By Julie Lauzon, agr, MSc, Pet Nutrition
Just one of the great things about choosing to feed a species appropriate raw diet is that it can be fed to dogs of all ages and through all life stages, even during pregnancy and lactation. A few minor changes can make raw feeding easy for you and enjoyable for your pregnant dog.
During the first two trimesters of pregnancy (the first 6 weeks), very little needs to change to the diet. You may find certain proteins are more enjoyable for your dog and additions like goat milk make the meals more appealing when your girl’s appetite may not be normal. Generally, toward the end of the second trimester (5-6 weeks) when puppies start to grow more quickly, your girl may have an increased appetite. It is a good idea to feed more frequently throughout the day in three meals, often times 1.5 – 2 times her usual daily portion.
By the third trimester (week 6 and onward) food should be plentiful and frequent (at will), while carefully managing weight to prevent excess weight gain. The size of the litter, if known, can help to determine feeding portions. For example, if your dog is carrying a litter of 3, she would probably need to eat less than if she was carrying a litter of 11.
In the final stage of canine pregnancy, it is important that the calcium intake isn’t too high, and offering extra vitamin B to assist those developing puppies can be beneficial. This can be done by increasing the organ meat intake and feeding recipes with a lower bone content. Offering our Beef Organ Blend and more red meats like beef, lamb and pork are great choices. We do not recommend feeding meal replacement bones such as necks and feet at this time. When nearing the end of pregnancy, it is best to offer multiple meals (3-4 daily) as the puppies are growing rapidly and taking up a lot room, making it difficult for mom to eat large meals.
Feeding a Nursing Mom
Once the puppies are born, it is important to increase calcium intake to help support milk production. This is when some extra meal replacement bones are a great choice along with higher calcium meal options like chicken, turkey and duck dinners. The extra organ meat is not necessary any longer and you may find that offering it may cause loose stools.
During the first weeks of your puppies lives, your dog will need a lot of calories to turn into milk to feed her puppies, and it is important to feed her often throughout the day. For some dogs, at will feedings are great but for others, 3-5 meals are sufficient and it’s not uncommon for a new mom to eat up to 2.5 times her normal food amount daily. Just as in the last trimester of her pregnancy, the size of the litter will determine food portions. If she’s feeding 2-3 puppies, chances are that she will need much less food than if she were nursing a litter of 10. During this time, you’ll need to keep a very close eye on body condition – feeding enough to ensure mom continues to produce milk to feed her puppies but not too much that she’s gaining excess weight.
If she struggles to maintain a healthy body condition, you can easily increase calorie intake by adding extra fat to the diet. Some great options are Vita Nutrition Animale Pork BoostR, Vita Nutrition Animale Beef Fat, fed in addition to the regular meal portion. Duck or Quail Eggs are also a nutritious addition.
When it’s time to start weaning, it’s very important to slowly reduce food intake. This will slow down mom’s milk production, preparing for complete weaning.
Note: During pregnancy and lactation, always adjust feeding portions according to body condition score.