How should I feed my dog during gestation/lactation?

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Many experts say good nutrition is never more important than during pregnancy and nursing. The production of milk is one of the most nutritionally demanding activities in a dog’s life. Like puppies, pregnant or nursing dogs need an extra boost of protein and energy to help them through this period of physical stress, and many experts suggest putting her on a high quality puppy food to get her through time.

The American Association of Feed Control Officials only recognizes two life stages: Growth and Reproduction, and Adult Maintenance. However, manufacturers are permitted to market a dog food as suitable for “all life stages” as long as it meets the more stringent guidelines for “growth and reproduction.

You’ll need to understand the pregnancy cycle in order to understand the nutritional needs: First, the pregnancy takes about nine weeks, and your dog may lose her appetite a little during the third or fourth week and she may have a bit of an upset stomach.

By about five weeks, she’ll start wanting extra food. You can gradually increase the amount by about five percent a week. Her weight will then be about 25 percent higher than before mating but you also want to avoid unwanted extra weight gain. In the later stages of her pregnancy there will also be less room in her stomach for food, so feed little and often. Obesity can cause problems during pregnancy and labor, so always keep her at a healthy weight and contact your vet if you are concerned she is gaining too much weight or she has a history of being overweight.

A certain loss of appetite can occur before delivery, although food and water should still be available. However, if your dog looks at all unwell, distressed or you have any other worries at this time, consult your veterinarian.

For dogs, the nursing period lasts a minimum of 6 weeks, and it’s is one of the most nutritionally demanding tasks in a mother’s life. Puppies grow extremely rapidly, requiring a huge volume of milk from the mother.

The amount of food your dog will need while nursing depends on her individual metabolism and the number of puppies she is nursing. Calculate based roughly on an extra 25 percent for the basic maternal activities of nursing, plus an extra 25 percent per puppy. This may vary with breed and activity levels.

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