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Pregnancy

Shih Tzu Pregnancy

Overview

Whether your Shih Tzu is already pregnant or you wish to breed her, you will want to gather as much Shih Tzu pregnancy information as possible.

Since a dog's pregnancy cycle is so much shorter than a human's, it is important to recognize the first signs that puppies are on the way. 

Caring for your dog and preparing for the big day are vital for the health of the mother Shih Tzu and soon-to-come puppies.
litter of Shih Tzu puppies
What's cuter than a bundle of puppies!

The Signs of Shih Tzu Pregnancy

  • Usually before any physical changes, your dog will show a change in behaviorDifferent than some breeds, the Shih Tzu female often shows a marked change, such as a turn from active to calm or vice-versa. Nesting instincts may quickly develop.
There are also physical changes:
  • Her nipples will become larger and firmer. Some that were previously flush will now pop out. 
  • Mammary glands will enlarge. For those that have carried a litter before, the area may droop a bit. 
  • Her vulva will become and remain swollen.
  • Increased appetite will usually appear by the end of week 3. 
  • Her belly will quickly enlarge; this is usually obvious by week 4.

How Can I Know for Sure that My Shih Tzu is Pregnant?

Most owners do not want to wait until week 3 or 4, when signs are quite obvious, so it's common to want to find out immediately.

To confirm if a Shih Tzu is pregnant, you'll need for the veterinarian to perform a test. There are several options:

By Day 22, a blood test will be accurate

By Day 28, an ultrasound can confirm pregnancy and most experienced vets will be able to know via palpation of the abdomen. 

On Day 42, an x-ray can confirm as bones are now calcified; however, this is very late to test for pregnancy and instead is done to determine how many puppies to expect. 

How Long Will My Shih Tzu Be Pregnant?

The Shih Tzu gestation period is 63 days on average. This is the same across the board for dogs of all sizes, from toys to giant breeds. 

It is possible for a dam to have a premature delivery, just like humans or for there to be a need for labor to be induced if it does not comes naturally; however this is rare. 

This time moves by quickly; therefore at the first signs, steps must be taken to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Special Care During Pregnancy

This will be a joint effort between you and your dog's veterinarian. 

Your Shih Tzu should be doted on more than usual. For this period of time, it's okay to spoil your dog and treat her like a princess.
Feeding
Hopefully, you have had your Shih Tzu on a balanced diet up to this point; it is the foundation for good health. 

If not, it is suggested to make a change to one of the better dog food brands for this breed, and most veterinarians recommend a puppy formula since it is higher in healthy fats. 
Being sure to provide a very high quality food is vital; this is because inferior brands high in fillers, by-products, and/or chemicals will affect the level of nutrition that is passed to the growing fetuses. 

A great puppy formula to feed pregnant Shih Tzu dogs is Wellness Complete for Small Breed Puppies; this is all-natural healthy blend of turkey, oatmeal, and salmon, has zero additives, by-products, or fillers, is properly sized, and is made in the USA. 
Do not feed her any extra food than normal until week 3 unless she seems overly hungry. For Week 3, food should be gradually increased up to 25% more, with larger servings each coming week. 

Do NOT give your Shih Tzu any extra calcium, either via food or supplements. Extra calcium has been linked to eclampsia, difficult deliveries, soft tissue calcium deposits and joint abnormalities in the puppies.

It is given right before labor, as it helps with lactation and whelping.
Activity

During the first 2 weeks, all may remain the same. However from week 3 to week 9, heavy activity such as jumping or full-out running should be limited.

Do, however, keep taking your Shih Tzu for daily walks. You'll want her to stay fit to be ready for delivery. 

Any rough-housing should be strictly prohibited.

Vet Checkups

You will want to bring your Shih Tzu to her regular veterinarian at the first sign of possible pups on the way. It is vital to know if your Shih Tzu's hip and pelvic area will allow for a natural birth and you'll want her to have a complete health screening. 

You may be bringing her in every 1 to 2 weeks to be sure that all is going well. 

By week 4, an experienced veterinarian will be able to feel how many puppies are growing inside your dog's belly simply by touch. Bones become calcified by week 6 and it is at that time that the x-ray will show exactly how many puppies your girl will be having. 

How Many Puppies Should I Expect?

Some toy breed dogs only have 1 to 3 puppies. The Shih Tzu, while a toy breed, has a relatively larger litter. The average litter of the Shih Tzu is 3 with a range of 1 to 5 being considered normal; however some cases a Shih Tzu may have an even larger litter. 

Where Should My Shih Tzu Deliver Her Litter?

This should be discussed as soon as possible with your dog's veterinarian. Whelping is not typically done at the vet's office; though a good vet will be involved and just a phone call away. Your veterinarian may know of dog owners who have experience with this and would be willing to come to your home to offer aid.

If it is determined that a cesarean section must be performed, of course this will be done at an animal hospital. C-sections are planned when it has been determined that the dam's pelvic size simply will not accommodate birthing....Or if possible complications are possible such unusual positioning of the fetuses. 

Whelping

Preparing the Whelping Box

Typically, once you set up a whelping area, your pregnant Shih Tzu will be curious about it and she may use it as a resting area. This is not a 'must', but if she does, do encourage this. 

You'll want the whelping box to be easy to access, but in an area that offers privacy. The corner of the living room, kitchen, or sun room are good choices.

You'll want it to be within eyesight. Once she has her puppies, she will remain there for quite some time as they are being nursed. And this will be the area that the newborns live for the first couple of weeks. 

Some owners like to go all out and hand-build a whelping box, and this is certainly an option if you or someone in your household is handy. And it might be a good choice if you are starting an at-home breeding business and have room to store it when it's not in use. 

However, for just one or for an occasional litter, you'll find that a sturdy plastic kiddie pool can work well, as can a Perla dog bed (as seen below). 

You'll want to line this. Some people use clean newspaper or old blankets and linens. However, whelping pads work well, as there will be much more fluids that you may have thought and it's important to have these cleaned up quickly. Whelping pads are waterproof on one side and super absorbent on the other. 

The following is a list of all supplies needed for helping your Shih Tzu deliver:
  • Whelping box (kiddle pool, Perla bed, or other)
  • Clean towls or cut-up sheets and grooming wipes (to clean the dam)
  • Whelping pad(s) or other material to line the box
  • A thermometer (to take her temperature to know when she is ready to deliver, more ahead)
  • An infant’s nasal aspirator (to suction mucus from the newborns's noses and mouths)
  • Thread or dental floss (to tie off the umbilical cords)
  • A heating pad (to keep the newborns warms; this goes under a blanket)
  • A method of identifying the pups. This can be small newborn bands or even white-out to make 1, 2, 3, or more dots on the pups' ears. 
When Will Labor Begin?

When a dam's temperature drops, this is your sign to get ready. Starting at Day 58, take her temperature once a day. Starting on Day 60, take it 2 to 3 times per day.

Your dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5° Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.17 Celsius). When your Shih Tzu’s temperature drops below 100° F (37.77 C), contractions should begin within 24 hours.

Delivery

As the contractions become stronger, the dam may appear restless and/or whine. Many people wonder if a dog feels pain or to what degree. While one can only theorize as to the extent, it will be clear that the dog will indeed be experiencing painful contractions. 

She will then push out one pup at a time. Just about 50% of all puppies are born feet first; so this need not be a concern. 

Each puppy is born surrounded by his/her own amniotic sac. More often than not, the dam will tear away the surrounding sac with her teeth and lick the pup clean. When she licks her puppy, it stimulates blood flow and causes the pup to breath. 

If she does not do this, you must. Gently rub the pup's body and use the bulb syringe to clean out the mouth and nose of fluids. 

She will also bite off the umbilical cord; if not, this is where the thread will come in. Tie the beginnings of a knot carefully around the cord, about 2 inches from the body of the puppy.

Then in a swift motion, pull each end of the thread which will cut the cord. 

The part that remains on the pup will dry out and fall off within a week or two. 

Do not be shocked if your Shih Tzu ingests the sac, placenta, and other elements that are expelled. As regal as the Shih Tzu is, pure animal instinct is at play during this time and this is normal and expected behavior. 

Do have your vet on standby in case she appears to be in extreme distress. Reasons to call the vet include: Excess bleeding, raised temperature, if a puppy becomes stuck and/or if you've been told how many puppies to expect and that number has not been pushed out.

Of course, after the birthing process, she will need plenty of rest and TLC.
More Information

Step-by-step care for each week of pregnancy and exact whelping instructions can be found inthe AllShihTzu book. Now in both print & eBook.
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