27 March 2002

Expert advice from Baileys’ canine nutritionist on choosing the best diet for an expectant mother

Q: My Poodle bitch is two months pregnant, and I would like to make sure that she is in peak condition before giving birth to her first litter. She is currently fed twice a day on tinned meat and biscuits, but should I be changing her feed and increasing it, and by how much? Should I be feeding extra supplements?

Liz Bulbrook replies: If your bitch is two months pregnant then you won’t have long to wait, as the usual length of pregnancy is about 63-67 days.

Before the final trimester of the pregnancy (the last 3 weeks) then the extra requirements for energy and other nutrients is relatively small as the majority of foetal growth takes place during the last three weeks of the pregnancy.

Usually to coincide with the increased requirements of pregnancy then the amount of food that you give increases by about 10% per week from the sixth week onwards so that at whelping your bitch is eating in the region of 40% more than at maintenance.

It is important that you maintain your dog’s appetite and meet her energy and nutrient requirements, particularly in the later stages when appetite is reduced due to the advanced stage of the pregnancy.

Giving your bitch concentrated, palatable, highly digestible food is beneficial at this point, and serves to get her use to a diet that she is likely to require to satisfy the nutritional demands of lactation.

Tinned meat is very high in moisture and when coupled with the biscuits makes a feed of volume, therefore you may want to consider introducing concentrated dry food that satisfies appetite and meets nutritional requirements but in smaller volumes.

It ought to be a minimum of 21% protein. Most manufacturers will list the life stages that their feed is formulated for and feeding recommendations eg pregnancy, lactating, growing, maintenance etc.

Requirements for specific nutrients may increase; for example, calcium is often cited as something to give as a supplement. However if you are feeding a good quality diet in the first place that is well fortified with vitamins and minerals then the increased quantity fed fulfils the increased requirements, removing the need for additional supplementation.

After whelping, your bitches appetite will increase, as she will needlarger quantities of feed to allow her to produce sufficient milk of adequate quality and quantity to support the growth and development of several puppies.

By the peak of lactation (approximately three weeks post whelping) your bitch could potentially eat three to four times more food than at maintenance.