Correct nutrition through pregnancy and lactation are essential to for the health of your bitch and puppies.
The bitch should be at her ideal weight prior to breeding. If she is too fat, there is more risk of insufficient milk production and increased risk of difficulty giving birth due to fat in the pelvis. If she is too thin, pregnancy and lactation will put too much strain on her body.
Less than 30% of foetal growth occurs during the first 5-6 weeks, giving little or no change in bodyweight. During the last 3-4 weeks, foetal size rapidly increases and bodyweight of the bitch should increase by 15- 25% by whelping. In the first 2/3 of pregnancy, the energy needs of the pregnant bitch are no different from those of a non-pregnant bitch.
A diet specifically designed to support pregnancy such as Burgess Sensitive Puppy food should be fed throughout a bitch’s pregnancy, but is particularly important in the last trimester of pregnancy and through lactation. It should be gradually increased in small, frequent meals as her enlarging womb reduces the capacity of her stomach, and food must be of a high calorific density. Increase until she is receiving 15-20% more food by whelping. (Do not feed a large breed puppy food, as they are restricted in fat and calcium).
Do not add supplements – even with calcium as supplements will lead to nutritional imbalances and can be dangerous.
Increased protein levels are required during the last trimester. Protein deficiency in the bitch can result in reduced birth weight and reduced survival chances of the puppies. Carbohydrate is an essential component of the diet, as the growing puppies obtain 50% of their energy from glucose. There is an increased requirement for calcium and phosphorus during the later stages of pregnancy by around 60%, for foetal skeleton development. Too high a level of calcium can disrupt the bitch’s own calcium control mechanisms.
Food intake tends to decrease immediately prior to giving birth, and may be taken as a sign that birth is imminent.
Lactation is one of the biggest nutritional challenges of a bitch’s life. Optimal milk production depends on breeding from a bitch in good physical condition and giving a high plane of nutrition in late pregnancy and early lactation.
The amount of milk produced closely mirrors demand, so milk production will increase with litter size and nutritional requirements will increase with milk production. The demands which lactation place on the bitch can be set in context when we consider that puppies must double their birth weight in the first 9 days of life. At peak lactation a bitch can produce milk at the same rate as a dairy cow. For example, a German Shepherd Dog with 9 puppies will produce up to 2 litres per day. Bitch milk is extremely rich (twice the protein and fat content of cows’ milk).
Lactating animals need lots of water. For example, a 35kg bitch in peak lactation may need up to 6 litres per day, so ad lib fresh water must always be accessible to her.
Her energy requirements will also significantly increase to between 2 and 4 times her normal energy requirement. In some cases, energy requirements may increase as much as 8 times maintenance.
Feeding a good quality complete diet designed to support the bitch during lactation such as Burgess Sensitive Puppy while she is nursing her puppies, should meet all of the bitch’s increased nutritional requirements.
If you have a question, please email us or call us on 0800 413 969. Our dedicated consumer care team are available to answer any questions you may have. If you are concerned about the immediate health of your pet, please seek the advice of your vet as soon as possible.Email us