If the female is to have puppies, good nutrition and plenty of fresh water offer optimal conditions for pregnancy and the suckling period. Sounds obvious so far – but what exactly does a good diet look like in pregnant females?
The Essentials in Brief:
- The usual diet and quantity are maintained until the fifth week of pregnancy;
- From the fifth week onwards, a more nutrient-dense and calorie-rich diet is on the agenda;
- Puppy food that is adapted to the breed size is recommended;
- The bitch’s energy requirement increases by around a quarter per fetus.
What Should Be Considered in General?
If the bitch is pregnant, high-quality feed is particularly important. Therefore, especially with breeding bitches, it is essential to ensure a balanced diet. After all, your body is regularly exposed to increased stress.
Good food for breeding bitches or pregnant dog ladies has a high nutrient density and is easy to digest.
Some hints provide information about whether your bitch is getting along well with the previous feed. Ideally, she has an ideal weight. However, the weight alone is not the decisive factor. The following points also provide information on the quality and tolerance of the feed:
- shiny, thick fur;
- strong, firm muscles;
- well-formed, solid heaps of manure.
How Does the Nutritional Requirement Change During Pregnancy?
As with human pregnancy, the animal’s nutritional needs change during pregnancy.
Increased Protein Requirement
In the course of pregnancy, the protein requirement increases enormously. High-quality proteins are essential for building muscles and connective tissue. In the rapid growth phase, it is between 40 and 70 percent above normal requirements. The ratio depends of course on the number and size of the fetuses in the womb. Protein is generally rather difficult to digest. Particularly when there is an increased need, it is important to ensure that it is easy to digest. The feed should therefore have an optimal composition of amino acids.
Don’t Skimp on Carbohydrates
The pregnant bitch and her fetuses need a lot of energy. This is not only necessary for the little ones to grow, but also for milk production. Carbohydrates are the ideal supplier. Therefore, at best, 20 percent of the energy in dog food consists of carbohydrates, in order to ensure a sufficient supply of energy.
In order for the central nervous system to develop optimally, high-quality fats are necessary. Therefore, there must be polyunsaturated essential fatty acids in the feed. If necessary, fish oils or olive oil can be added so that the bitch is adequately cared for.
Phosphorus and Calcium
From the second half of pregnancy onwards, the bitch’s need for phosphorus and calcium increases. Now the unborn puppies develop the skeleton. Both must be in a balanced relationship with one another. In the case of pure meat, for example, the phosphorus content is too high compared to the calcium content. As soon as the mother begins to produce milk, the calcium requirement doubles again.
Selenium, Iodine, and Iron
Selenium and iodine are necessary for strong muscles and prevent goiter from forming. Iron is especially important towards the end of pregnancy to prevent anemia. The mother loses a lot of blood at birth.
Vitamins A, D, and E.
Vitamins A, D, and E should not be underestimated during pregnancy. They should be given more frequently in the last few days before giving birth. The fetuses cannot store these vitamins themselves. You have to get it from the mother’s first milk.
How Should the Feeding Be Adjusted During Pregnancy?
If your female always receives balanced food, you can feed her normal food at the beginning of pregnancy. No change is necessary up to four weeks of gestation. But the fifth week adhere to the following recommendations:
Puppy Food for the Mom-to-be
From the fifth week of pregnancy onwards, it is advisable to give the puppy food. The dry food for puppies is adapted to the size of the dog and is available for small to very large breeds. In this way, you ensure the healthy development of puppies and pregnant and lactating bitches.
Amount and Frequency
On the back of the packaging, there are sometimes precise feeding recommendations for the expectant dog mom. If no recommendations are given, stick to the following rule of thumb: In smaller breeds, the energy requirement increases by around 30 percent. Larger breeds need about 50 percent more calories. Feeding should be divided into two to three meals a day.
Important: If there are more than four baby dogs on the way, the food does not have to be limited. It can be freely available to the bitch.
What Else Should You Watch Out For?
With high-quality proteins, sufficient carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids, the bitch is already doing very well. There are also a few small things to watch out for so that there is no over-or under-supply of certain food components as well as vitamins and minerals.
- The liver carries the risk of an oversupply of vitamin A.
- Salmon can lead to vitamin D overdoses, which inhibit puppy development.
- In the case of dry feed, the addition of fresh meat is only recommended in moderation.
Feeding Pregnant Females: Is BARF Allowed?
It is not for nothing that BARF is one of the healthiest diets for dogs. Also in pregnancy, there is nothing to be said against fresh meat feeding and raw food. However, you should pay particular attention to the required amount of carbohydrates. Since BARF is often grain-free, there is a risk that not enough carbohydrates are available. If the dog cannot tolerate grain, the gift of potatoes or rice is also an option.
What Should Be Considered in the Last Phase of Pregnancy?
Due to hormonal fluctuations, constipation often occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy. In this case, dietary fiber can be added to the feed as a dietary supplement.
Loss of Appetite in Pregnant Females
The closer the due date approaches, the more exciting it becomes for everyone involved. Often this leads to loss of appetite in pregnant bitches. The bitch may even stop eating completely one to two days before the birth. This is normal and not a cause for concern. Even the day after the birth, hunger is not necessarily back.
After Pregnancy: What Should Be Considered in Lactating Females?
Even after pregnancy, the bitch still has a greatly increased need for energy and nutrients. After all, she has some hungry mouths to fill. And for that, you need a lot of breast milk.
By the way: dogs produce more breast milk per kilogram of body weight than humans!
The amount and frequency of meals also depend on the breed and litter size after the litter. In addition, the considerable growth of the little ones in the first days and weeks should not be underestimated! The following guidelines serve as an orientation for a feeding plan for lactating bitches:
- The first week: About 150 percent of the normal portion;
- The second week: About 200 percent of the normal portion;
- The third week: About 300 percent of the normal portion.
Our Recommendation: Set the Course Before Pregnancy
Is pregnancy planned? Then you are well-advised to optimally adjust your diet even before mating – the so-called covering. Ideal weight is the best prerequisite for a successful occupancy and an unproblematic pregnancy. Being overweight or underweight can lead to complications.
Even before the bitch becomes pregnant, being overweight has a negative impact. Chubby bitches are nowhere near as fertile as those of normal weight. Either only a few egg cells implant themselves or implantation does not take place at all. Labor weakness is another possible consequence. After the whelping, there is also a lack of milk in some cases.
Being underweight is unfavorable, especially during and after pregnancy. If the pregnant or lactating bitch is too thin, the fetuses and puppies also tend to be underweight. This in turn makes them more susceptible to disease and parasite infestation.
The ideal weight of the breeding bitch is therefore one of the best prerequisites for a smooth pregnancy and healthy puppies.