How Many Puppies Can A Shih Tzu Have
Dog Care Tips · Dog Health

How Many Puppies Can A Shih Tzu Have? 6 Deciding Factors

Last Updated/Info Checked on October 17, 2023 by Scott

Increasing demand for Shih Tzu adoption leads to more breeding. This leads us to the title of the article; how many puppies can a Shih Tzu have?

A typical Shih Tzu dam will have between 3-4 pups per litter. This may change as she ages and her body matures. This number may seem a little small as compared to breeds like Dalmatians or Retrievers that average 6-8 pups a litter but is explained by the breed’s features.

It depends on many factors ranging from the overall characteristics of the breed such as size and hip dimensions to the specific features of the mating partners like their health, age, and nutrition.

Also, breeding techniques play an additional role in determining litter size.

How Many Puppies Can A Shih Tzu Have? - Infographic

How Many Puppies Can A Shih Tzu Have? Determining Factors

As you read, this breed can have 3 to 4 pups in a litter.

Here is a list of all the factors that determine a Shih Tzu’s litter size, including those that you can change and those that you can’t.

Related: How many puppies can a dog have?

1. Smaller Breed Size

It is not a hard concept to grasp that smaller breeds will have a smaller litter owing to their shorter pelvis. Their compact wombs cannot sustain a larger number of pups.

Any number greater than the womb can supply nutrition to would result in fetal distress and may result in intrauterine death or abortion. This puts the remaining pup fetuses at risk as well.

Additionally, the little hips that Shih Tzus offer resistance to the natural birthing process. The fewer the pups are, the easier it is for the mother to pass them without any complications. Consequently, a larger-than-average litter may require a cesarean section.

Unfortunately, some pups may end up with hip dysplasia.

Such procedures may present a risk to the mother and also are a financial burden as they may not be covered by your dog’s health insurance provider.

2. Age Of The Dam And Stud

A dam’s first litter is almost always the smallest in size. With subsequent offspring, this size tends to increase, hence it is not abnormal for an adult Shih Tzu pregnant dam to have a litter of 5-6 puppies.

With that said, breeding a dam too early or too late also comes with problems. Birth-related complications both for the mother and puppies are more common at the extremes of age. Also, a dam’s health would naturally deteriorate as she ages posing more threats to her survival during pregnancy and labor.

On the contrary,  A stud’s sperm quality and the ease of intercourse will decrease with age. This means less sperm would be deposited into the dam’s womb and those will be of lower quality in terms of viability and motility leading to small-scale fertilization.

3. Health And Nutrition Of The Mating Partners

A healthier dam would ensure proper nutrition to the developing fetuses which would increase their chances of survival both inside and outside the womb. Plus, her tolerance to the birthing process would be much better as compared to the dam of poor health.

Similarly, both the quality and quantity of sperm from a stud depend a lot on its general health and well-being. A healthier stud would lead to a bigger sperm load and increased penetrability to the female womb, resulting in a bigger and healthier litter.

The importance of nutrition cannot be emphasized enough here as it directly correlates to the health of the mating partners. A dam’s nutritional requirements also change during the pregnancy and must be catered for.

Always have your dog’s diet based on the recommendations from experts rather than personal preferences

4. Breeding Techniques

During artificial insemination techniques, some of the sperm is lost, and this results in a much smaller quantity reaching the female reproductive tract making a smaller litter.

Breeding naturally not only is cost-effective but also allows better sperm penetration and is easier to have multiple attempts at.

However, such techniques often become necessary for smaller breeds with compact hips where natural intercourse is difficult.

5. Breeding Gap

A gap of at least one year is essential to maintain the mother’s health. Multiple pregnancies in tandem would deteriorate the dam’s health.

This negatively affects the viability of the pups resulting in a smaller litter.

6. Inbreeding

Without getting into the biological details, generally inbreeding results in a smaller litter than using mating partners of different lineages.

Inbreeding also magnifies the risk of your pups getting inherited diseases that are common to dog breeds, Some of the diseases to which Shih Tzus are predisposed are:

  • Hip Dysplasia- abnormal adjustment of the hip socket with the femur bone leading to gait abnormalities.
  • Juvenile Renal Dysplasia – Maldevelopment of the kidneys, such dogs urinate excessively and are thirsty most of the time.
  • Bladder Stones
  • Ectopia Lentis – Displacement of eye lens leading to abnormal vision.

Before choosing your dogs for breeding, make sure they come from certified breeders that guarantee the absence of any genetic diseases in their lineages.


Frequently asked questions about Shih Tzu pups and pregnancy.

How Many Times A Year Can Shih Tzu Have Babies?

Theoretically speaking, a Shih Tzu giving birth can have babies 2 Times in a single year, however, once it delivers a litter, you must wait for a couple of years so that the dam recovers from the stress of pregnancy before going into another. Back-to-back pregnancies are detrimental to a dam’s health and also affect the health of the puppies.

How many puppies would a Shih Tzu have in her lifetime?

Ideally, a Shih Tzu dam should not have more than 4 pregnancies in her lifetime. Any number exceeding that would put the mother and the pups at risk of a number of complications both during and after pregnancy. That makes the total number of pups between 12 to 16 that a Shih Tzu dam can safely have in her lifetime.

How Long Does A Shih Tzu Pregnancy Last?

How long are Shih Tzu pregnant? All dogs have a more or less similar period of gestation i.e. pregnancy duration and it ranges between 57 to 65 days with an average of 63 days. The same goes for a Shih Tzu, however, your dam can have a premature delivery or delayed labor. In such cases, you need to be in regular contact with a vet as some females may require C-sections.

How long does Shih Tzu labor last?

A Shih Tzu’s labor typically lasts between 3 to 12 hours. During this, the dam will pass through the same stages as any other mammal including humans.

What is the best age to breed a Shih Tzu?

According to AKC guidelines, the minimum age for a Shih Tzu dam for mating should be 8 months, and that for a stud should be 7 months. However, these are the lowest limits set by the AKC and you should ideally wait between 18 to 24 months before your Shih Tzu matures to go through the burden of pregnancy and rearing puppies.

Does Shih Tzus need help giving birth?

Although most dams would birth naturally due to their smaller hip ratios, the percentage of complications is high. As a result, Shih Tzu pregnancies would require regular visits to the vet and the delivery may have to be assisted. About one-quarter of Shih Tzu pregnancies require a cesarean section.

How Many Puppies Do A Shih Tzu Have? Conclusion

The number of pups a Shih Tzu dam will have in its life is greatly limited by the natural build of its body. It is also greatly influenced by factors such as the age of the parents, their health, techniques used for fertilization, and whether inbreeding took place or not.

An average Shih Tzu bitch will have 3-4 puppies per litter. With a safe number of 4 pregnancies in her life, she can have up to 16 pups altogether.

All dog breeds are predisposed to a variety of congenital abnormalities that are transmitted across lineages. Always make sure your mating partners come from certified breeders who guarantee a lack of such inherited diseases in their dogs.

To minimize pregnancy-associated complications, consult with a veterinarian before, during, and after the pregnancy of your dam.

Related: how many puppies can a Dalmatian have?

Related: how many puppies can a pitbull have?

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