Gestating DAM NUTRITION
Pregnant females in the first and second trimester do not require greater nutrient supply, but keeping her at an optimal weight and body condition is extremely important to minimize the risks that come with obesity or under-conditioning. The third trimester is associated with the most development of the unborn puppies and therefore requires the highest amount of energy from weeks 6-8 of pregnancy.
It is common for breeding females to be transitioned to a puppy food at this time as this is the period where protein and energy requirements can increase to 60-80% greater than normal adult maintenance. The diet should be highly digestible, contain a high-quality, animal-based protein, and contain sufficient amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as vitamin E, vitamin A, and magnesium to compensate for the oxidative stress the mother will experience during pregnancy. Large breed puppy food should never be fed to a breeding bitch (or any adult dog) as it will not have an adequate calcium phosphorous balance and therefore will not provide enough energy for the breeding female.
A pregnant dam should be fed multiple small meals per day starting at week 5 of gestation as the puppies take up much of the space in her abdominal cavity which prevents her from eating large meals and gaining the calories she needs. It is common for the dam to reduce food intake after whelping, however, this should recover rapidly. After whelping, provide females with fresh water and food soaked with water to regain her energy and fluid levels. She should now be only 5-10% above her normal weight from before she was bred.
For the dam, energy requirements increase 1.25 – 1.5 times maintenance after the 40th day of gestation and several meals a day are recommended because of the distended abdomen caused by the uterus (Fontaine, 2012).
Fontaine, E. (2012). Food Intake and Nutrition during pregnancy, Lactation, and Weaning in the Dam and Offspring. Repro. Dom. Anim., 47, 326-330.
Gestating Females Library
Bare Bones – If you only have a few minutes for the basics
SNACKS – If you want to learn more
Feeding the Pregnant Dog
Properly Feeding Your Pregnant or Nursing Dog
Canine Health Facts : What to Feed a Pregnant Dog [Video file]
Maximizing Success in the Breeding Kennel and Show Ring: Vital Health Care and Management of Competitive Dogs
Kibble – If you want to take a deep dive into the science
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