Nutritional Needs of Pregnant and Nursing Dogs
Nutritional Needs of Pregnant and Nursing Dogs-mob

Pregnant Dog Care Guide

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Nutrition and bodyweight management are crucial for the health of a pregnant dog and her puppies. While your dog may not require as many doctor visits as people do during pregnancy, you will still need to understand how to take care of a pregnant dog. This can be achieved by consulting your vet who can evaluate and treat her for both internal and external parasites that could pose a threat to her or her offspring. Pregnancy in a dog is one of the most exciting, but delicate times in the life of a female dog. Hence, providing sufficient care during the early weeks of pregnancy is critical.

Signs of dog pregnancy 

It can be difficult to notice anything unusual in your dog during the first few weeks of her pregnancy. However, you can watch out for subtle signs of pregnancy in dogs.

  • Reduced activity.

Your pregnant dog will get tired easily and spend more time napping. For dogs that usually have a high energy drive, this decrease in activity should be considered carefully. It may be difficult to spot a decline in energy in dogs who love resting all day. So, if this is the case, pay attention to how quickly she feels exhausted during walks.

  • Strange behavior.

You will observe certain changes in your dog's behavior if she is pregnant. For example, she may crave her owner's comfort more frequently. A pregnant dog will spend more time around you, seeking extra attention. At times, she will also prefer solitude and would not want to be bothered. And when given attention, she may appear depressed or even irritated.

  • Alterations in appetite.

Appetite fluctuations are another sign of pregnancy in dogs. She may eat less or perhaps even vomit sometimes, early or midway through the pregnancy. However, she may consume more than normal and be unhappy with her meals. These changes are caused by your dog's shifting hormones.

  • Weight gain and belly enlargement.

Your dog’s abdomen will grow in size as the puppies grow. This can be one of the most obvious signs of a dog’s pregnancy, particularly if your dog hasn’t gained weight for any other reason. However, because enlargement of the abdomen happens late in a dog’s pregnancy, and if you detect this sign, it’s time to take her to the clinic.

Proper nutrition requirements during the pregnancy

Proper nutrition for pregnant dogs is important in this period. Therefore, extra caution and care should be given while providing food for pregnant dogs and caring for them.

  • Feeding your pregnant dog with a high-energy diet is important since she requires higher energy during such delicate times. Along with letting a baby grow in her womb, she will also be gaining body weight. That’s exactly why your vet will advise you to provide your dog with a high-energy diet with appropriate levels of fat, carbs, and protein. So, make sure to give her as much food as she likes unless she has a tendency of gaining weight.
  • A dog's pregnancy usually lasts for nine weeks on average. During the first six or seven weeks, the food intake shouldn't be higher than normal. Use a puppy formula to feed your dog as it will enable her to stay strong. Puppy food is also more nutritionally packed, making it easier to pass through the mother's smaller stomach. In fact, providing puppy food during the first six or seven weeks will be beneficial later as well. It will eventually provide essential nutrients to your dog’s puppies through the mother's milk when they are born. Then, between weeks six and seven, start giving her additional food as per her weight gain. By the ninth week, her appetite may wane or vanish. This is usually a sign that the puppies will be born within the next few days.

Pregnancy and nursing are not only responsible for many changes in a dog's body, but for changes in her lifestyle as well. If your dog is pregnant or nursing, pay special attention to her changing nutritional needs as she carries, delivers and nurses her puppies.

A week-by-week overview of your dog’s pregnancy


Weeks 1 and 2

  • Breeding occurs
  • Fertilization occurs
  • Fertilized eggs embed into the female’s uterine lining


Weeks 3 and 4

  • Embryo develops
  • Spinal cord slowly begins to develop
  • The fetus grows facial features
Weeks 5 and 6
  • Other organs develop
  • Legs, eyes, and other features develop
Weeks 7 and 8
  • The puppy/ies are well developed
  • Slowly move around in the abdomen
Week 9
  • The puppy/ies are fully developed
  • Labor begins


Which vaccines are required before and during your dog’s pregnancy?

Did you know? You must ensure that your female dog is up to date with vaccination before and during pregnancy. After all, it offers protection from rabies and other severe illnesses. So, let’s explore the vaccination needs of a female dog during this delicate, yet beautiful stage of its life.

Before dog pregnancy

There are certain vaccines that you should consider giving your dog before she’s pregnant. 

The Canine Task Force of the American Animal Hospital Association believes the following canine immunizations to be essential:

  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Hepatitis
  • Rabies

During dog pregnancy

In general, normal pet owners will not need to vaccinate a pregnant female dog. If she is up to date with all her vaccinations, there is usually no need to give her an additional booster shot just because she is pregnant. Moreover, even veterinarians discourage vaccinating pregnant dogs.

Nutrition during nursing in large and small breeds

The nutritional requirement for large-breed dogs differs from that of small-breed dogs. While you would want to shower your pregnant dog with endless foods and treats, it is best to refrain from it. Overfeeding could lead to obesity towards the end of pregnancy. This will increase the risk of difficult labor, which will thereby cause stress to the dog. Hence, during these delicate times, following the feeding guide provided by your vet is a must.

A small breed dog needs more calories per pound than a large breed dog to sufficiently sustain her puppies during pregnancy as well as breastfeeding. The to-be mother dog’s food consumption should be increased by roughly 15% to 25% as she nears the date of delivery.

Small dog breeds should be fed small breed puppy food. Therefore, choose a highly nutritious puppy diet for your dog based on the size of the breed.

Before pregnancy: Plan ahead

If you're planning to breed your female dog, it’s important to assess her body condition well in advance due to the physical demands of pregnancy and nursing, a dog with less-than-ideal health can experience problems.

  • An underweight dog often has difficulty consuming enough food to support both her own nutritional needs and those of her developing puppies.
  • Overweight dogs may experience abnormal or difficult labor because of large fetuses.

Be sure to feed the proper amounts of a complete and balanced diet. This will support the mother's healthy weight and body condition before breeding and help maintain her health and that of her babies throughout pregnancy and lactation.

Pregnancy: Monitor your dog’s weight gain

The gestation period for dogs is nine weeks. Pregnant dogs gain weight only slightly until about the sixth week, and then gain weight rapidly.

The energy requirements of pregnant dogs are reflected in the pattern of weight gain. Pregnant dogs will need to consume 25% to 50% more than their normal food intake by the end of pregnancy, but energy requirements do not increase until about the sixth week.

The best diet for pregnant and nursing dogs is a high-quality, nutrient-dense pet food formulated for all life stages. Although puppy diets are generally recommended for pregnant or nursing dogs, large-breed puppy formulas may not be appropriate for this use due to their adjusted energy and mineral content.

What food should be avoided while caring for a pregnant dog?

Raw foods are not recommended for nursing or pregnant dogs. Most dogs can get by on high-quality dog food alone, so unless your veterinarian suggests otherwise, you should avoid giving your dog any additional vitamins or supplements.

A good option is to give your pregnant dog IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™ Mother and Baby dog food. It supports the mother’s gestation and milk production for healthy puppy development while also boosting your puppy's training capacity with vital DHA for healthy brain development, making its first year of life a pleasant one.

Nursing: Make sure your dog gets sufficient nutrition

Pregnant dogs lose weight after giving birth, but their nutritional needs increase dramatically. Depending on litter size, nursing dogs might need two to three times their normal food requirement to nourish their pups. Be sure your nursing mom has plenty of water, so she can generate the milk volume she needs to feed the litter.

To help your nursing dog get enough nutrition, you can try several tactics:

  • Feed a nutrient-dense diet such as puppy food.
  • Instead of increasing the quantity of food in a single meal, increase the number of meals throughout the day.
  • Adopt free-choice feeding and offer unlimited access to dry food throughout the day.

Weaning: Return to a pre-pregnancy diet

By four to five weeks after birth, most puppies start showing an interest in their mother’s food. Gradually, the puppies will begin eating more solid food and nursing less. At the same time, the nursing mother will usually begin eating less. Most puppies are completely weaned around age 7 to 8 weeks. By this time, the mother's energy requirement is back to normal, and she should be eating her normal pre-pregnancy diet.

Frequency of vet visits during pregnancy

Your pregnant dog must be taken to the vet multiple times during her pregnancy. To begin with, schedule a prenatal appointment two to three weeks after mating. And later on, go for vet examination three weeks before whelping, especially to confirm that the mama dog and puppies are in good health. You can visit your veterinarian at regular intervals for your pooch’s well-being.

Female dogs need special care during pregnancy. And since you have reached the end of this article, you probably know your responsibilities now. From feeding them right to providing sufficient exercise, as a dog parent, you must ensure that your pet and her babies are in the pink of health.


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FAQs On Nutritional Needs for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs

  1. What should a pregnant dog eat?
  2. A pregnant dog should be switched to a higher-calorie diet (when they are already a month into pregnancy). The food should also have 22% protein and 1600 kcal of digestible calories per pound.

  3. How many months is a dog pregnant?
  4. A dog can be pregnant for up to 70 days. However, in most cases, puppies arrive within 63 to 65 days of conception.

  5. Can I feed my dog during labor?
  6. If your dog is in active labor, she would most likely refuse to eat. The labor process can be exhausting, resulting in stomach trouble, pacing, vomiting, and uneasiness. As a result, feeding her during this period is ineffective. If your dog eats soon before labor, she may vomit up the meal.

  7. Can a dog get pregnant if not in heat?
  8. Your dog can only become pregnant when she is in heat, which occurs once or twice annually depending on the breed. When dogs are about 6 months old, they go into heat for the first time. The entire heating cycle takes about three weeks, and it is during this cycle that your dog can become pregnant.

  9. Do mother dogs miss their pups?
  10. Mother dogs may miss their pups if their specific circumstances are not taken into account. Therefore, plan everything carefully before breeding her to a male to ensure that the separation of her litter is not all at once.

  11. Can my dog get pregnant while nursing puppies?
  12. Yes, your dog can get pregnant again at any time after she has given birth. However, it will depend on when she goes into heat again. Thus, it is best advised to keep the male dogs away from her so that insemination doesn't happen accidentally.

  13. How to take care of a pregnant dog?
  14. Here are a few tips on caring for a pregnant dog:

    • Indulge her in short walks or easy and light playtime
    • Follow a healthy, nutrition-rich diet
    • Dogs can pass worms to their puppies. So, ensure that you deworm her. However, not every deworming medicine is safe for pregnant dogs; hence, consult your vet.
    • Stay in touch with your veterinarian at every stage of pregnancy. The doctor will help you manage her weight, mood, and overall health.
  • 3 reasons why animal-based protein might be better for your dog​
    3 reasons why animal-based protein might be better for your dog​
    3 reasons why animal-based protein might be better for your dog​

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    A balanced diet with high-quality protein is essential for your dog's optimal wellness.

    Author: Dr. Saza Curaming

    Dogs are semi-carnivores. They can be nourished by protein from animal sources, plant sources or a combination of both. Although dogs are often fed a plant-based diet, they are not herbivores. 

    The difference between animal-based protein and plant-based protein sources is that animal-based ones incorporate chicken, lamb, fish meal, and beef while plant-based protein sources include corn-gluten and soybean meal. 

    Similar to their carnivorous ancestors–wolves, coyotes, foxes, and jackals, the body structure of dogs is optimized for eating meat which is relatively easier for them to digest than a plant-based diet. 

    Even though dogs are semi-carnivores, it is important to not leave out animal-based proteins from their diet. Feeding our dogs meat-based products are closely related to their natural ancestral diet. There are three main reasons animal-based proteins are better suited for our furry friends than plant-based proteins.

    Not all proteins are created equal 

    Including protein in your pet dog’s diet serves several functions. For one, a high-quality protein food for dogs can provide amino acids. Amino acids play a key part in building hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Protein plays a key role in hormone and enzyme production.

    Amino acids are building blocks and are considered critical to our furry best friend. Different studies have shown that out of the 20 amino acids, 10 of these are called non-essential and can be made by your dog when they need it.


    Protein is crucial throughout a dog’s lifetime

    A dog’s need for amino acids will also change depending on age and condition. As dogs age, their body composition and muscle-specific proteins decline and for that reason, giving them protein in their meal helps them maintain a healthy body throughout the years.

    That said, it goes without saying that puppies require sufficient protein for growth. According to a study, a puppy's diet should consist of at least 22% protein. For an adult dog, 18% of protein should be incorporated into their everyday meal. 


    Protein a day, keeps doctors away

    Animal protein sources contain an average of 35% higher protein concentration. It contains higher doses of calcium, phosphorus, omega 6, methionine, cystine, and taurine. 

    While protein can be derived from plants, the canine digestive system typically has an easier time utilizing animal-sourced protein. Our dog's gastrointestinal tract is not designed to digest large amounts of plant-based products.

    To deliver a healthy balance of amino acids to support your dog's health and vitality, IAMS created a recipe that uses chicken as their number one ingredient and aids in maintaining healthy digestion, immune system, skin and coat, and even provides dental care support that is developed with veterinarians. 

    Ready to achieve your dog’s optimal health with an animal-based protein food? For more information about IAMS Dog, visit https://iams.asia/my/. IAMS Dog is available at all leading supermarkets and grocery stores nationwide.