What, and how, to feed your pregnant dog
Giving pregnant bitches tailored nutrition during pregnancy can have a significant impact on the future wellbeing of the litter. For example, in a study of pregnant Boston Terriers, those given folic acid supplements when in heat and during the start of their gestation had litters with fewer incidences of cleft palate.(1)
Your dog, her behaviour and her feeding is likely to change during pregnancy, so here’s what to look out for and how you can make sure you’re giving her the support she needs.
Your pregnant dog's appetite and feeding schedule
At the very start of her pregnancy, your dog may suffer a temporary loss of appetite. This is very normal, and her appetite will return as her body cares for her growing litter.
With this in mind, it might be tempting to change her feeding schedule to fit in with her altered appetite. However, it’s not a good idea to alter your pregnant dog's feeding times in this way. This approach can harm the dog and her future puppies because she isn’t getting appropriate or consistent nutrition which can result in complications, such as difficulty giving birth. Instead, stick to her regular feeding schedule with some specific changes to support the pregnancy.
Nutrition for pregnant dogs
After the fifth week of her pregnancy, your dog’s energy needs will increase by 10% every week as the puppies develop. At the same time, her ability to eat can be constrained due to her physical transformation, so she’s not able to take in or digest the nutrition she needs. The solution is to transition to an energy-dense food which is high in energy.
In the final third of your dog’s pregnancy, after 42 days, you can switch entirely to a high-energy food to support her in the final stages of the gestation. You should also increase the volume of this food by 10% each week until she gives birth, as she will need the extra nutrients and energy.
An important point to bear in mind is to give your pregnant dog a nutritionally balanced food which doesn’t require her to take any supplements. Some of these that you might normally give to your dog, such as calcium, can interfere with normal vitamin and mineral regulation in her body during pregnancy, resulting in unwanted health complications.
With a full litter of puppies on the way, your dog is naturally going to gain weight during her pregnancy. However, it’s essential for her continued health – and the safe delivery of her puppies – that she doesn’t put on too much weight. Depending on the size and breed of your dog, she should only put on up to 25 - 30% of her original weight during pregnancy. The best way to control this is to weigh her each week while she’s pregnant and adjust the portion size of her food to reflect her changing weight.
If you are ever unsure on the best weight for your dog, or want further information on how to alter their food portions, it's important to contact your vet who will be able to give you the best advice for your dog and her puppies.
Your dog’s pregnancy can be a challenging but exciting time for everyone. By closely monitoring your dog’s progress and providing her with nutritionally-balanced, tailored food, you’ll be safe in the knowledge you’re giving both mother and puppies the best start possible.
(1) Practical Guide to Dog Breeding, Royal Canin, page 249