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

How To Care For A Pregnant Dog?: Nutrition & Feeding Tips

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 the correct way of caring for 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 behaviour

You will observe certain changes in your dog's behaviour 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 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 … esince 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
  • Fertilisation occurs
  • Fertilised eggs embed into the female’s uterine lining 

Weeks 3 and 4

  • Embryo develops
  • Spinal cord slowly begins to develop
  • The fetus grow 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 is fully developed
  • Labour begins


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

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 of 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. 


Differences In Nutrition And Nursing In Large 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 labour, 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 extra 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 will should be fed a 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 labour 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 boostsing 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 feed, ing 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.

FAQ 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. Can I feed my dog during labour?
  4. If your dog is in active labour, she would most likely refuse to eat. The labour 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 labour, she may vomit up the meal.

  5. Can a dog get pregnant if not in heat?
  6. 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.

  7. Does a mother dog miss her pups?
  8. 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.

  9. Can my dog get pregnant while nursing puppies?
  10. 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.

    How to take care of a pregnant dog?

    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 your manager her weight, mood, and overall health.
  • Nutrition for Large- and Giant-Breed Adult Dogs
    Nutrition for Large- and Giant-Breed Adult Dogs
    Nutrition for Large- and Giant-Breed Adult Dogs

    Healthy joints and proper weight are especially important for dogs that grow to be more than 50 pounds. But not all large- and giant-breed adult dogs have the same nutritional needs. Is your dog getting proper exercise? Is she about to have puppies? Special conditions can dramatically affect your dog’s nutritional demands. Giving her a food specially formulated for her large size, life stage and activity level is the easiest way to make sure she’s getting the nutrients she needs.



    Choosing a Food for Overall Health

    To address the special needs of your large- or giant-breed dog, look for these features:

    • Less fat to help maintain an ideal body condition for less joint stress
    • Vitamin-rich fish oils for healthy skin, shiny coat and overall health
    • Essential vitamins and minerals to help support the immune system and help maintain good health
    • High-quality animal-based protein sources to help maintain muscle tone
    • A moderately fermentable fiber source, such as beet pulp, to maintain intestinal health, enhance your dog's ability to absorb nutrients, and reduce backyard cleanup
    • A carbohydrate blend to help sustain energy by maintaining normal blood sugar levels


    These components are key to good nutrition. Look for them in treats, wet dog food, or dry dog food, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Large Breed.



    Maintaining Healthy Joints and Cartilage

    Joint health is a big concern for owners of large- and giant-breed dogs. A large- or giant-breed formula that contains high-quality protein can help nourish healthy joints. Vitamins and minerals help promote the production of cartilage. Also, keeping your dog at a healthy weight will help minimize joint stress.



    Guarding Against Weight Gain

    Dogs with lower activity levels and dogs that have been neutered or spayed are all prone to weight gain. Controlling your dog’s weight is an important step toward protecting against the health effects of excess weight, such as diabetes or joint health problems. If you use a weight-management food, look for these characteristics:

    • A reduced fat level that still offers essential nutrients for skin and coat health
    • L-carnitine, a key nutrient that helps burn fat and maintain muscle mass during weight loss
    • Special carbohydrate blends that help maintain energy while managing weight
    • Vitamin-rich fish oils for overall health



    Providing Nutrition During Pregnancy

    Pregnant dogs have substantial nutrition requirements. Starting in the seventh week of her pregnancy, a mother dog will need to increase her energy intake up to 50% by the time she gives birth and increase it even more when she starts nursing her puppies. Because she may lose her appetite at times, it's important that she eats a nutrient-dense food. A complete, balanced puppy formula can give her the extra nutrients she needs. But avoid puppy food created for large and giant breeds; these formulas contain specially adjusted levels of energy and minerals that may not be sufficient for a pregnant or nursing dog.



    Switching to a Mature Diet

    Dogs who grow to be more than 50 pounds are considered mature or senior at age 5 or 6, which is earlier than small-breed dogs. So, it’s critical to make a proactive transition to a specially formulated mature diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Mature Adult Large Breed, to help keep your dog healthy and active as she ages.

    Nutrition for Large and Giant Breed Adult Dogs
    Nutrition for Large and Giant Breed Adult Dogs