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Nutrition for Pregnancy & Lactation

Nutrition for Pregnancy & Lactation


·       Female dogs should be fed a calorie-dense dog food during pregnancy and lactation. Veterinary nutritionists recommend feeding an all-life stages dog food or a puppy food providing 400 to 500 kilo-calories. It is ideal to feed a highly palatable food that provides complete and balanced nutrition, including a proper balance of carbohydrates, which are so important for a healthy pregnancy.

·       A high protein-to-fat ratio, approximately 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat is recommended. A protein deficiency during pregnancy can reduce the birth weight of puppies and increase neonatal mortality. Protein requirements are even higher during lactation, especially in large litters.

·       Energy requirements may increase by double to triple during lactation, particularly with large litters. Be ready to mix in canned meat to boast milk production and nutrition. We like to add water and stir in canned meat to get them to eat more.

Q. Our female dogs become picky eaters during the last 30 days of pregnancy. We typically supplement their diets with foods such as eggs, chicken, and cottage cheese to get them to eat. Is this the best way to handle this?

A.  Females become picky eaters as their abdomen gets full of puppies, giving them little room in their stomach to eat a big meal. Try feeding smaller meals more frequently. Cottage cheese, eggs and chicken are single-food items that are tasty but not balanced. A pregnant dog’s nutrition should be balanced, as this is a very important time of life for her and the puppies. If you need to jump-start her appetite, We recommend adding a quality canned wet food to the dry food, just the smell and texture of the canned food will usually get her to eat. You should continue to feed small amounts frequently. If she is six to seven weeks pregnant and stops eating do not delay getting medical attention. She could quickly dehydrate and die.

Whelping area should be prepped at least two weeks in advance to help your female get comfortable with her surroundings. Temperature requirements vary from breed to breed. A good standard is to have a warm surface of 95 degrees for the puppies to lay on.

Q. Is giving calcium during whelping beneficial to the dam?

A. Certain females will be predisposed to milk fever (hypocalcemia), a condition in which there is lower-than-average levels of calcium in the blood plasma. This occurs around the time of birth and during the first few days of lactation when their milk production is rising and can continue for one to four weeks or until female is at peak production. It’s important to watch for signs of milk fever. Symptoms include muscle tremors, nervousness, and high body temperatures. If a dog shows signs of this life-threatening condition, immediate action is needed. Most times, a good dose of calcium takes care of the problem. Calcium Paste is great for emergency and be sure to continue with less expensive option such as Pet Cal or oral cal plus powder. We highly recommend giving a nursing female one calcium tablet per day.

If a female gets low in calcium, it can make it hard for her to deliver her puppies, as calcium is needed for muscle contractions, however do not give calcium until the first pup is born This is why veterinarians may give the hormone oxytocin and calcium to help strengthen uterine contractions. 

Mastitis is also something to watch for and if it gets too bad the utter can erupt which at that point the female needs to be put on antibiotics or infection will set in.  Zeniquin is a good solution for this as well and can be continued for 3-5 days and up to 10 days for extreme cases.

More articles are coming.  Stay tuned!



PAWS (Pennsylvania Animal Welfare and Safety) is a group of pet breeders who are dedicated to
helping the industry by providing guidance in areas such as pet safety, marketing, public relations,
and legal requirements. We believe that pets should be treated humanely and with respect. We
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