Unlike with human pregnancies, which last approximately nine months, the average gestation period for a dog is approximately 63 days, or nine weeks. Despite being a small breed, the Shih Tzu is no exception. Clearly, during this short period of time, it's important to watch for signs of pregnancy in order to prepare and provide care for the dog as soon as possible.
Shih Tzu conception
Conception is the beginning stage of pregnancy. However, determining the exact moment the Shih Tzu pregnancy begins is challenging. According to the American Kennel Club, sperm can live for several days inside the female, and eggs remain fertile for approximately 48 hours — so actually conception can be a day or two after mating. Breeders often measure hormone levels to determine an accurate gestation period.
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Usually, physical signs of pregnancy will not happen for a few weeks. However, Shih Tzu behavior can change almost immediately. If you suspect your Shih Tzu is pregnant, watch for any unusual behavior, such as changes in energy levels. A dog that is usually calm might become energetic, while one who is usually lively might become lethargic.
Shih Tzu pregnancy weeks one to nine
During the first two weeks of pregnancy, not much will change for your dog. You might notice swelling in her nipples or vulva. It is OK during this time for her activity levels to continue as normal. If you have other dogs, let them play with her. Exercise and socialization is beneficial.
However, after two weeks of Shih Tzu pregnancy 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, so 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, and safe area available to her at all times where she can go to rest.
Shih Tzu birthing process
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 before she goes into labor, then move her there immediately after her temperature drops. The birthing process is messy, so many owners and breeders 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. The average litter size of a Shih Tzu is three, but one to five is possible.
Signs of birthing distress
To help avoid delivery issues, schedule regular visits with your vet at the first sign of pregnancy. Because Shih Tzus are a small breed, you will want your vet to determine early if your dog's hip and pelvic region are large enough for a natural birth.
During a normal delivery, puppies should appear every 30 to 60 minutes and each take no longer than one to two hours to arrive. It's helpful to know how many puppies are expected — something a vet should be able to determine by week four of pregnancy — because labor should not last more than 24 hours, nor should there be more than two hours between puppies. If this is the case, veterinary intervention is required.