. The main ingredient of the product is salmon. Some people and their pets may find the fishy smell too strong for them.
  • It is not explicitly formulated for Shih Tzu. Some pet owners may be too particular about the dog food, especially if it is for their pet with severe allergies.

Other Excellent Dog Food Options for Shih Tzu With Allergies

Below, we will check the pros and cons of the other dog food products mentioned in the article (available on Amazon.com):

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food, Salmon 4.5-lb

Pros

  • It has a good scent. Although it contains salmon, the product is highly rated for its pleasing smell. Dogs love it, and pet owners don’t have to worry about the overpowering smell.
  • It comes in three packaging sizes. Pet owners may select from the following sizes: 4.5 lb (2 kg), 11 lb (5 kg), and 24 lb (10.9 kg).
  • It is suitable for all dog breeds and sizes. You can use this product for various dog breeds.

Cons

  • Its smallest pack is 4.5 lb (2 kg). It is slightly heavier than other dog food brands and may not be ideal if you are only testing it for your dog’s health condition.
  • It is specially formulated for adult dogs. You cannot use this product if your Shih Tzu that has started exhibiting allergy symptoms is below one year old.
  • It may contain allergens. The ingredients include a chicken meal and dried egg products, which may cause allergic reactions.

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Small & Mini Breeds, Sensitive Stomach & Skin, Chicken Recipe, 4 lb Bag

Pros

  • It has excellent consumer reviews. Many customers find the product ideal for their dogs with sensitive stomachs and skin.
  • It is specially designed for small dog breeds. The product’s formulation considers the calorie intake and limitations of small dogs.

Cons

  • The product contains potential allergens. Its main ingredients are chicken and barley, some of the common food allergens for dogs. 
  • It has limited packaging size options. Unlike other dog food brands, this product comes in only two sizes: 4 lb (1.8 kg) and 15 lb (6.8 kg).

Merrick Lil Plates Grain-Free (Real Salmon)

Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe, 4-Pound, Salmon

Pros

  • It has limited but well-balanced ingredients. It primarily contains salmon, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, making it safe for dogs with food allergies.
  • It is available in various sizes. The packaging sizes include 4 lb (1.8 kg), 12 lb (5.4 kg), and 20 lb (9.1 kg).
  • It is designed for small breeds. The small kibble size is perfect for small dogs. It can also help remove plaques and clean teeth.

Cons

  • It is expensive. This brand of dog food is one of the most expensive ones in this list. It may not be the best option to try first when looking for hypoallergenic dog food for your dog.
  • The product is for adult dogs. You will have to purchase different dog food for puppies. Also, you have to slowly transition your puppy’s regular food to this product to prevent digestive problems.

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Small Breed

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Sensitive Stomach Small Breed Dog Food, Salmon & Rice Formula - 5 lb. Bag

Pros

  • It is reasonably priced. The product is from Purina, a subsidiary of Nestlé, giving it a commercial advantage resulting in a more affordable price than other brands.
  • It is specially formulated for small breeds. The product is suitable for Shih Tzus between 3 and 20 lb (1.4 and 9.1 kg).
  • The product is available in three sizes. It comes in a 5-lb (2-kg), 16-lb (7.3-kg), or 30-lb (13.6-kg) bag. If your dog responds well to this product, you can later opt for the biggest bag to save more money.

Cons

  • Its smallest packaging is 5 lb (2.3 kg). It is not the ideal size to start with when you only want to test whether the product is suitable for your dog.
  • It contains rice. Although the main ingredient is salmon, its rice content may trigger an allergic reaction in your dog.

Homemade Alternatives to Dog Food for Shih Tzu With Allergies

While commercially available dog foods are pretty convenient and widely available, some pet owners still struggle to look for the product that best suits their pets. Fortunately, there are many safe, homemade recipes that you can feed your Shih Tzu even if they have allergies.

Shih Tzus are generally not picky-eaters and would chow down on any meal, treat, or snack. However, some may exhibit a picky behavior, and if your dog is one of those, you may want to use several recipes on a schedule, so they don’t get bored with having the same dish over and over again.

The Advantage of Making Homemade Dog Food

One significant advantage of making homemade dog food for your Shih Tzu with allergies is that you don’t have to spend much money on a bag of dog food that will otherwise go to waste if it turns out ineffective or sometimes even harmful for your dog. 

Keep in mind the ingredients you need to avoid when making homemade dog food to ensure that your dog will be safe. When you find safe ingredients for your dog, you may slowly transition them to commercially available dog food containing similar ingredients.

The Disadvantage of Making Homemade Dog Food

The downside to preparing homemade food for your dogs is that it takes a lot of time and effort, and you may need to prepare several servings in advance. However, if you have the time and the passion for cooking, it can also be a fun experience for you and your pet.

Factors That Trigger a Shih Tzu’s Allergies

Shih Tzus resemble a ball of happiness as they approach their humans with affection and energy. While they tend to be sweet to their humans, they can also be very feisty when displeased.

They are rich in various emotions and can express themselves well, making them an interesting companion dog breed. However, once they start showing discomfort by obsessively scratching or licking their skin, it can be distressing to you and your Shih Tzu.

Some pet owners who’ve had Shih Tzus before understand that the breed requires a lot of work, and they need regular grooming to keep their coats healthy and untangled. Skin allergies are common amongst Shih Tzus, so regular grooming can help you catch any irritations before they become a bigger problem. 

Here are some things that can trigger a Shih Tzu’s allergies:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Fleas, ticks, or mites
  • Smoke
  • Grains (like wheat)
  • Specific proteins (like those found in eggs, chicken, and beef)
  • Dairy products (like milk or cheese)

Several other dog food ingredients can also trigger allergic reactions or worsen the symptoms of Shih Tzus with allergies. Regardless of the cause, they all result in extreme discomfort, itchiness, and sometimes even pain to your dog.

Here are some allergy symptoms your Shih Tzu may exhibit:

  • Licking the paws
  • Rubbing the face
  • Rashes or scabs on the feet, belly, and skin folds
  • Smelly ears
  • Obsessive scratching behind the ears
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes

You may also notice your dog looking uneasy or whimpering in pain. All these symptoms can be disturbing to any pet owner, but luckily, they are manageable. The main challenge is how to determine what your pet is allergic to. 

A vet visit and lab tests can be costly, so pet owners often employ trial and error to find the most suitable conditions to help alleviate their pet’s symptoms. Moreover, it is pretty important to find the best dog food that is safe for your Shih Tzu with allergies, as it can make a world of difference.

Conclusion

Finding out that your precious Shih Tzu has allergies can be stressful for you and your pet. Luckily, the condition is manageable and often boils down to choosing the right kind of dog food. 

There are many readily available products to choose from on the market, including Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free. If it doesn’t work for your dog, you can always try the other excellent options presented in this article or try making a homemade recipe.