A pregnant and lactating female dog requires increased nutrition and calories to provide nutrients to the growing puppies. In addition, her energy levels increase when she is feeding the pups, and her body requires more calories to maintain a healthy weight. Feeding high-quality foods is essential during this time to ensure healthy growth and reduce the risk of complications.
During pregnancy and lactation, it is essential that your dog receive a high-quality and easily digestible dog food designed for growth and lactation. According to veterinarian Kathleen Hefner, food should include at least 29 percent protein, 17 percent dietary fat and less than 5 percent dietary fiber. This breakdown offers the necessary nutrients and calories your dog will need to feed those growing pups and keep her healthy as well. When choosing food, be sure to read the ingredient labels. The first few ingredients should be meat. Avoid foods that have corn or grains as the main ingredient.
By the final weeks of pregnancy, the amount of food your dog eats throughout the day should increase by 15 to 25 percent. Once the pups are born, the amount of food she requires will depend on the size of the litter. In general, a mother’s food intake should increase by as much as 25 percent per pup over what she normally eats. For example, a dog that normally eats two cups of food a day requires ½ cup more for each pup she is feeding.
Nursing greatly increases your dog’s requirement for water; you may see her drinking a lot more than usual. Ensure that she has free access to water at all times. Some new moms are reluctant to leave the puppies, so place the water near her if this is the case. Not enough water can lead to dehydration.
Eclampsia occurs when your female dog’s calcium levels drastically drop. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinarian attention. Signs include weakness, tremors, seizures and the inability to walk or stand. Do not provide calcium supplementation without the guidance of a veterinarian. Feeding high-quality dog food filled with vitamins and minerals will reduce the risk.
If you are concerned about your dog’s weight or possible lactating complications, consult a veterinarian or canine nutritionist. They may suggest adding possible vitamin supplements or foods such as eggs, cooked meat and cottage cheese to her diet. If she is not eating, you may need to add some palatable treats to get her started. Hefner offers a recipe that helps get mommy dogs eating after delivery. Mix together one can of evaporated milk, one can of water, three egg yolks and ¼ cup Karo syrup. Slightly warm the mixture and allow cooling.