A healthy, balanced diet is essential for your dog at any stage of their life, but if your pooch is pregnant then issues of nutrition become more important than ever.
Pregnancy and nursing has a significant impact on the nutritional requirements of your pooch, so if your dog is expecting puppies it's incredibly important that you swot up on the best formula to feed them.
If you're an inexperienced breeder it's always best to have a chat with your vet before switching your bitch onto a new dry dog food during pregnancy, but here we've laid down a few basic guidelines just to get you started.
Although most dogs will have a predominantly stress-free pregnancy and go on to produce a litter of healthy pups, if you don't take proper care of your pooch there are a few potential dangers during this time.
A dog that has just given birth or is pregnant will draw upon nutritional reserves deposited in their body before and during pregnancy, so if these are not sufficient they can become malnourished - which is a major factor in neonatal puppy mortality.
Malnourishment is usually a consequence of feeding poor-quality diets, imbalanced diets or insufficient amounts of good-quality diets - and has been shown to affect the immune systems of both the dog and her puppies - so it is essential that a sufficient amount of premium dog food is fed throughout the pregnancy and nursing period.
Feeding while pregnant
During the time your pooch is pregnant (usually around nine weeks) it is important that she is fed a high-quality, well-balanced performance diet, with carefully measured portion control to ensure she receives all her nutritional requirements without becoming overweight.
Many vets and canine nutritional experts recommend switching your bitch to a puppy formula from a brand such as Hill's Science Diet, as these foods feature essential nutrients in sufficient amounts to help developing puppies get the best start they can.
In general, it is not recommended that you feed your pooch extra nutritional supplements such as meats, milk, vitamins and minerals, as excessive amounts of certain minerals are thought to lead to birth defects and health problems in puppies.
Feeding while nursing
In canines the nursing period usually lasts about six weeks and is a nutritionally demanding time for the mother as puppies grow very quickly and require a large amount of milk to develop properly.
Therefore, it is important to continue feeding a high-quality puppy formula to provide her with the extra calories and nutritional requirements she needs, although the amount you feed will depend on the size of the litter and the bitch's condition.
Just as with pregnancy, it is essential at this stage to keep a very close eye of the mother and puppies. Changes in appetite are normal in pregnancy - especially just before the birth - but if your dog appears unwell or distressed at any point it is essential to contact your vet immediately.
And finally, as with all dogs, it is important that your bitch has access to fresh, clean water at all times, as this is the other vital component of a healthy diet for a pregnant or nursing dog.
Written by: Hannah Dyball