The nutrition of a pregnant female is important during all stages of gestation in order to ensure optimal health and growth of the newborn puppies. Although her nutritional requirements increase during the last three weeks of pregnancy, nutritional deficiencies are most likely to occur after birth, when her body must cope with the stress placed on it by the demands of her suckling puppies.
For the first 5 weeks of pregnancy a female on a raw diet doesn't have to change her normal feeding routine, unless there are underlying health issues. During weeks 3 and 4, your girl may suffer from a little nausea and lose her appetite, like morning sickness in humans. If an upset stomach or loss of appetite lasts longer than a week, or is accompanied by listlessness, you should contact your vet.
For weeks 6-8 of pregnancy, when the puppies grow the most, increase the amount of food by the guidelines below.
- Week 6: feed 3.5% of normal body weight
- Week 7: feed 4% of normal body weight
- Week 8: feed 4.5% of normal body weight
In this later stage of pregnancy, the space left in her abdomen may be very small, so we advise feeding her 4 to 5 times a day, this will make her more comfortable.
The goals of feeding are to provide what she needs, extra protein, vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals, so she can produce sufficient quantities of milk and colostrum to support growth in the newborn pups until they are weaned.
Some things to avoid, first of all, don’t give any food with too much Vitamin A (such as cod liver oil) in the first five or six weeks of the pregnancy, as it can be dangerous to foetal health, however, cod liver oil before and after the pregnancy is a good supplement. Secondly don’t supplement with any extra calcium during pregnancy, our meals are balanced.
After birth when she is feeding her puppies, feed her as much food as she wants. The only time you may want to limit her intake of food would be during the first week or if the litter were very small. After birth, she should return to close to her ideal body weight prior to pregnancy, this weight should be maintained until the pups have been weaned. Approximately this will take five to six weeks with the peak demands for milk in weeks three to five.
Your female may get rather sore nipples with all the puppies suckling, so do pop some coconut oil on to sooth this.
When weaning the puppies off their mother’s milk, reduce the amount of food you are giving her. You want her body to register that milk is no longer required. This is assuming that she is producing sufficient quantities of milk, reduce her food and fluid intake to the normal amounts, her milk should dry up naturally.
If in doubt do speak to your holistic raw feeding vet