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Shih Tzu Pregnancy Guide: Weekly Expectations

Shih Tzu Pregnancy Guide: Weekly Expectations

Congratulations! Your Shih Tzu is going to be a mom! No need to panic. Whether you are a breeder or a first-time dog owner, we’ve got you covered. It is time to get all the facts together and prepare yourself for the next nine weeks.

And, we are going to talk about each week, from the fertilization of the egg to the last couple of hours before the labor starts. I am sure your pregnant Shih Tzu is in good hands, and that she will have all the support and love in the world!

Learning about changes that happen during different weeks of pregnancy will help you understand the newly developed needs and behavioral changes of your female Shih Tzu. This is the Shih Tzu Pregnancy guide, and it’s here to show you what to expect and what to do during different stages of pregnancy.

Let’s find out what happens in a female dog’s body during pregnancy, and how these physiological changes affect her behavior and nutritious needs.

Shih Tzu Pregnancy

veterinarian doctor examining Shih tzu dog with stethoscope

So, you’ve just found out about your Shih Tzu’s pregnancy? I hope it wasn’t a surprise. But, even if it was a surprise, you have to admit it was the sweetest surprise! You’re going to have the cutest and the most adorable Shih Tzu puppies!

I am not saying that Dachshund or Labrador puppies are not cute, but have you ever seen a baby Shih Tzu? I am just saying that if you are here to learn about Shih Tzu pregnancy because you are expecting new Shih Tzu pups — you are lucky!

OK, back to the Shih Tzu dogs and their gestation period. The pregnancy (or gestation period) lasts approximately nine weeks (or from 60 to 68 days). They usually give natural birth around 63 days after conceiving.

During these nine weeks, and after the mating, a female dog’s body and behavior start to change. And, of course, a whole lot of change happens inside your doggos uterus.

The changes during the Shih Tzu pregnancy, or any other dog pregnancy, vary from week to week. Not everything happens all of a sudden. Different organs develop in different weeks… fur color, tail, and even eyelids — they all have their own timing.

Let’s take a look at the changes that happen in the body of a pregnant dog, and how puppies develop inside the uterus.

Shih Tzu Pregnancy Week By Week

Week Stage Behavior
1 egg fertilization no changes
2 egg implantation more affectionate
3 embryo starts to develop mood changes
4 embryos can be seen via ultrasound increased appetite
5 sex organs are developed smaller meals needed
6 pigmentation and lids developed more uncomfortable
7 puppies move tired
8 fur developed nesting behavior
9ready for birth restless, anxious

First Week

This is the week when the breeding took place. You might have expected it and planned it, so you know what to expect in the days to come. But, if you didn’t know about it, there is nothing to imply your doggo is pregnant.

There are no behavioral changes or body changes during the first week. But, changes happen inside your dog’s body. During the first few days after the breeding, the sperm fertilizes the egg.

The only thing to look out for in case you don’t want a pregnant dog and new babies is the heat cycle changes in your dog’s behavior. You might notice that your dog has the urge to go outside and seek males.

Some female dogs even exhibit “male-like” behavior — they might start to hump all of a sudden. And, some dogs have bloody discharge coming from the vulva as a sign that they are in heat.

Second Week

This is the week when the implantation of the fertilized egg happens. It has traveled down the fallopian tubes into the uterus, and latched itself onto the uterine wall. Of course, this does not happen exactly on the eighth or ninth day.

But, approximately, it happens seven days after successful mating. This is the week when the first behavioral changes start to show up.

Behavioral changes are a normal occurrence because of the increased level of the hormone called progesterone. This hormone is the main reason for successful egg implantation in the uterine wall, and one of the reasons for keeping it “safely tucked” in the uterus.

In other words, progesterone is responsible for maintaining the pregnancy. The behavioral change that is noticeable in dogs during this week is the desire to show and seek affection, and they might seem more attached to you than normal.

Third Week

shih tzu dog walks in the garden

The egg implantation happened. Now, the body of your female dog sends signals telling the entire body: we must develop and preserve this egg. This is what happens if everything is alright.

And, for the embryo to start developing and stay safe, the level of progesterone must be constantly above 2.6 ng/ml. That, again, shows the importance of this hormone during the Shih Tzu pregnancy.

As the embryo starts to develop, more noticeable behavioral changes also start to happen. The process of developing not one, but a couple of new living beings demands more nutrients. So, you might notice your pregnant Shih Tzu starting to eat more and asking for more food.

The appetite is not as increased as it will be later in the pregnancy, but it is noticeable, especially in small-breed dogs. We are used to a certain appetite and eating habits of our Shih Tzu, so when they start to ask for more food, it can be odd.

Just remember to avoid feeding your Shih Tzus foods that can harm them, no matter if it’s a pregnant Shih Tzu or not. You can see what type of food to avoid by checking this link: 30 foods not to feed your dog.

Also, mood changes are more noticeable. Your doggo might act all happy and cheerful, and then quickly change into a defensive dog, seeking to be alone.

Fourth Week

By the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth week, the embryos continue to develop and grow in size. Sometimes, after the 25th day, the embryos can be seen through ultrasound. They also start to develop facial features.

You might not see the actual puppy faces in there, but you can approximately see how many there are. As for the other changes in your dog, during the fourth week of the Shih Tzu pregnancy, you will notice nipple enlargement.

The mammary glands are slowly getting ready to produce colostrum — the first milk that the puppies will eat after birth; hence, the enlargement.

Also, the appetite continues to increase. You can start adding vitamin supplements. One of the most important supplements is calcium. But, you cannot give any supplements to your dog without consulting your veterinarian first!

If your dog seeks more and more food even after you’ve increased the amount of food you are giving her, you can search for high-quality foods that are best for Shih Tzu dogs.

It doesn’t matter if you are going to give her kibble or homemade food… the important thing is that the food is high in proteins and low in carbohydrates, and that it has an adequate percentage of vitamins and minerals.

Fifth Week

Shih tzu dog eating food

During the fifth week, the puppies develop their sex organs. Also, with each day passing, they are starting to look like real puppies. You can actually say — oh my God, they are so cute!

In the fifth week, the amniotic fluid starts to fill the uterus. The amniotic fluid acts as a protective barrier for the puppies. It is also filled with nutrients, hormones, and antibodies.

The weight will noticeably increase during the fifth week of the Shih Tzu pregnancy. The usual feeding chart for your Shih Tzu can be changed. You can add more food than the usual amount.

But, the difference is that you start feeding your dog smaller amounts of food more frequently. This is appropriate because the uterus starts to expand and press the surrounding organs. It presses the stomach as well, which leads to less space for food.

Also, your dog can start having nausea, and she can start to vomit from time to time. By giving smaller meals a couple of times a day, we help our doggo with nausea, too.

She might start showing signs that she tires easily or she can start sleeping more often than usual. Of course, you shouldn’t make your dog go on a walk or play with you when she has developing puppies in her body.

Let her sleep if she wants to sleep. But, pay attention to some other weird behavioral changes that might happen — constant hiding, whining, or refusing to eat.

Sixth Week

This is the phase of gestation where the fetuses develop pigmentation (future coat colors) and lids. During the sixth week of the Shih Tzu pregnancy, the abdomen expands further because the puppies grow. You will notice your doggo becoming more uncomfortable.

This is normal because she has a uterus that keeps growing and keeps pressing her stomach, diaphragm, intestines, etc. So, even though she needs food, keep the meals separated into smaller portions during the day.

Also, don’t get scared that you might hurt your pregnant Shih Tzu or the puppies inside her if you groom her. Grooming is essential for keeping the dog healthy, no matter if it’s a puppy, a pregnant female, or an old Shih Tzu.

You might also notice a clear vaginal discharge, which is also normal during this stage of Shih Tzu pregnancy.

In general, the sixth week is the phase where both the puppies inside the uterus and the female dog get bigger. Her teats also change color into a darker shade of black or brown.

Seventh Week

With the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh week of the Shih Tzu pregnancy, the puppies are almost fully developed. They will continue to grow further, but that’s it. Your tiny Shih Tzu babies are in there looking like real dogs and not like beans.

This is also the time to put your hand on your female doggo’s abdomen and try to feel the puppies because they will occasionally move now!

But, as the puppies gain weight, your female doggo will start to feel more tired. You can also notice that her lower abdomen is starting to lose hair. This is not the usual Shih Tzu type of shedding — this is related to the Shih Tzu pregnancy.

With the shedding starts another change — she might start producing colostrum, and a small amount if it can be present inside the mammary glands.

Another behavioral change is the search for the whelping spot. This is the perfect time to choose a quiet and warm place that your dog can use for whelping.

When it comes to choosing a whelping box, you have to make sure it is:

  • Quiet
  • Warm
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to clean
  • Big enough
  • Has a puppy rail

You will also have to make sure that the whelping box is designed in such a way that a female dog (mother dog) can easily get in and out of the box, but the puppies cannot escape… at least, not until they are strong enough to do so.

Also, the puppy rail is to keep the puppies safe from the mom. She might accidentally crush them or suffocate them with her body by pressing them against the wall of the whelping box.

Eighth Week

Overweight shih tzu keeping warm in a clothes basket

It’s almost time! You’re nervous, your Shih Tzu is getting nervous, too, and the puppies start to move more often — they are getting in line for the brave new world.

During the eighth week, the fur of the puppies completely develops. Their eyes are still closed, and they are going to stay closed after birth until they are ten days old.

In the eighth week of the Shih Tzu pregnancy, the female dog will spend more time in her whelping area, and she will exhibit more “nesting” behavior.

You should avoid highly-active games or long and exhausting walks because any strenuous activity might lead to premature labor. Although there’s only one week left, it is better to wait for nature to take its course.

Of course, if the health of the mother dog or her puppies is in danger — your vet might recommend an urgent C-section.

During this stage of pregnancy, the female dog will start producing milk. If you own a kennel, the best solution is to keep the pregnant Shih Tzu away from other dogs.

This is important for both the mother dog and her future puppies. They will need peace and quiet, and alone time without other dogs interrupting them.

Ninth Week

This is it. It can happen today or two days from now. The puppies are completely developed, and they are ready to come into the world. As a matter of fact, they are already standing in line to go out of the birth canal and start their search for the delicious puppy food that their mom makes — colostrum.

During the ninth week of the Shih Tzu pregnancy, pay attention to your dog’s behavior. She will start avoiding food as the birthing comes closer. She will also start to act more nervous or restless.

At the start of the ninth week, you can start measuring your dog’s body temperature. No matter the dog breed, the normal body temperature is from 100F to 101F (37C to 38C).

When your dog’s body temperature drops to approximately 97 degrees Fahrenheit, it means that the labor will start in the next one or two days — 24 to 48 hours.

You should measure your dog’s body temperature rectally every twelve hours. There are thermometers you can buy at the local vet shops that are easy to use. If you get the same “reading” two times in a row — the puppies are likely to come within 24 hours.

What does this mean? It means it is time to get the camera ready in case you want to take a video of each puppy for your Shih Tzu puppy vlog.

What Happens During Labor?

Shih Tzu puppies born

The whelping or birthing process can be stressful for most dog lovers, especially if it’s the first time experiencing the whelping process for both you and your doggo!

Most dogs can do the entire process on their own without any help from we humans. And, the process can be as short as twenty minutes or as long as a couple of hours. It depends on the number of puppies and possible difficulties during labor.

1. Puppies Arrive

When the first puppy starts to show, let your Shih Tzu doggo push the puppy herself. In most cases, the dog knows what to do and their instincts do the job. But, you should watch closely to see if there are any problems.

Shih Tzus have a small pelvis, which can make the birthing process difficult, especially if the puppies are bigger than usual. This is often the case when people crossbreed Shih Tzu females with male dogs of a bigger dog breed.

2. Cut The Cord

When the first puppy completely comes out, it is time to help the little doggo breathe. If your Shih Tzu doesn’t do it on her own, you should remove the birthing sac from the puppy’s face. This allows the newly-born dog to take its first breaths.

After that, it is time to cut the umbilical cord. You need a thread to do this. Tie a thread one inch away from the puppy’s abdomen and one inch away from the first tie. Cut the cord in the middle, between the two tied threads.

You don’t have to do this. You should watch the behavior of your dog. If your dog starts to chew the umbilical cord on her own, and ultimately eats the placenta, then everything is alright.

But, if you want to help your dog or if she doesn’t do it on her own, then you can cut the cord yourself. Just be sure you are using sterile scissors for cutting and sterile thread for tying. You can buy all of these products at any pharmacy.

This process is something that most Shih Tzu breeders do — they help the mom cut the cord and free the puppies. They do it because they want to make the process as easy as possible for the dam.

3. Towel, Please

The next step is to make sure the newly born Shih Tzu puppy is dry and massaged in order for the blood to start flowing through its tiny body.

As already mentioned, a female dog will do this on her own. She will lick the puppy. But again, if you don’t want to wait or if you want to be of help not only through the Shih Tzu pregnancy, but through the birthing process as well — you can do it.

All you need is a clean and soft towel to rub the puppy with and clean off any blood or fluid. This will also stimulate the blood in the puppy’s blood vessels to start flowing freely throughout the body.

When the female dog licks the puppy, she also removes the fluid from the nose and the mouth. This, of course, helps the puppy breathe, and it is a vital step during the whelping process.

If you want to be sure that everything is alright, and that the mom dog did a good job, you can use a syringe bulb to clean the nostrils and the mouth from any obstruction. Just in case…

4. The Next One

Place the cleaned and dried puppy in a basket. It should have a heating pad because the puppy will be far away from its mom, which means there is nothing to keep it warm.

As you place the puppy in the basket, prepare for the next one to come. The puppies usually come every twenty minutes. The process is the same for each new puppy. Keep an eye on the mom while she pushes the puppy through the birthing canal.

Clean the puppy, cut the cord, dry it and clean the nose and mouth, and put it next to the first one. Remember that you should call the vet if you notice any trouble during the birthing process. As mentioned, Shih Tzus have a small pelvis, which can lead to some problems during labor.

How Long Does It Last?

Most dog labors last for a couple of hours. It depends on how many puppies are there in the uterus, and on some possible complications. But, most dogs go through labor without any complications.

Actually, we shouldn’t interfere unless there is a problem and we have to do it. A C-section is not something to be freely done. It is a surgical operation, and it means putting your dog under anesthesia.

But, your veterinarian will tell you if surgery is needed or not. If there are no complications, and the number of puppies is not too big, you can expect it all to end in two to five hours. But, it can last up to twelve hours, and there is nothing wrong with that.

As long as you can see that your dog is not in any trouble — you are OK. Don’t worry about the occasional shivers or whining of your dog in labor. It is normal.

How Many Puppies Can My Shih Tzu Have?

shih tzu puppies sitting together in a wooden crate

You know it has happened, and it is time to prepare for the Shih Tzu pregnancy. But, as time passes, you start to wonder — how many puppies are there?

On average, a Shih Tzu female will give birth to four or six puppies. The younger the female, the smaller the number of puppies. In other words, the number of puppies depends on the years of age of the mother dog.

If she is older, she usually has more than four pups. In theory, a female dog can give birth to 12 puppies. But, the average number for Shih Tzu dogs is from 4 to 6 puppies.

Younger females usually have 3 to 4 pups per litter. If you want to know the exact number of puppies your dog has, a vet can take an X-ray and count the skeletons of the fetuses.

Knowing how many puppies there are is useful and important during the birthing process. If your vet told you to expect five puppies — count the puppies after birth. If there are four puppies, then there’s something wrong — one of the pups got stuck inside the uterus or birthing canal.

You should call the vet immediately.

The Conclusion

Following up on the Shih Tzu pregnancy shouldn’t be a stressful task. It is a joyful time because you are expecting new, tiny adorable fluffs of fur!

A female Shih Tzu can become pregnant when she is just six to eight months old. This is because the sexual maturity of smaller dog breeds happens earlier than in larger dog breeds.

But, as you already know — no need to panic! Your doggo is in safe hands and everything will be alright. And, more than that — it’s going to be excellent because now you know what to expect during the Shih Tzu pregnancy from week to week.

From the moment the fertilized egg implanted itself into the uterine wall to the last hours before the whelping process — you know what will happen and how to prepare yourself and your doggo.

One reminder… if you feel unsure about what to do in any of the moments during the pregnancy, during the birthing process, or after the pups are born — call the vet and explain the situation.