What to Expect When Your Dog's Expecting

Most dog lovers know how to feed their dog with a premium formula designed for their pal's lifestyle and life stage. However, just like humans, dogs need excellent nutrition and extra calories when they're expecting. In fact, your dog's nutritional needs may never be more demanding than during the gestation and lactating stages of life.

To help ensure the health and fitness of your female and her puppies, one of the most important things you can do is provide her with a high-quality, well-balanced food formulated to support the additional caloric requirements of pregnancy.

Feeding Your Pregnant Dog

Puppies are born approximately nine weeks from the time of conception. In the first six weeks of pregnancy, they don't grow significantly, so it's generally not necessary to increase the mother's food. However, during the last three weeks, puppies grow substantially, increasing their weight and size by approximately 60 to 70 percent.

During this time, the mother's food and energy requirements increase up to 50 percent. Consider moving your expectant mother from her regular maintenance formula to a formula such as an IAMS® Smart Puppy, which can provide extra nutrients her body needs. (Read the label carefully and follow the feeding instructions for pregnant dogs. IAMS® Large Breed Puppy Formula is formulated specifically for the controlled growth needs of large-breed puppies and should not be fed to pregnant or lactating mothers.)

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Nutrition for Nursing Mothers

Proper nutrition for the female during the nursing stage is essential to the overall health and well being of the puppies. This is because the newborn puppies' growth depends on acquiring adequate amounts of milk from the mother. The quality of the food is particularly important as the mother must eat, digest, absorb and use large amounts of nutrients to produce sufficient milk to support the rapid growth and development of several puppies. Failure to provide the mother with adequate amounts of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense food during lactation can result in abnormal puppies and low milk production. Most nursing mothers need almost twice as much food during lactation as they do before getting pregnant.

For every rule there are, of course, exceptions. Bonnie Cordes, an AKC obedience judge, says a mother's food requirements vary depending on the breed of dog, size and the number of puppies whelped. In addition to the demand for extra energy, nursing increases a female's need for water. Be sure she always has an adequate supply of fresh water.

Besides feeding your dog right and monitoring her condition, work closely with your veterinarian. He or she can help you ensure that your dog and her litter remain in good health.

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