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What to Feed a Pregnant Dog – First, Second & Third Trimesters

Nicole Cosgrove

Exciting news! Your dog is expecting puppies! This is an exciting time in any pet parent’s life. But it can also be overwhelming if this is your dog’s first litter. You want to make sure you are giving your dog the food she needs to help her grow healthy puppies. A healthy and balanced diet is essential to help momma dog not only through her pregnancy but to also have a healthy delivery and lactation.

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The First and Second Trimester

Dogs are pregnant for 63 days or roughly nine weeks. Just like humans, they have three trimesters, each 21 days long. The first trimester starts when a dog ovulates and releases her eggs. Once her eggs are fertilized, she could have anywhere from two to ten puppies growing in her!

Fetal growth is speedy at the early ages of pregnancy. This is why it is important to have your dog on a healthy balanced diet from the very beginning. Some experts recommend feeding puppy food to your pregnant dog due to its high nutrient contents.

If your dog is already on a high protein, high nutrient diet, you can continue to feed them as normal through the first and second trimester. A small increase in the amount of food can be made if desired but should be no more than a 10% increase.

A high-quality diet should consist of 29% protein, 17% fat, a high amount of soluble carbohydrates, and low fiber content. You should also be sure that your dog is receiving calcium and phosphorus for the formation of the puppies’ bones and also for milk production.

Always be sure to have fresh clean water available for your dog at all stages of pregnancy. Dehydration can cause a number of complications in both your dog and her growing pups.

Chihuahua dog eat feed
Image Credit: tanyastock, Shutterstock

The Third Trimester

In weeks six and seven, your pregnant dog’s weight will increase. This is the time to increase their food consumption by about 25%. This is the most important developmental time in a dog’s pregnancy. The puppies’ organs are fully developed and they will develop to full term at this time. This will place the greatest strain on the mother nutritional-wise.

Improper nutrition can lead to reduced health of the mother dog and her puppies. It can also lead to birth defects and difficulty delivering the puppies. Mammary development may also be impaired which can lead to decreased milk production or even no production at all.

Due to the discomfort of having almost full-term pups in her belly, momma dog may not have much of an appetite. To help combat this, try feeding multiple small meals throughout the day to ensure she gets adequate nutrition.

Pregnant pug
Image Credit: Ezzolo, Shutterstock

Lactation

After the puppies are born, your mother dog’s diet should slowly and steadily increase by 20-30% over the next month. By the end of the first month, she should be eating 2-4 times the amount of food she was eating before pregnancy.

Encourage mom to eat as much as she wants. It requires a lot of energy to produce milk for the pups and the pups are also rapidly growing at this stage.

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Final Thoughts

Weak puppies and even fading puppy syndrome can result from inadequate nutrition during a dog’s pregnancy. It is vital that your dog is fed a consistent high-quality diet throughout their pregnancy and given access to fresh and clean water.

By feeding an appropriate diet you can help momma dog safely deliver healthy puppies. Be sure to take mom to regular vet visits to keep her all-around healthy during her pregnancy. Finally, enjoy raising and playing with your new puppies!

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Featured Image Credit: Jan Dix, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.