Lactating Dam Nutrition
After whelping, the dam must increase her food intake again to provide energy to produce sufficient milk and support her own body weight and condition. She should still be fed the same highly digestible, high energy puppy food she ate during her pregnancy.
Generally, the mother should be fed 1.5-2 times her normal maintenance needs during the first week of lactation, 2 times maintenance during the second week, and up to 2.5-3 times maintenance during the third to fifth week; the most energy-consuming period of lactation. Breeders should attempt to increase the amount of food offered to the dam daily to eventually meet the 300% increase for weeks 4-5. Every dam is different however, and those with larger litters or heavy milk flow can reach energy requirements up to 500% of maintenance during weeks 4-5. For litters larger than 2 puppies, a lactating mother can be fed free-choice during the first 3-4 weeks of lactation or she can be fed multiple small meals per day.
During lactation, calories and water are the two most important nutrients for a dam and her intake should only start to be reduced once the puppies start to nurse less and become more interested in solid food around 3-4 weeks of age. By 7-8 weeks of lactation, the puppies should be around weaning age and the dam should be eating 125% of what she was eating before breeding. This decrease in food starts after 5 weeks where she can be reduced to only 250% above maintenance levels and eventually decrease until she is being fed around 125% maintenance during weaning time. She should be fed the same high-energy food for at least 3 weeks after her puppies are weaned to regain lost body stores.
Both the quality and quantity of a dam’s milk will influenced by the diet fed during lactation, especially the level of fat and fatty acids provided (Malandain, 2006).
Malandain, E. (2006). Nutrition and reproduction in bitches and queens. 5th Biannual Congress, European Veterinary Society for Small Animal Reproduction (EVSSAR). Budapest, Hungary, 7-9 April, 180-184.
lactating Dam Nutrition Library
Bare Bones – If you only have a few minutes for the basics
SNACKS – If you want to learn more
Kibble – If you want to take a deep dive into the science
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