Nutrition Guide for Pregnant
and Nursing Pets

Food For Thought™ Technical Bulletin No. 69R

Innovative Research in Dog and Cat Nutrition™

Changing Nutritional Needs

Pregnancy and lactation are not only responsible for many changes in a dog and cat's body, but for changes in her life style as well. Therefore, special attention should be paid to her changing nutritional needs throughout the entire reproduction process.

Return to Top

Prepregnancy Planning is Important

If you are planning to breed your female dog or cat, it is important to assess her body condition well in advance of breeding. Because of the physical demands of pregnancy and nursing, starting off with less-than-ideal health can cause problems.

  • An underweight dog or cat often has difficulty consuming enough food to support her and her fetus nutritional needs.
  • Overweight dogs and cats may experience abnormal or difficult labor because of large fetuses.

Feeding a complete and balanced diet at amounts that support a healthy weight and body condition before breeding helps the female pet maintain her health and that of her offspring throughout pregnancy and lactation.

Return to Top

Pregnancy

The gestation period for both dogs and cats is 9 weeks. However, the nutritional needs of dogs and cats vary drastically during these 9 weeks.

Pregnant cats, like humans, gain weight gradually throughout the pregnancy. Pregnant dogs gain weight only slightly until about the sixth week and then gain weight rapidly (see chart below).

The energy requirements of pregnant cats and dogs are reflected in the pattern of weight gain. The energy needs of pregnant cats should gradually increase so that by the end of pregnancy, she is consuming 25-50% more than her normal maintenance amount of calories (energy).

Pregnant dogs will also need to consume 25-50% more than normal maintenance energy amounts by the end of pregnancy, but energy requirements do not increase until about the sixth week.

Return to Top

Nursing

Pregnant dogs and cats lose weight after giving birth. However, their nutritional needs increase dramatically -- energy needs can be 2 to 3 times their normal adult maintenance requirement, depending on litter size -- in order to produce the milk supply that will support the growth and nourishment of the offspring. Adequate water intake is also important for sufficient milk volume.

To ensure the nursing dog or cat is receiving enough nutrition

  • feed a nutrient-dense diet (eg, performance diet, puppy or kitten food)
  • without increasing the amount of food offered at a meal, increase the number of meals throughout the day
  • Free-choice feed -- offer unlimited access to dry food throughout the day
Return to Top

Weaning

By five weeks after birth, most puppies and kittens are showing an interest in their mother's food. Gradually, the puppies or kittens will begin eating more solid food and nursing less. At the same time, the nursing dog or cat will usually reduce the amount of food she is eating.

Most puppies and kittens are completely weaned around 8 weeks after birth. By this time, the mother's energy requirement is back at the maintenance level, and she should be eating her normal prepregnancy diet.

Return to Top

Application

  • The best diet for pregnant and nursing dogs and cats is a high-quality, nutrient dense, commercial pet food that is formulated for all life stages or for growth.
  • Although puppy (growth) diets are generally recommended for pregnant or nursing dogs, Eukanuba┬« and Iams┬« large breed puppy formulas are not appropriate for this use due to their lower energy and mineral content.
Return to Top