Good 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 that she needs to help her grow her puppies. A balanced diet is essential to help momma dog through her pregnancy and have a healthy delivery and lactation.
Speak to your vet well in advance of your dog’s pregnancy and due date so they can advise you on nutrition, preventative healthcare, and recommended vaccination and worming protocols. Your vet can also prepare you for the labor itself, which can sometimes require veterinary attention or even a cesarean.
What to Feed in the First and Second Trimesters
Dogs are pregnant for 62 days, or roughly 9 weeks. Just like humans, they have three trimesters, each around 21 days long. The first trimester starts when a dog ovulates and her eggs are fertilized. She could have anywhere from one to 10 or more puppies growing inside of her!
Fetal growth is speedy at the early ages of pregnancy, but the most rapid development of puppies is actually during the third trimester. 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 content.
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 trimesters. A small increase in the amount of food can be made if desired but should be no more than a 10% increase. You want to avoid her losing weight but also ensure that she does not become overweight. It’s a fine balance.
A high-quality diet should consist of 29% protein, 17% fat, a high amount of soluble carbohydrates, and low fiber content, according to the AKC. High-quality commercial diets will contain the recommended amounts of calcium and phosphorus for the formation of the puppies’ bones and for milk production. Never use any supplements without speaking to your vet, as this may lead to severe health issues for both the mother dog and her puppies.
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.
What to Feed in the Third Trimester
In weeks six to nine, your pregnant dog’s weight will gradually increase. By this time, their food consumption has likely increased by about 15% to 25%. This is the most important developmental time in a dog’s pregnancy. The puppies’ organs and bones are developing rapidly at this stage. This will place the greatest strain on the mother nutrition-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 her multiple small meals throughout the day to ensure that she gets adequate nutrition.
Mother Dog Diet While Nursing
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 may be eating two to three times the amount of food that she was eating before her pregnancy, as her caloric requirements have doubled or even quadrupled, based on her litter size.
Encourage the 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.
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 her pregnancy and given access to fresh and clean water.
By feeding her an appropriate diet, you can help momma dog safely deliver healthy puppies. Be sure to take the 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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