The average gestation period for a shih tzu is 58 to 65 days following conception. With a first pregnancy your shih tzu may not show signs until late in term. Just before her due date the abdominal muscles may suddenly appear to distend suddenly. Some shih tzu may produce colostrum and milk. She may suffer a loss of appetite or if just eaten, they may suddenly throw it back up. She may show extreme fatique, and have very deep periods of sleep. These are all signs that whelping is nigh.
If it takes an hour or longer between puppies once whelping begins she “might” be suffering from inertia. However, all matrons are different. I have puppies to have as long as 4 hours apart and nothing be wrong at all, and usually the same mother will go through this same process each time. But if you have a matron who does not usually take this long between puppies, and then she does, this could be cause for you to call your vet or take her to the vet. Some breeders will give their matron a glass of milk as a calcium source. My shih tzu usually won”t take anything like that during this time. If the matron stays in labor a long period of time, you may need to take her for a cesarean section. Most shih tzu, however, are free whelpers, even my little girls have whelped out their puppies on their own. There is always the exception to this rule, however, and you should be prepared to stay for the entire whelping with your matron to guard against the complications that may require the vet”s assistance. One trouble sign would be a steady straining by the matron. I have been very fortunate with my shih tzu, in that as of yet I have not experienced a lot of problems with their whelping times.
As whelping progresses, matrons will go through periods of intermittent labor and occasional minor contractions over several hours before intense contractions occur in rapid succession producing a puppy. Normally, she will visibly pant rapidly, may attempt to shred her bedding and will often shred newspapers if you give them to her, she will move restlessly and whine and will intermittently sleep deeply through the whelping. Once deliveries begin, puppies usually arrive anywhere from a few minutes to an hour apart, but again this is not always the rules with every matron. I have had shih tzu to take as long as 4 or 5 hours between puppies and still everything turn out alright. Some it looks as if they are not even having pain or pushing, and then suddenly a puppy will appear. The mother will immediately begin to tear open the sac around head and face and proceed to take the whelp out of the sac. If you notice mother not doing this, you will need to work quickly and tear the sac off the face and eyes so the puppy can get air. Mother will usually continue to clean up her whelp and chew and tie the cord. Many people think they need to take over at this point, but I feel mother is more capable by nature and instinct and should be allowed to chew the cord and tie it off without my help. Mother does this in a way to stop the bleeding. I have had a few that I have had to take over, but normally, if mother is doing as she ought to do, she will do this much better than I can and I drather let mother do as she knows best at this point.
A breeder”s attitude of the mother and the litter over the next few days will also affect the successful outcome of raising this litter.