Nutrients a Lactating Dog Needs

by Betty Lewis
A lactating dog requires additional protein and fat for her puppies.

A lactating dog requires additional protein and fat for her puppies.

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It's smart thinking to consider what your lactating dog's nutrition needs are while she's nursing her pups. Not only is she eating for herself, but she's got an entire family to feed. She's the first step in providing them important nutrition and laying the foundation for their growth and development.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maysie's body has an average of 63 days to prepare for the birth of her pups. By the time she delivers, she should weigh about 15 to 25 percent more than she did before she was pregnant. She'll have to keep her weight up while she's nursing so she's able to produce milk and provide her pups with the nutrition they need to get them on the road to good health. Her body's going through a great deal of stress and change, and her diet has to keep up with the new demands.

Nutrients for the Lactating Dog

The American Kennel Club recommends a lactating dog receive at least 29 percent protein and 17 percent dietary fat in her daily diet. Dietary fiber should comprise less than 5 percent of her daily intake. When you're accounting for her nutritional intake, consider it on a dry-matter basis and not calories. A high-quality puppy food should meet Maysie's nutritional requirements during this crucial time.

A Demanding Final Trimester

You shouldn't wait until Maysie's nursing to make the changes in her diet. She'll need that extra nutrition by the sixth week of pregnancy when she's starting to go through her most pronounced changes and her pups begin their rapid development. By the time she delivers, her food intake should have increased by 15 to 25 percent over what she normally eats. Free-feeding will allow her to eat as she pleases; if that's not possible, offer her small amounts of food throughout the day.

Free-Feeding is Best

Your girl will need to eat even more after she gives birth. The AKC recommends increasing the amount she eats by 25 percent per puppy. If she usually eats 1 cup of food to maintain her weight and has four puppies, she'll eat an additional cup of food each day. Another option is to increase her food during the first three weeks of lactation -- 1 1/2 cups of food the first week; 2 cups of food the second week and 3 cups the third week. Free-feeding is the best option, but if you use portion control, feed her at least three meals throughout the day.

Water, But No Supplements

You might be tempted to supplement Maysie's diet with calcium or other minerals and vitamins, however stay strong. Unless the vet recommends a supplement, stick to feeding your dog a high-quality puppy food until her puppies are weaned. Water is important, too -- she should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. If Maysie isn't eating properly, you'll see the results; her coat will be dry and brittle and she'll be thin.

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