Unlike with human pregnancies, which last approximately nine months, the average gestation time for a shih tzu is only nine weeks. Because this is such a short period of time, it is important for the owner to watch for signs of pregnancy in order to prepare and provide care for the dog as soon as possible.
Stages of a Shih Tzu Pregnancy
Conception is the beginning stage of pregnancy. This is the moment when the shih tzu first becomes pregnant. Usually, physical signs of pregnancy will not happen for a few weeks. However, shih tzu behavior may change almost immediately. If you are expecting your shih tzu to become pregnant, watch for any unusual behavior, such as changes in energy levels. A dog that is usually calm may become energetic, while one who is usually lively may become lethargic.
During the first two weeks of pregnancy, not much will change for your dog. You may notice she is swollen in her nipples or vulva. It is OK during this time for her activity levels to continue as normal. If you have other dogs, it is fine for her to play with them.
This time period is when you will see the greatest changes taking place in your dog. Her tummy will become increasingly rounder and her nipples will swell more. Restrict activity during these weeks. Daily walks are recommended, but no rough play. If other dogs are present, they should not be allowed to play with the pregnant shih tzu. The shih tzu should have a quiet, comfortable, safe area available to her at all times where she can go to rest.
A normal temperature for a shih tzu is 101 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will drop about two degrees right before the shih tzu goes into labor. Create a whelping area for her and move her there immediately after her temperature drops. The birthing process is messy, so many owners will lay down plastic and cover this with clean towels or blankets for the dog to lay on. Typically the shih tzu will do all the work, such as licking the sac off the puppy and breaking the umbilical cord. If not, use your fingers to simulate the licking of the mother, and use a string to cut the umbilical cord by tying a knot; for this step, it is a good idea to have someone experienced with dog births present.