By Janice Jones |Updated 11-18-2022
You found a great stud, your girl was successfully mated, is pregnant and now you are planning for the big day. What do you need in the way of dog breeding and whelping supplies?
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
Alexander Graham Bell
Your pregnant dam is depending on you to help her deliver a healthy litter of puppies. If you haven't read, our previous article about your Shih Tzu Pregnancy Stages, I hope you will do so before continuing.
It is true that many Shih Tzu bitches go through labor and delivery entirely on their own without any help from their owners, there are also plenty of examples of girls that depend on the human dog parents to help them out, especially new mothers.
In this article, I hope to put your mind at ease about bringing a litter of healthy, happy Shih Tzu puppies into this world without much stress on your part. With the right dog breeding and whelping supplies, your job will become much easier. But before I give you the nitty-gritty of details, let me remind you of some of the typical facts of delivering a litter.
There is always that rare dam that goes behind the couch, whelps a litter of six puppies and then is discovered the next day without a drop of blood or discharge and six healthy puppies all warm, nursing and happily content. This is, however the exception, rather than the norm.
The successful litter is planned to the minute detail and that includes a whelping kit that anticipates all potential problems long before they ever occur. What should be in your whelping supply kit?
I have divided this supply list into three parts:
Every little girl that is giving birth to a litter of puppies deserves to be warm and comfortable. They want to be in a location close to you but in an area that won't be disturbed by other dogs including the father of the litter. There are many options available today to create a great experience for your girl.
This is the actual place where your girl will give birth to her puppies. You will need a litter or whelping box. This can be as elaborate or simple as you like. "In the olden days, we used cardboard boxes and newspaper, but there are better choices these days to keep your Dam happy, warm and comfortable.
Ready-made whelping boxes come in different sizes and are normally equipped with pig rails, and an opening for Mama to come and go. This style works very well with larger dogs but may not be necessary for small breed dogs such as Shih Tzu. Nevertheless, they are always sturdy, washable and easy to put together and take apart. Here are two of these traditional type whelping boxes I found on Amazon for you to consider.
Alternative Whelping Box Ideas
If this is your first litter and you are not sure if it will be your last, you might want to choose an alternative. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me with varying levels of success:
You will want to equip your whelping box with comfortable bedding and warmth. Neonates cannot maintain the body temperature, so it is up to you to provide additional warm by way of heat lamps, heating pads or hot water bottles. I do not recommend water bottles, because they need constant monitoring.
Heating pads, if used should be those that do not have an automatic turn-off. Heating lamps are good, but they maintain a constant high light environment which can be stressful to your Mama. My choice is a constantly on heating pad. They can be used until the puppies start moving around and become interested in the electrical cords at which time they must be removed. Set the temperature on low and place on one side of the whelping box. If the puppies or mom get overheated, they can crawl or move to the other side easily,
Your Dam's temperature will drop to around 98 degrees F about 24 hours before she goes into labor. You will want to have a rectal thermometer and lubricating gel to take her temperature. A normal dog's temperature is between 100 and 101. Once the temperature drops below 99 degrees, labor is near. Keep your thermometer clean and in your dog breeding and whelping supplies tool box.
A scale is necessary if you want to record the weight of your new born puppies and you really should. This is important because you will want to assure your puppies are gaining a little weight each day. You can use a postal scale or purchase a scale that will allow you to weigh older puppies and even adults. (Recommended). The one listed below is one like I use on all my puppies and adults and will work for dogs up to 30 pounds.
I keep a tray of dog breeding and whelping supplies ready for the next litter and stock it as needed. You will want to have on hand, surgical scissors, hemostats or umbilical clamps, (or dental floss) bulb syringes, large cotton gauze pads, and infant bulb syringes.
Clamps: You will want to clamp off the cord so you will be able to cut it and free the puppy from the placenta. Curved hemostats work best, but you may also want to consider umbilical cord clamps or even dental floss for tying it off. Hemostats are cheap and I would recommend purchasing a couple of them to get you through a large litter.
Scissors: If your Mama decides not to chew her way through the umbilical cord, it is up to you to cut the cord to free it from the placenta. Sharp medical or surgical scissors are necessary to clip the cord. A regular pair of household scissors just won't work as well.
Bulb Syringe: Once the puppy is free of the water sac, you will want to suction out the fluid in his/her lungs and mouth. A small infant bulb syringe is the best way to do this. Suction the nose then the mouth.
Gauze Pads: I like to keep gauze pads on hand in case Mama is having difficulty and needs a little help bringing her puppies into the world. Never, never pull a puppy out, but work with her contractions. Breech births may need a little help from you.
Wash clothes and Towels: Your Dam will undoubtedly try to clean up her pups and keep them warm. If you want to help, you can try to dry off puppies with clean wash cloths and towels. Keeping the whelping box dry and clean is also important, so you will want provide dry bedding. You can use disposable wee pads or continually replacing soiled bedding with clean fresh towels or blankets. Have plenty of extras available to replace after each whelp.
I use a variety of dog breeding and whelping supplies to support the puppies and the mother. These include Ora-Cal for Mama, nutritional drops for mama and puppies, antiseptic for umbilical cord stump, disinfectants for instruments, hydrogen peroxide to keep mama clean, and colorful bands to identify puppy.
I keep Ora-Cal on hand to use AFTER the first puppy has been born, never before. Oral Cal works similarly to oxytocin to increase uterine contractions. Never give this medication until after the first puppy has been born.
High caloric nutritional drops are helpful for an extra help for both mom and puppies during labor and delivery and afterwards.
Betadine liquid or swabs: To prevent infection, some type of antiseptic for the umbilical cord stump is recommended. Betadine liquid can be applied with a cotton ball or you may choose to purchase iodine pads to apply to the umbilical cord.
Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent way to clean up blood stains and your Mama is likely to have quite a few on her hair, (tail, back legs, stomach, vaginal area). This is a simple way to clean her up after she gives birth without having to give her a bath.
Colorful Bands will help you identify individual puppies. When the entire litter looks alike, it is important to be identify individual puppies. You can use nail polish but these bands are just as easy.
Alcohol, alcohol pads or other type of disinfecting solution for disinfecting instruments such as scissors or hemostats
Clock or watch for timing births.
Paper and Pen for Recording Birth Times and Weights. As part of my dog breeding and whelping supplies, I keep a supply of pre-made forms where I record litter information. It is convenient to keep these forms on a clipboard near the area where mom and puppies stay. That way you can record any observations or notes in real-time. If you are interested, I've made my form available for you online to download.
Download Dog Breeding and Whelping Supplies Birth Chart
Labor and Delivery produces some mess and you will want to keep everything super clean.
Your litter has arrived, your Dam is resting comfortably and nursing peacefully. What more could you ask for? This is the ideal situation that you want for every litter and in the Shih Tzu breed, this scenario happens more times than not.
Being prepared for the unexpected is important especially if something should go wrong. Here are a couple more additional supplies I keep on hand for the first couple of weeks. I will discuss puppy rearing more extensively in another article.
Hand feeding means that you are giving your puppies a canine formula in addition to or in lieu of their nursing on mama's nipples using a bottle or syringe. I recommend keeping a can of Goats milk formula on hand for the possible puppy that needs additional calories or if you feel one or more of the puppies is too weak to compete for sufficient food from the mother. There are other times when this formula comes in handy.
If your Dam has a very large litter, you may also want to supplement their feeding just to help mom out until her full milk comes in. Also, there is the occasional litter when mom's milk has not come in and you will need to take over feeding the puppies entirely. This is a huge job that needs to be done about every 2 to 3 hours around the clock while you wait for your girl to produce enough milk.
Don't start feeding your puppies until you know it is absolutely necessary. The first milk that the mom produces is called colostrum and is rich in antibodies needed for immune support.
Syringes, Bottles, Nipples
You will need a way to get the milk into the puppy and I recommend using a syringe with a rubber nipple top. Small dog bottles and nipples work well too, but for tiny Shih Tzu puppies an insulin syringe with a specialized nipple works best. Some people use sponges and that is an option too.
Tube Feeding for Extremely Weak Puppies is an option only if you know what you are doing. Do not attempt to tube feed unless you have been trained by a vet or vet tech. If you want to keep a kit on hand for this type of emergency, I recommend the one below. It has everything you need to do a tube feeding should you ever need to do so and can reduce your stress level if you have a weak or sick puppy. A good addition to your dog breeding and whelping supplies tool chest.