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Food for pregnant dogs

Food for pregnant dogs

Pregnancy is no picnic for anyone. This is especially true for our canine companions who can have litters of baby puppies from 1-12! You can probably imagine that pregnancy takes its toll on the body and that means that you may need to change up your dog’s diet a little bit to support the healthy growth and development of their new babies.

How does nutrition differ for pregnant dogs compared to regular adult canines?

Gestation in dogs is much quicker than that of us humans. Canine pregnancy only lasts 58-68 days, which is a relatively short time to grow multiple fetuses. This means that pregnant dogs need a few more nutrients than the average adult dog.

If you’re in the market for food for your pregnant dog, look for diets that are formulated to meet all life stages and/or growth and reproduction stages according to the AAFCO nutrient profiles. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (or AAFCO) is the group that sets the standards for companion animal nutrition which has been determined through years of research and a multitude of studies. 

Growing a litter of puppies takes a lot of energy. This means that pregnant dogs benefit from a diet that is a little more calorie, fat and protein dense. A pregnant dog’s energy requirement may be 30-60% higher than normal adults during the first trimester (6-8 days gestation)! Ideally, a diet suitable for a pregnant dog will have more than 22.5% crude protein and more than 8.5% fat in it. The food you choose should also contain a calorie content with a minimum of 1600kcal/kg. Choosing a diet that has a moderate amount of carbohydrates and low fibre will also help to give pregnant dams a source of energy and help to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) in late pregnancy. 

Pregnant dogs also need more calcium and phosphorus than non-pregnant dogs. This goes towards the healthy development of puppy’s bones and replenishing lost calcium/phosphorus throughout gestation. A diet for pregnant dogs should have between 1 and 1.8% calcium and 0.8 and 1.6% phosphorus. The extra calcium and phosphorus are even important for dogs after they give birth and are lactating or nursing.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega 3s and omega 6s are also beneficial to feed pregnant dogs. Studies have shown that these fatty acids can significantly improve the cognitive development of puppies during gestation. Look for ingredients like fish oil in a diet for your pregnant dog.

Is puppy food suitable for pregnant dogs?

The short answer is yes! You can feed a pregnant dam puppy food as it is much more energy dense than regular adult maintenance food and contains the right balance of calcium and phosphorus. You can also feed pregnant dogs food formulated for all life stages. This type of food meets requirements for puppies, adult dogs, pregnant dogs and lactating dogs. Just make sure that the food you choose isn’t also formulated for large breed puppies as the calcium and phosphorus levels are not quite the same for pregnant dogs.

What are some nutritional issues that can arise during pregnancy

Malnutrition is a serious concern for pregnant dogs. Depending on the degree of malnutrition, it can unfortunately also be one of the causes of neonatal mortality. A pregnant dog draws nutrients from her own reserves to feed her developing pups, if she is not replenishing those lost reserves with the food she eats, it can be very dangerous for both mama and puppies. Make sure to choose a high quality food for your pregnant dog, one without fillers or poor quality ingredients like by-product meals or processed carbohydrates.  

How much to feed

You’ll need to feed a pregnant dog a little more than you normally would. It is always recommended to feed your dog based on their calorie requirements and this may require a little extra math. First, a dog’s resting energy requirements (RER) must be determined. The following is the calculation for RER:

RER=70(Body weight in kg)^0.75

From here, a correction is made based on the dog’s maintenance energy requirements (MER):

MER=2.0 x RER

From here, you will need to calculate how much food your dog needs in grams, based on your dog’s MER and the calorie content of their diet. This is done by dividing your dog’s MER by the calories in their food and multiplying by 1000 (g/day=(MER/calories)*1000).

Wet versus dry food

Both wet and dry food are safe for dogs to eat. Wet food is great because it provides pregnant dogs with a little extra hydration and it also tends to be a little more nutrient dense. Keep in mind however that wet food tends to be a little lower in calories than dry food due to the high moisture so ensure that you are feeding enough to fulfill mama’s energy needs.

Is Kabo safe to feed pregnant dogs?

Yes! At Kabo, we formulate all of our recipes (fresh cooked and kibble) according to the AAFCO guidelines for all life stages, so this includes pregnant and nursing dams. We recommend feeding our Savoury Beef and Lucious Lamb recipes for pregnant dogs as they are the most energy dense!

Lady holding a pregnant terrier and a timer
Lady holding a pregnant terrier and a timer

View Sources

AAFCO. (2014). “Nutrient profiles”. 

AKC. (2015). “The Care and Feeding of the Breeding Bitch: Pre-Breeding to Parturition”. 

Wright-Rodgers, A. Shanna, Mark K. Waldron, Karen E. Bigley, George E. Lees, and John E. Bauer. "Dietary fatty acids alter plasma lipids and lipoprotein distributions in dogs during gestation, lactation, and the perinatal period." The Journal of nutrition 135, no. 9 (2005): 2230-2235.

Fontaine, Emmanuel. "Food intake and nutrition during pregnancy, lactation and weaning in the dam and offspring." Reproduction in Domestic Animals 47 (2012): 326-330.

Bebiak, D. M., Dennis F. Lawler, and L. F. Reutzel. "Nutrition and management of the dog." Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 17, no. 3 (1987): 505-533.

Romsos, Dale R., Helen J. Palmer, Kathleen L. Muiruri, and Maurice R. Bennink. "Influence of a low carbohydrate diet on performance of pregnant and lactating dogs." The Journal of nutrition 111, no. 4 (1981): 678-689.

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February 20, 2024
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