Having puppies is both exciting and exhausting for you and your pet. Whilst it’s wonderful to welcome adorable bundles of fur into your home, it’s hard work for a new mum to grow, deliver and look after a mischievous litter!
Therefore it’s more important than ever for you to make sure your dog is getting everything they needs from their food. Eating right will make sure that both mum and her puppies are happy and healthy. Although adult-formula food is great for everyday use, your dog will need an extra boost of nutrients when pregnant, especially if they're expecting a large litter.
Mums-to-be can get the higher amount of energy and protein that dogs need from high-quality puppy food. Feeding your pregnant dog a puppy formula will help to support your pet during and after pregnancy.
Your dog’s body condition (and any other medical requirements) can affect what nutritional demands your pet will have when expecting. You can find out more about your dog’s body condition with our body conditioning tool.
"When Molly, my Labrador, had puppies, Purina helped me to make sure that she was getting all of the nutrients that she needed to nurse her litter. Now we’ve got a happy, healthy mum and a house full of energetic pups!"
Why should I feed a pregnant dog puppy food?
Puppy food is richer in key nutrients and provides more energy than adult-formula food. Plus, it’s easily digestible. These are all important things to think about when feeding pregnant bitches.
Feeding your dog a puppy formula from week 6 of her pregnancy will help her to stay strong, and also passes nutrients to their puppies through the milk.
Your dog should be introduced to the new food in stages, to allow their tummy time to adjust. Start to introduce the puppy food into the usual formula, a little bit at a time, over the course of about a week, until the formulas have been completely swapped over.
Bear in mind your dog’s size and preference when choosing what puppy food to give her.
Per portion, dry food contains a higher number of calories than wet food. Therefore if your dog is on a wet food only diet, feed them more meals or larger portions to ensure they’re getting the extra energy that they need – especially if they’re a larger breed. You can also try combining their wet food with a bit of dry kibble to give your pet the best of both worlds.
How much should I feed a pregnant dog?
When feeding pregnant dogs, give them their usual portion sizes for the first few weeks of pregnancy. During these early stages, your bitch may go off their food or experience little nausea and vomiting, similar to our ‘morning sickness’. We know this may seem alarming, but don’t worry – it’s perfectly normal. However, if you’re concerned about your dog's loss of appetite, or if they continue to be sick, do contact your vet.
Start to increase the food intake, bit by bit, from around week five of the pregnancy. Gradually increase the portion size a little more each week, so that by week nine the meal size is about a third more than normal. By this time, mum’s weight should have increased by about 25%, or more if they're expecting a large litter.
Use controlled, measured portions to stop your pet from overeating and becoming obese, as this can cause problems during your dog's pregnancy and labour. If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight during pregnancy, contact your vet.
It’s best to feed your pregnant bitch little and often, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, as a tummy full of puppies will mean your dog won’t have much room for food.
How much should I feed a dog during nursing?
Nursing the new-born litter is hard work for mum, as puppies demand a lot of nutritious milk to help them grow big and strong. In fact, did you know that dogs actually produce more milk for their puppies than humans do for our babies?
To help your dog get the extra energy to nurse the needy litter, keep feeding your pet the puppy formula that they had throughout pregnancy. Its higher calorie content and added nutrients will give your dog strength, and help the new mum produce high-quality milk for the pups.
For the first 1-3 weeks of nursing, increase mum’s daily meals from two to three. By week four (when the milk production is at its peak), go up to four meals a day. The portion size of each of these meals should increase as follows during nursing.
How much and how often you feed your dog during nursing will depend on your dog's breed and the size of the litter. If your dog is nursing a litter of more than four pups, they’ll need plenty of energy so may need constant access to food.
New mums will nurse their litter for around 6-8 weeks, but the puppies can be slowly introduced to solid food from around 3-4 weeks old. As puppies wean off the milk, reduce mum’s food intake gradually, until they're back to pre-pregnancy level.
If you’re unsure about feeding during this important time, chat to your vet about what to feed your pregnant dog throughout all stages of pregnancy and nursing.
Purina brands for pregnant and nursing dogs
Several Purina brands offer high-energy puppy food to suit your pregnant pet’s needs during pregnancy and nursing.
Next, check out more useful tips for a healthy dog pregnancy.