Dog pregnancies can be a challenging time for pet owners and their dogs. However, it is also an exciting time and should not be viewed as being something that is full of stress. You dog needs you right now during this important milestone in her life. The young litter is also counting on you for many things. Primary factor in taking care of a pregnant or lactating bitch is feeding her a healthy diet. Each dog pregnancy is unique and hence the nutritional needs are also different. Be diligent with the weekly checkups and work with your vet closely to feed the best food to your dog after she gives birth. Let us discuss nutritional needs of a new mother and also the best homemade food for nursing pets.
What to feed a nursing dog
Your vet will give you a week by week diet plan to ensure that your pregnant dog’s nutritional needs are met. Many dog owners believe that new mothers need lot of proteins and fats after giving birth. While this is true to some extent, you should not go overboard with it. It is especially important that the food not contain too much protein that takes all day to digest. Your dog will be nursing all day and she won’t get too much exercise. So her diet should contain moderate, easy to digest protein. Slow-digesting proteins can cause a lot of discomfort to sedentary nursing bitches. Talk to your doctor about the right protein sources for pregnant and nursing dogs. As stated before, a week by week, specific layout can help and most vets can give you that.
Chart showing nutritional needs of a lactating or pregnant bitch
|Nutrient||Recommended (1st 6 weeks |
of pregnancy )
| Recommended for last 3 |
pregnancy and during lactation
Energy intake in pregnant and lactating bitches
Depending on the litter size, the energy needs can go up to 30% – 60% above maintenance. Bitches should have at least 20% of their energy needs met by carbohydrates. Avoid raw food diet at this time since it has very low carbohydrates. Giant breeds may need higher energy foods throughout pregnancy and not just the last weeks.
Loss of appetite just before whelping
Many bitches stop eating food just before whelping. Some even become anorexic. Talk to your vet and discuss what to feed a nursing dog to gain weight. Most vets recommend puppy food as it is high energy and nutrient dense as well.
What to do with picky nursing dogs
Avoid any drastic dietary changes in picky nursing dogs. These could cause vomiting or diarrhea. Do not force a pregnant or nursing dog to eat. Switch her gradually to a growth or performance variety food as per your vet’s advice.
How much calcium do you give a nursing bitch?
In the last 35 days of pregnancy, a bitch’s requirement of calcium and phosphorus increases by 60%. However, it is very important to give right form of calcium and also balance it with other nutrients. Vets recommend keeping calcium intake of bitches between 0.75% and 1.0% on a dry matter basis. This calcium and phosphorus is used by pups to form their skeleton and bones.
Fresh water is of utmost importance
A German shepherd with 6 puppies can easily produce up to 2 liters of milk each day. At peak lactation, a bitch can produce as much milk as a cow! This is why vets recommended keeping plenty of fresh water available for nursing bitches. A 35 kilo nursing dog may need up to 6 liters of fresh water per day.
To sum things up
Here is a summary of what to feed a nursing or pregnant dog:
- Complete adult food for 6 weeks of pregnancy
- For final 3 weeks of pregnancy, feed complete puppy food
- Throughout lactation, feed complete puppy food
- Giant breeds like Great Dane may need complete puppy food during the entire pregnancy and lactation
- Avoid feeding puppy foods for large breeds to pregnant or lactating bitches as they are too low in energy density
What is the best food for dogs after giving birth?
Victor Purpose Nutra Pro Dry Dog Food
This is a high quality protein, low carbohydrate dog food. It is excellent for growing puppies as well as for nursing bitches. You can also feed Victor Purpose to sporting dogs or dogs with high physical demands. The food is fortified with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids that are necessary for nursing or lactating dogs.
Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Puppy Formula Chicken & Pea
This grain free formula contains salmon oil that is necessary for omega 3 essential fatty acids. It also contains pro and pre-biotic enzymes that prevent illnesses and boost immunity in mother and babies. Antioxidants vitamin E and selenium work to support your dog’s health and well being.
Homemade food for nursing dogs
You will need:
- 2 ½ lb or 6 legs of chicken.
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4-5 potatoes/sweet potatoes/yams peeled and chopped
- 5-6 baby carrots peeled and chopped
- One 24 oz package of frozen peas
- 1 cup whole grain pasta
- One can of diced tomatoes with juice
- 2-3 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth. You can also use water.
- 2-4 tbsp good fats (ghee, coconut oil, olive oil etc)
- Place your chicken/lamb on a baking tray, in a preheated oven. Apply ghee or oil and roast for 30 minutes. Turn pieces over and roast for 10-15 minutes more. Cool. Remove the meat with fork and discard bones. Reserve liquid collected in the tray.
- Bring the water or stock to boil and add rice. Cover and cook until grains completely absorb the rice. Turn off heat and allow the rice to rest.
- In a stock pot, boil water, tomatoes and chicken stock. Reduce heat and add carrots and potatoes.
- Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes.
- Now add the rice and cooked chicken. Finally add frozen peas and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add reserved liquid from tray. Serve this stew over high quality dog food for nursing dogs.
- Drizzle some oil or ghee on top if needed.
Use one part stew to 4 parts dry dog food formulated for nursing dogs. You can make a large batch and freeze or refrigerate the excess.
Milk replacement for puppies when the mother won’t nurse
You can make an emergency milk replacement with the following recipe:
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 Tums
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
Milk replacement powders are also available and these may be fed to pups.
No one diet is best when it comes to dogs who have just given birth. You must work with a vet to come up with a good diet plan. Energy needs increase drastically during gestation and nursing. Your dog needs plenty of calcium and phosphorus to increase milk production. Give her a supplement after consulting your vet. Canine dietary supplements with calcium and Vitamin D are readily available. These are especially necessary for small breed dogs nursing large litters and for dogs with history of eclampsia.