Your Complete Guide to a Shih Tzu Pregnancy 

Shih Tzu Pregnancy     by Janice Jones M.A.     |Last Updated 05-02-2022

Did you happen to find yourself on this Shih Tzu Pregnancy page because you want to either breed your Tzu or think your baby may be pregnant?

Either way, you are in the right place.  I've experienced hundreds of pregnancies, some uneventful, others that caused me concern, and still others that were heart-wrenching.  

Bringing a litter of puppies into the world is a fantastic experience.  I do hope if you are here, you've made a conscious decision to breed your girl, and now you may want some answers and guidance on how to proceed.

I'm always so happy to help out new breeders or even one time breeders fulfill their desire to create a new family of Shih Tzu puppies.  In this article, we are going to look at a variety of topics.  Feel free to read straight through all the issues, or pick and chose those that are most relevant to your situation.

Gabby is a female Shih Tzu ready to whelp a litter in just a couple of days.  This Shih Tzu pregnancy resulted in five healthy puppies.Gabby is a female Shih Tzu ready to whelp a litter in just a couple of days. This Shih Tzu pregnancy resulted in five healthy puppies.

Shih Tzu Pregnancy Vocabulary and Basic Terminology

Here is a Shih Tzu pregnancy that resulted from a solid liver-colored female and a lavender male, producing mostly chocolate-colored puppies.Here is a Shih Tzu pregnancy that resulted from a solid liver-colored female and a lavender male, producing mostly chocolate-colored puppies.

As you begin to experience your Shih Tzu's pregnancy, you will want to understand some typical terminology that breeders use.  Remember, if your Shih Tzu is pregnant and you are going to be bringing into this world, a litter of puppies, you too, are a breeder.  Here are some typical terms you will encounter.

Dam /Bitch:  The terms used to describe the female dog who is the mother of the litter

Sire/Dog:  The term used to describe the father of the litter

Tie:  A mating terms that describe the moment when the male and female dog has mated.  The "tie " occurs when both the male and female are locked together.  The bulbus glandis of the male dog's penis swells inside the bitch's vagina, and during this time ejaculation takes place. 

Both dogs are "tied together" until this swelling subsides which may be instantaneous to may continue for 30 minutes. Typically there is no pain, but virgin dogs may become distressed.  The breeder can reassure the dogs by being near and holding one or both dogs, so they don't try to break the tie prematurely.

Length of Pregnancy:  Gestation:  A typical dog's pregnancy lasts for about nine weeks or 63 days, give or take a couple of days on either side from the time the female ovulates.  The Day ovulation occurs is not necessarily the day the Dam mates as most girls will ovulate a couple of days before mating.

Nesting: An automatic process that female mothers go through where they prepare for their new litters.  They may try to create a nest by tearing up paper or built a nest by scratching and digging in a location they deem suitable for giving birth to puppies.  

Whelping:  The act of giving birth to puppies 

Conception / Fertilization:  The point at which the zygote is formed as a result of sperm penetrates an egg.

How Long is the Shih Tzu Pregnancy?

This is a Shih Tzu pregnancy that resulted from a brindle colored female dog and a white male with a multitude of colors in his pedigree.This is a Shih Tzu pregnancy that resulted from a brindle colored female dog and a white male with a multitude of colors in his pedigree.

The general rule of thumb is that a dog's pregnancy lasts 63 days give or take a day or two on either side.  This statement, however, is a bit misleading, because breeders will often calculate the date from either the first or last date of mating. 

To understand how long a Shih Tzu Pregnancy is, one must understand a little more about their heat cycles.  The length of the gestation period is approximately 63 days from conception, but mating and fertilization are two different things.  Healthy sperm can live inside a healthy female for up to 6 days.  So, even though a female may allow mating to occur, it doesn't mean that conception occurred at the same time as mating.

There are ways to help determine the whelping date,  usually within a day by doing progesterone testing or vaginal smears.

According to the AKC website, a dog pregnancy can last from ...

56-58 days from the first day of diestrus

64-66 days from the initial rise in progesterone

58-72 days from the first time the bitch allowed breeding

For the Shih Tzu breeder, the best way to handle the questions, when are you expecting the litter to be born, I recommend giving them the time frame of about a week (example: The second week in August)

As a new (or experienced Shih Tzu breeder, you may want to download our perpetual Whelping Calendar to keep handy to estimate the time of your new litter.

Signs of a Shih Tzu Pregnancy

This Shih Tzu pregnancy resulted from a gold with black mask dam and a liver and white Male produced puppies that were mostly liver and white.This Shih Tzu pregnancy resulted from a gold with black mask dam and a liver and white Male produced puppies that were mostly liver and white.

Shih Tzu dams like most other breeds go through a predictable phase that helps us determine whether they are pregnant.

Assuming your girl was mated, you witnessed the mating, and there was a tie, there is every reason to suspect your girl is pregnant. Unfortunately, human pregnancy tests don't work on dogs.  Those home tests ladies use to detect pregnancy rely on a urine sample that can pick up a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. Dogs don't produce this hormone so that the test would be useless.  

There are ways to know if your dog is pregnant by observing changes in behavior and appearance. There are also more sophisticated ways that typically require your veterinarian's help.

Changes in Behavior and Appearance of Your Shih Tzu Girl

This Shih Tzu pregnancy between a blue female and liver-colored sire caused the female to lose much of her hair.This Shih Tzu pregnancy between a blue female and liver-colored sire caused the female to lose much of her hair.

Just as in people, every dog experiences pregnancy a little differently, and each pregnancy is never alike. This is a general list and some signs will be present in early stages of pregnancy while others won't be noticeable until late pregnancy such as nesting behaviors.

Here are a few signs you might see:

  • Some girls have a slight mucus discharge about one month after mating
  • Her nipples become more prominent, slightly swollen, and pink.  
  • She may experience little nausea during the early stages of pregnancy, similar to human's morning sickness.  At this point, she may become more clingy or more distant.  Some become more sluggish, while others maintain their average energy level.
  • She will slowly begin to gain weight around the fifth week of pregnancy, and at that time, she will also want to eat more.
  • Her swollen stomach may not "show" until about six weeks.  But by the seventh week of gestation, most bitches have a rounder appearance, and her belly is showing signs of being pregnant.
  • By the eighth week of pregnancy, you may be able to detect movement if you hold your hands on her abdomen.  If you have a stethoscope, you may also be able to hear slight heartbeats that get stronger daily as your girls get ready to whelp. 
  • As she nears the time of her whelping date, she may be less active, and her appetite may increase substantially.  This will continue until the day of whelping when she is not likely to be very hungry.

What Other Ways are Used to Detect Pregnancy in Shih Tzu Dogs

This Shih Tzu pregnancy produced four puppies mostly black and white pups from a gold and white Dam and a black and white sire.This Shih Tzu Pregnancy produced four puppies from gold and white dam and a black and white sire.

There are several ways you can confirm that your female is indeed pregnant.

  • Abdominal Palpation
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays
  • Relaxin Blood Tests

Abdominal Palpation

From about day 28 until 35, it is possible to feel tiny embryos which are about the size of grapes. After this time frame, the sacs that contain the growing fetus fill with fluid, making it nearly impossible to feel individual puppies. This method is not an accurate determination of live puppies, and it can't be a reliable way to determine the number of puppies. 

If the girl is tense, obese, or underweight, this method is not likely to be useful.


Ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure that consists of bouncing sound waves off internal organs. Commonly performed around 25 days from the last mating, it can provide several bits of information to the veterinarian and breeder. 

First, it can detect the viability of the fetus (movement and heartbeat) and can often predict the birth date.  In some cases, the vet may also be able to determine the number of puppies, but this is not usually reliable.  A better way to determine the number of puppies is through X-rays.


An Xray of a pregnant female Shih Tzu shows five babies.The easiest way to count the number of unborn puppies is to locate and count skulls. Some vets also have the ability to measure the size of the skull and compare the diameter to that of the birth canal. This is helpful when deciding whether a c-section will be necessary.

An X-ray can be done towards the end of the pregnancy to determine the number of puppies, their size, and where they are within the uterus.  You can count skulls to determine the number of puppies and the vet can also assess whether the size of the puppies may become a problem for the mother giving birth.  If this is the case, a C-section may be indicated.

Relaxin Tests to Answer Those Questions about Your Shih Tzu Pregnancy

A blood test that measures the level of a hormone called relaxin can typically be detected in pregnant female dog's blood as early as 22 to 27 days post-breeding. The placenta produces relaxin once the embryo has attached to the uterine wall. It will remain high throughout the pregnancy and then decline once puppies are born.  

A positive result will detect a pregnancy at the time of testing, but it doesn't mean that puppies will be born. Anything can happen that would cause the mom to lose her litter. A negative result could be the result of poor timing, and the test can be repeated in a week to see if it is still negative. Two negative tests generally mean no pregnancy, but if you want to be assured of results, a third test done in a week can be done.

This test can be purchased and done at home but requires a blood sample that needs to be spun down via a centrifuge.  Therefore, you will need to be able to draw blood and own a centrifuge.

Must You Perform These Tests to Determine A Shih Tzu  Pregnancy?

A normal Shih Tzu pregnancy lasts 63 days and produces 4 puppies.A typical Shih Tzu Pregnancy lasts 63 days and produces four puppies.

The quick answer is no, unless you are curious.  But, with that said, if your girl runs into problems, you will want to have her checked by a veterinarian who will likely use some of these measures to diagnose the problem.

How to Manage Your Shih Tzu's Pregnancy

This is an exciting time for you and if you're like me, you will want to do everything possible to assure a successful pregnancy and a litter of healthy, happy puppies.  What are some things you can do to help your girl?

Shih Tzu Pregnancy, Whelping, and Rearing a litter of puppiesDads are often involved in Shih Tzu Pregnancies

Your Shih Tzu Pregnancy Diet

You want to assure you are providing a high-quality diet, but that does not mean adding extra calories right away.  Some breeders recommend switching to a puppy formula during pregnancy and lactation.  My vet has assured me that it is fine to do so.  

About half-way through the pregnancy, it is time to increase her food by about 10%.  Increase her regular food by 30% during the seventh week, and by the 8th week, she's likely to be eating 50% more than usual.  These are just rough estimates.  I normally free-feed so my girls eat as much as they need.


A typical Shih Tzu pregnancy produces 3 to 6 puppies;  the sex of the puppies is determined by the father.A typical Shih Tzu pregnancy produces 3 to 6 puppies; the sex of the puppies is determined by the father.

There is some debate as to whether you need to supplement her diet, especially if she is eating a premium brand.  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause reproductive problems.  Ask your vet to recommend a good quality prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement.

If your dog does require medication, check with your vet first before giving her anything, including over-the-counter medicines.

What about Calcium?

Calcium is such an important question that I thought it deserved its separate place. DO NOT give extra oral calcium to your girl before she goes into labor. Too much calcium and Vitamin D are detrimental to the Dam's health and can be linked to difficult deliveries, and eclampsia.


Shih Tzu Pregnancy:  Exercise is still important when your dog is pregnant.Keep up with your exercise routine during your Shih Tzu Pregnancy

Exercise is good for any Shih Tzu dogs and especially for pregnant Tzus.  If you normally walk your dog, continue to do so.  This would not be an ideal time to take a long hike or allow her to over exert herself.  

Managing Mood Swings

Unless your dog has been pregnant before, it is not easy to anticipate what type of behavioral changes she may exhibit. Many dogs become clingy and need extra attention. Others will go off and find a place to sleep on the other side of the room. For those who refuse to allow you to be out of sight, caring for them can become a bit intense.

Irritability is also a common behavioral change. Your sweet little girl who loves everyone may become fussy, irritable, and ripe for a fight. If you have other dogs in the household, she's likely to show signs of jealousy. Some may fight with other dogs, especially other girls in the house.  

She may also be the victim of fights as other dogs sense a change in her odor.  

If there are young children in the home, your pregnant Shih Tzu may no longer tolerate noisy play and may snap at your children. It is best to keep them separated. There is nothing wrong with a quick verbal reprimand as you don't want her to forget all of her socialization and training. 

Nesting Behavior in the Shih Tzu Pregnancy

Most Shih Tzu Pregnancies accompany some nesting behavior. What exactly is nesting?

Whether you call it nesting or digging, this instinctual behavior is a throw-back to the days when pregnant ancestral dogs dug and prepared a "nest" where their puppies were to be born. 

They would choose a place that was secluded, warm, and protected where their babies would be safe.  

Of course, that is not necessary today. As dog owners, we have created the perfect place for our dogs to whelp and raise their litter. 

Even experienced moms know this but will continue to dig. This digging behavior can occur anywhere,  but in my experience, it is usually in a dark, secluded place.  Watch for this behavior in a closet, under a bed or in the corner of the room. If there is soft clothing, so much the better, but they may also choose to dig a hole in your hardwood floor. This behavior can also occur after the puppies are born, either in the whelping box or somewhere nearby.

Should you discourage this?

You can try, but remember it is instinctual, so no matter how many times you try to reprimand, your mama is still compelled to complete her perceived task.

The best way to deal with nesting behavior is to prepare the whelping area ahead of time and get her acclimated to it. Add some soft towels or rags and encourage her to dig there.  

Once the puppies are born and she continues to nest, there will be a good chance she will knock the puppies out of the whelping area and onto the cold floor. Unless you are not right there to place the puppy back into the warm whelping box, the puppy will succumb to hypothermia shortly. Puppies can not regulate their body temperatures.

If you have a girl that does this, the best way to deal with the behavior is to fill the whelping box up with the same small towels and washcloths you used before she gave birth. That way she can still dig and not accidentally displace one of her puppies.

The Shih Tzu Pregnancy Week-by-Week

Weeks 1 - 2  (Days 1 - 14)

  • Fertilization occurs in the uterine tube
  • Ovum begin to divide and slowly moves down and into the uterus
  • Ova floats free in the uterus while the
  • Placenta develops from the yolk sac of the ovum.

Week 3  (Days 15 - 21)

  • The embryos are less than a half inch
  • Embryo begin to attach to the uterine wall.  
  • The central nervous forms

Week 4  (Days 22-28)

  • The brain and spinal cord begin to develop
  • The embryo begins to curl up in that classic fetal position
  • All organs, the limbs, eyes and face are forming
  • By the end of this period, the embryo is oval and about an inch in diameter.

Week 5  (Days 29 -35)

  • Sexual characteristics begin to show, 
  • Eyelids close
  • The puppy is now called a fetus
  • The Dam's appetite will increase and you may notice an increase in her weight

Week Six  (Days 36 - 42)

  • Abdominal enlargement shows, especially in large litters
  • There is rapid growth in the fetus
  • Nails develop 
  • Dam will need additional food
  • Ask your vet about supplementation during this time

Week Seven (Days 43-49)

  • Bones are beginning to calcify
  • A waxy plug can be expelled from the teats followed by a watery fluid
  • Hair grows
  • Begin to prepare a whelping box and introduce your Dam to her whelping area

Week Eight (Days 50-56)

  • Skeletons are calcified and can be seen on an x-ray
  • Fetuses continue to grow in size and weight
  • You may notice a small amount of milk production
  • The Dam becomes recess, may begin to nest, and will continue to eat and put on weight

Week Nine (Days 57 -63)

  • A full term puppy is ready to be born. 
  • You can begin to take your girl's temperature twice a day
  • Introduce her to the Whelping area
  • Shave her abdomen and vaginal areas for a cleaner whelp
  • When her temperature drops to about 98 degrees Fahrenheit she will whelp within the next 24 hours.

Last Words about Shih Tzu Pregnancy

The Shih Tzu pregnancy is an exciting time for the breeder or owner of the Dam, but it is only one in the series of steps that breeders encounter when bringing a litter of pups into this world.  If all goes well during this stage, the next step is whelping and delivery of a litter of puppies.  In the case of the Shih Tzu breed, you can normally expect between three and six puppies born.

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