Healthy Food for a Healthy Sheltie

Healthy Food for a Healthy Sheltie

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Dry Food
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Shetland Sheepdogs are high energy dogs, requiring a nutrient dense, high-protein diet. Learn what you should and shouldn't feed your Sheltie here.

Shetland Sheepdogs, popularly called Shelties, are small, compact herding dogs that resemble small Collies. These dogs' high energy level requires a nutritious diet high in protein and other nutrients. Owners should keep an eye on their dogs’ overall condition and health, and if the dogs begin to gain weight they should be fed less, while dogs that are too thin usually need more food. If you can feel a dog’s ribs without a lot of effort, their weight is about right, but if you can’t find the ribs when you run your hands along your Sheltie’s sides, you need to cut back on your dog’s food. If your dog's ribs are very prominent, it's likely that your high-energy dog requires more food.

Dry Food

Your Sheltie can get the nutrients they need from dry food, as long as you pay attention to what’s in it. Check to see that the first ingredient listed on the label is a specific type of meat, such as beef, fish, chicken, or lamb. If it simply says “meat,” or if it says “by-products,” you don’t really know what you are getting; it could be any part of the animal and may not be a good source of protein. If the first ingredient listed is grain, such as wheat or corn, it indicates that the food contains more grain than meat and may not be the best choice for your dog. The high-quality dry dog food can be found in health food stores, online pet supply stores, and some chain pet supply stores, but generally, it's harder to find in supermarkets. When feeding Shelties, always use the label instructions as a guide and give them the amount indicated for their size. For most Shelties, this is between 3/4 of a cup and 2 cups per day, though active dogs may need more. Divide the total and feed your dog half of the food in the morning and a half in the evening.

Home Cooking

Shelties love home-cooked foods, and, so long as you're careful, your Sheltie will stay healthy and fit on a home-cooked diet. The basis for any home-cooked meal is protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, beef, or lamb. About a quarter pound for the average-sized Sheltie will do. Other ingredients to add when making a meal for your Sheltie are cooked rice or yams and vegetables such as peas, carrots, and broccoli. For variety, or if you are feeding a vegetarian diet, choose cooked eggs or cottage cheese as a source of protein. When cooking raw food for your dog, be sure to follow safe handling practices and wash all utensils and work surfaces with hot, soapy water as soon as you are done.


Many owners enjoy giving their dogs snacks, but snacks should never replace meals for basic nutrition. Baby carrots, for instance, make great snacks because they're vitamin-rich and Shelties love them. The crunch is good for their teeth and gums, and carrots won’t cause dogs to gain weight. Other treats Shelties love are boiled liver or chicken, cut into bite-sized cubes. Keep these treats refrigerated so that they don’t spoil too quickly and handle them as you would any other meat or poultry. Some specialty stores sell dried yams, which are chewy and nutritious and won't add a lot of empty calories.

Toxic Foods

Some common human foods are highly toxic to dogs. The list includes chocolate, alcohol, avocados, onions, and macadamia nuts. Other deadly foods are raisins, grapes, yeast dough, and raw eggs. Since Shelties are not very large, it doesn’t take much of any one of these toxic foods to cause them to become seriously ill. If you suspect your dog has eaten any of these foods, contact a veterinarian immediately.

The below section has a detailed take on what you can give to a dog that is of the Yorkshire terrier breed. 

Foods My Yorkie Can Eat

Sometimes a finicky eater, the Yorkshire terrier needs a high-quality diet to maintain excellent health and the beauty of its long, silky coat. These tiny dogs need relatively few calories per day, but it's important that the small food portions that provide those calories contain all the needed proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals your Yorkie requires for optimum health and energy.

Caloric Requirements

Yorkies range in size from 3 to 7 pounds. According to the National Research Council of the Natural Academies, inactive dogs around this size require about 150 calories of food daily, while active dogs need or 200 calories. Before 1 year of age, Yorkie puppies require about 400 calories to promote healthy growth. These calories must be divided into several meals because the Yorkie's stomach is very small. Divide the daily ration into four meals per day for puppies, three for adult Yorkies.

Dry Food

Like many toy breeds, Yorkies frequently suffer from dental disease if they do not get regular dental cleanings and brushing. Feed your Yorkie a diet that not only maintains the dog's weight but also has a crunchy texture that will help keep the teeth clean. The hard texture of dry kibble helps to maintain your Yorkie's dental health by scrubbing away plaque from the surface of the teeth when the dog chews. Dry food also doesn't get stuck in the long fur of your Yorkie's face. Choose a dry dog food with a kibble size made for the small mouths of toy breeds.


Dogs need a combination of protein, vegetables, fruits, and carbohydrates in their diets. Your Yorkie's food should contain a protein or protein meal, such as chicken, fish, lamb, or turkey, as the primary ingredient. Avoid byproducts derived from the non-muscle meat of animals. These proteins can contain up to 14 percent indigestible material. Brown rice and sweet potatoes are good sources of carbohydrates needed to provide energy and fiber in the Yorkie's diet. These carbohydrates also tend to cause less stomach upset than corn or soy, an important factor for Yorkies with sensitive stomachs. Fish oils can help to maintain your Yorkie's shiny, long coat.

Weight Management

Yorkies can suffer from hereditary hip and joint problems including luxating patella, a condition that affects the dog's knees. Obesity can hasten the development of such problems. It's important to ensure that your Yorkshire terrier doesn't become overweight. If you want to give your Yorkie treats without adding excess calories, try healthy cooked vegetables such as carrots, green beans or canned pumpkin, or small bits of cheese.

If you cannot feel your Yorkie's ribs without probing, your dog is overweight. Consult a veterinarian about whether a diet dog food would be appropriate for your dog. These foods contain more fiber and fewer calories than a standard diet.


Small Yorkies, especially those weighing 4 pounds or less, can suffer from hypoglycemia, a drop in blood sugar from a lack of food. Yorkies should either be fed three meals evenly spread through the day or should be free-fed dry kibble, to keep the blood sugar levels as consistent as possible. Feed a type of food your dog enjoys eating. Yorkies who refuse their food can quickly become hypoglycemic. To counteract a drop in blood sugar, add a teaspoon of corn syrup or a high-calorie dietary supplement gel to your dog's food, or rub it directly on the Yorkie's gums. If your dog fails to respond, seek immediate veterinary care, as this is a medical emergency.

Some Yorkies have sensitive stomachs. If you change your Yorkie's food, do it gradually over the course of a few weeks to minimize stomach upset.

References & Resources

Dog Time: Dog Food and Dog Nutrition
Sheltie Rescue of Central Indiana: Obesity in Your Sheltie
ASPCA: Feeding Your Adult Dog
Natural Dog Health Remedies: Natural Diets for Dogs
Founders Veterinary Clinic: Home Cooking: The Alternative to Pet Foods
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Safe Eats - Meat, Poultry & Seafood
ASPCA: People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or another qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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