What to Feed Your Pregnant or Nursing Dog

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A dog’s pregnancy averages 63 days in length, with nursing continuing for a few more weeks after birth. This may be the most important time in your dog’s life when it comes to precise nutrition. For a pregnant or nursing dog, malnutrition can lead to serious health issues and jeopardise the health of their puppies. (1) Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s specific needs and keep these critical nutritional considerations in mind:

  • High-fat food helps to meet the higher caloric requirement for milk production and growth of the puppies. 
  • High digestibility is important to help maximise calorie intake from smaller amounts of food.
  • The mother’s milk production and the bone growth of the puppies require more calcium and phosphorus.
  • High-protein food supports the healthy development of puppies.
  • DHA from fish oil supports development of the puppies’ nervous systems.

Frequently asked questions regarding pregnancy, nursing, and nutritional essentials

What is digestibility and why does it matter?

Pregnant and nursing dogs need a lot of nutrients to support the development of their puppies, so a highly digestible food is essential. And because there is less room in the pregnant dog’s abdomen, it’s important that there is maximum nutrition in every single bite.

Why more energy and fat?

Pregnant and nursing dogs have very high energy needs. In fact, nursing dogs have 4-8 times the energy requirements of healthy adult dogs who are not nursing. Increased fat as part of precisely balanced nutrition helps to meet these energy needs.

What should I feed my dog while she’s pregnant and nursing?

We recommend feeding her a food specially designed to meet the nutrition needs of pregnant and nursing dogs. These foods feature essential nutrients in sufficient amounts to support both the needs of your dog and her growing puppies. Your veterinarian can recommend a suitable food for your dog’s needs.

Are there special instructions for feeding my pregnant or nursing dog?

Feed your pregnant dog the amount suggested on the food package, and keep feeding her puppy food until her puppies have finished weaning. Ask your veterinarian if you should make food available to her at all times after the puppies are born. This can help wean the puppies to a regular food and you’ll have peace of mind knowing their mother’s energy needs are being met.

When do I wean my puppies?

Most puppies begin eating solid food at 3-4 weeks of age. Their mum should already be eating an appropriate puppy food because she needs it in the later stages of pregnancy and for milk production. Check with your vet that this is the case and that the food is suitable for weaning. Softening the biscuits with a little warm water, offering tinned or sachet puppy food, or making a gruel can all help the puppies to start the transition from milk to solids. Weaning should be effectively complete at 6-7 weeks of age. (2)

When should I see my vet?

Visit your veterinarian regularly during pregnancy and nursing to check the mother’s condition and make sure her nutritional needs are being met. It’s important that you set up a specific schedule with your veterinarian to determine how often your dog should be examined during pregnancy and after the puppies are born.

Start puppy care right.

Keeping a record of your puppies’ weights, development and activity every 1-2 days can be very helpful for your veterinarian’s routine assessments in the first year of life. (2)

1. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Normal Dogs; Pregnancy in Dogs; p. 238
2. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Growing Dogs: Weaning Period; p. 247

Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS

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