Pregnancy and nursing are not only responsible for many changes in a dog's body, but for changes in her lifestyle as well. If your dog is pregnant or nursing, pay special attention to her changing nutritional needs as she carries, delivers and nurses her puppies.
If you're planning to breed your female dog, it’s important to assess her body condition well in advance of breeding. Because of the physical demands of pregnancy and nursing, a dog with less-than-ideal health can experience problems:
Be sure to feed the proper amounts of a complete and balanced diet. This will support the mother's healthy weight and body condition before breeding and help maintain her health and that of her babies throughout pregnancy and lactation.
The gestation period for dogs is nine weeks. Pregnant dogs gain weight only slightly until about the sixth week, and then gain weight rapidly.
The energy requirements of pregnant dogs are reflected in the pattern of weight gain. Pregnant dogs will need to consume 25% to 50% more than their normal food intake by the end of pregnancy, but energy requirements do not increase until about the sixth week.
The best diet for pregnant and nursing dogs is a high-quality, nutrient-dense pet food formulated for all life stages or for growth. Although puppy diets are generally recommended for pregnant or nursing dogs, large-breed puppy formulas may not be appropriate for this use due to their adjusted energy and mineral content.
Pregnant dogs lose weight after giving birth, but their nutritional needs increase dramatically. Depending on litter size, nursing dogs might need two to three times their normal food requirement to nourish their pups. Be sure your nursing mom has plenty of water so she can generate the milk volume she needs to feed the litter.
To help your nursing dog get enough nutrition, you can try several tactics:
By four to five weeks after birth, most puppies are showing an interest in their mother’s food. Gradually, the puppies will begin eating more solid food and nursing less. At the same time, the nursing mother will usually begin eating less. Most puppies are completely weaned around age 7 to 8 weeks. By this time, the mother's energy requirement is back to normal, and she should be eating her normal pre-pregnancy diet.
Does your mature dog sniff at his bowl and walk away instead of digging in? You may think he’s just being picky, but it’s important to keep an eye on how much he’s eating — especially if he’s a senior. While age-related diminishment of the senses of smell and taste may account for some of his disinterest in food, appetite loss can also indicate a serious medical problem.
“It’s important to give your dog enough calories because weight loss can be debilitating to senior pets,” says Wendy Brooks, D.V.M., who warns that a loss in appetite should be mentioned to your vet. A good rule of thumb: If your pet hasn’t eaten in a day, make a visit to the vet. Here are six ways to entice your canine friend with a nourishing meal.
Many animals find canned food more palatable because they like the taste and texture, Brooks says. You can top their favorite dry food with room-temperature wet food.
Dogs like a warm or room-temperature (not hot or cold) meal. Avoid serving him day-old wet food from the refrigerator, and keep his food away from heat. Another reason he might not be eating: It's too hot outside.
Dogs prefer consistency when it comes to their food. Don't change every day, but try a new flavor, such as lamb or chicken, and see if he responds (it may trigger his sense of smell). To avoid an upset stomach, introduce a new food by mixing it with his old food in equal increments each day.
Common mature-dog health issues, such as arthritis or joint pain, can make it difficult for him to access his bowls. Keep food and water where he spends most of his time. Put a water bowl on all floors of the house, too.
Older pets are at a higher risk of dehydration. Provide a clean bowl with fresh water at all times. It will help prevent disease, such as a kidney condition, and aid in digestion.
Dogs are people pleasers. If you see him eating, give him a little verbal reward. He'll know it makes you happy and will repeat the behavior.