When your dog has a litter of pups, those sweet, furry newborns will put a demand on their mother's system, draining her nutrition. The mother will naturally produce milk for the puppies, but it will be at the expense of her health unless she is fed properly.
Regular Maintenance Diet
If your dog was healthy before she was bred and she maintained her health throughout her pregnancy, you should be able to continue feeding her the same good quality food she was on before she had puppies. But since she will be feeding a number of hungry, growing babies, she will need about three times as much food as she would under normal circumstances. Increase the amount of her regular food and increase the frequency, too, so that she is getting fed every three to four hours.
Puppy Performance Diet
Puppies' nutritional needs increase quickly during the time they are nursing. They require more protein and fat as they progress from week one to week six. A good quality puppy food can provide these elements. That's why Sheena Haney, D.V.M., recommends mixing a puppy performance diet in with the mother's regular maintenance diet while the babies are still nursing. The mother will benefit from the additional nutrients and will pass them on to the pups through her milk.
You might be tempted to give your dog vitamin supplements while she is nursing her litter as a health precaution for both her and the puppies. Unless your vet has determined that she and her litter need additional vitamins, this isn't necessary. Mother and pups should be getting all the nutrition they need from the quality food you're providing. Additionally, over-supplementing can actually cause health problems such as digestive difficulties and nerve damage.
Don't overlook the importance of keeping your dog hydrated during the time she is nursing. This not only maintains your dog's health but also insures that the puppies are getting sufficient water, too. They need a lot of water to keep them healthy and sustain their blood volume. The pups' needs will come first, so they will get whatever fluids are available from their mother, who may be left dehydrated. Everyone will stay hydrated and healthy if you assure that your dog has a supply of water available at all times.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Gun Dogs Online; Feeding the Gestating and Lactating Dog; Gail Kuhlman, Ph.D.
- Royal Canin: Lactation in Dogs
- Vet Info: Nutritional Tips for Healthier Dog Nursing
- Sheena Haney, D.V.M.; Alta Animal Hospital; Pocatello, Idaho
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.