A balanced diet and good nutrition are essential factors for the general good health of any dog. This is especially crucial when you feed a pregnant dog.
Your dog’s pregnancy
A bitch will be pregnant for around 9 weeks, 62 days more or less. Monitoring the dog’s body weight and managing her nutritional needs, both before, during and after whelping is vital. Pregnancy is one of the largest hormonal changes and stressful events during your pet’s lifetime. Consequently, what you feed her during pregnancy can be detrimental, not only to her wellbeing but also to the health of her new puppies. Overfeeding can lead to the risk of a prolonged labour and obesity. Likewise, inadequate nutrition and underfeeding can lead to low birth-weight pups, stillbirths, abnormal development of the foetus and embryo loss.
Prior to breeding
Before you consider mating your dog, she needs to be in an ultimate, healthy condition. At this stage, she should be given a high-quality adult dog food.
Feeding a pregnant dog during the first stages of pregnancy
During the first 4-5 weeks of her pregnancy, there is little growth of the pups in the womb. During this period continue to feed a normal quantity of adult dog food. At this time, the dog’s energy levels will not change. Choose a food product that is high in nutrients and easily digestible. Overfeeding during early pregnancy has a tendency to add unnecessary weight. As a result, delivery may be more problematic with an elevated risk of complications. Around the third week of gestation, the bitch may temporarily lose her appetite, which is quite normal for anywhere between 3 and 10 days. This is nothing to worry about if she continues to eat small amounts of food.
Feeding a pregnant dog after 4-5 weeks
After these initial weeks of pregnancy, the developing pups will place additional demands on their mother. Puppy food, which will provide extra nutrients required at this time, needs to be introduced into the bitch’s diet. Introduce this change of product gradually, to avoid any gastric upsets, over a period of several days. Try to use a similar brand that she is happy with, and feed either a dry or wet diet depending on her preferences. Follow the feeding guidelines on the product packaging instructions.
It’s advisable to offer a pregnant dog several smaller meals during the day. Likewise, it is recommended that you monitor her weight gain during this period. During gestation, the pregnant bitch should not gain more than 25 – 30% of her starting weight, however, this does depend on the size of the bitch.
What to feed a pregnant dog in the last stages of gestation
The puppies begin to grow rapidly during the remaining 3-4 weeks of the pregnancy. The pregnant bitch will need more energy and plenty of nutrients. Continue to feed the high-quality puppy food at this time. If you do so, there is no need to add further vitamin or mineral supplements. In fact, providing additional calcium can produce problems such as eclampsia during pregnancy. The larger the litter, the more the bitch’s nutritional needs will rise. As the pups grow in her womb, she will have less room in her abdominal cavity for a full stomach. Feed the pregnant dog more frequently, with smaller portions. As she nears the end of her pregnancy, make food available to her at all times. Likewise, make sure she is eating enough, as a poor diet, in the latter days of gestation can present as pregnancy toxaemia.
Feeding at the time of delivery
Your dog may stop eating, or drastically cut back on the amount she eats, just before she is due to deliver. This is a usually a signal that she will give birth within the next 24 – 48 hours. At this time she probably won’t have any appetite but make sure that food is available for her. Once she has given birth to the pups, it’s highly likely that she will eat the placentas. This is absolutely normal in a dog’s world.
During your dog’s pregnancy, it’s also imperative that she has access to fresh water at all times. She should never be deprived of access to water unless you have received specific instructions from your Vet.
Healthy mum and puppies
During your dog’s pregnancy, her diet and energy requirements will need to be adjusted slightly for several weeks. For this reason, you need to follow general guidelines for feeding dogs during gestation. Certainly, you need to ensure that the bitch and her puppies are as healthy and happy as possible throughout the whole process of pregnancy and delivery.