From Pregnancy to Weaning
A guide to feeding your pregnant bitch all the way to weaning her puppies
Updated 6th Feb 2020
By Inge Blevens
As spring fast approaches (thinking positively here) one's mind naturally turns to growth, renewal and birth. A fundamental step in this process naturally involves pregnancy. Whether this is your dog’s first pregnancy or the first one in a long time it is only natural for questions to emerge: Should I alter my dogs diet during this time and how? How much should I be feeding? Are there things I should add to her diet? Or avoid altogether?
Since diet plays a big part in the well being of all species it is a good place to start when building a foundation for the health of your bitch and her future pups. Most importantly, the diet needs to contain high quality protein, adequate levels of energy(fat) and essential nutrients such as calcium, folic acid and omega 3 fatty acids. If you are already feeding a well-balanced raw diet including a variety of muscle meat, bones and organs you are adequately supplying her needs of protein, fat and calcium. The amount of meat (80% portion) will need to be increased as the pregnancy progresses to meet her growing energy demands – along with a few other changes to be discussed below. It will of course be a benefit to her to continue this through the whelping period to ensure that she has an adequate milk supply for the pups and can maintain her own weight/body condition.
Good quality protein is important for the growth and development of the fetus as well as maintaining the muscle tone of the mother. The protein is also providing her with a good supply of iron, which is important for the production of red blood cells. Examples of good sources include chicken, beef, turkey, rabbit, venison, and lamb – basically any affordable meats you can find available locally. Another option is to add raw eggs to her meals a couple times a week. Eggs are a great source of protein that also supply a healthy dose of vitamin D to her diet – important for the proper absorption of calcium. Other sources include canned mackerel and salmon.
It is also a good idea to feed occasional meals of organ meats in the months leading up to breeding and throughout the pregnancy (around 5-10% of the overall diet). Liver is a great natural food source of folic acid (along with an abundance of other nutrients), which is important in the proper development of the brain and spinal cord of the pups. As with everything it is important not to over do it. While liver is very nutritious and a great food to feed it is also high in vitamin A – a vitamin that you do not want to feed in excess during pregnancy.
A popular misconception is that calcium should be supplemented during this time. However, if your dog has access to plenty of raw bones as a part of her diet, extra supplementation is not necessary and could actually cause harm. Some breeders find that after the puppies are born increasing the amount of bones fed helps support the mother’s calcium needs for milk production.
Essential fatty acids, especially omega 3, also play an important role in the growth of the fetus. They are involved in the development of both the brain and nerves, along with having an effect upon eyesight and the immune system. Since a diet that provides meat will adequately supply the omega 6 fatty acids it is important to balance this with a source of omega 3’s. Salmon or other fish body oils are best.
How much to feed and when to increase amount:
If your dog is already on a raw diet:
Every dog will have her own preferences during a pregnancy and may even avoid some of her “favorites” during this time. This is one of the reasons why variety is key. During the first 1/2 of the pregnancy your dog’s energy requirement will not differ greatly from that of her normal needs. However around the 4th week you can slowly start adding to the meat amount fed. Increasing the meat gradually over the next weeks between 25% and 50% each week depending on litter size. Do not increase her bone or organ % keep those amounts the same. As her pregnancy progresses it is a good idea to feed smaller, more frequent meals. This will allow you to give enough food to meet her nutrient needs yet still accommodate for the space being occupied by the pups. If you notice any signs of hunger then increase the amount of meat slightly more. As a rough guide most dogs will gain about 15-20% of her pre- pregnancy weight during this time and will retain about 5-10% after giving birth. This will of course fluctuate depending upon the size of the litter and the demands upon mom afterwards.
Swapping the pregnant bitch to raw:
First off, if your girl is further along than 6 weeks, we recommend you wait till the pups are born and swap mom as you are weaning the puppies onto raw.
Here is a short summary on how to best help mom along:
Are you swapping shortly after the tie? No problem you can start with the regular chicken, chicken bone, other meat.
Many bitches will experience morning sickness. If you notice this in your girl, feed her green tripe.
-Start with either green tripe or chicken.
-After a week add bone. (chicken wings, chicken feet...)
-You will add a new kind of meat every week after poo is formed.
-You will want to add very small amounts of offal by week 3 and slowly increase to 5%.
-Once you have done this, continue with the regular swap routine until you reached the 80/10/5/5 % ratio.
-By the last trimester you will want to increase her 80% muscle meat portion by 25%-50% still keeping her bone at 10% and her organ at 5% liver, 5% other. 10 - 14 days before due date, alternate bone and boneless days. The blood level needs to drop for the brain to trigger the release of calcium into the bloodstream for contractions.
Troubleshooting the Nursing Bitch
So you have followed the feeding guide for pregnant bitches and now the day has arrived. You've been up all night helping the new mom deliver the babies. …. So, now what?
Not much will change in her feeding. You will continue to feed as much as needed. To supply her need for calcium to make milk you will need to make sure you offer plenty of edible bone. Many of us breeders add Kefir to her meals to supplement calcium intake. Depending on the number of pups mom has to feed, you will need to feed her 3-4x a day. Care has to be given to not over feed to get her milk bound or under feed to stunt her milk production. In short; keep an eye on her milk production and make sure the pups are eating!
So what if she doesn't make enough milk? Here are some midwife secrets: To increase milk production, you can feed her Fennel or Fenugreek. I found it easiest to use Essential oil Fennel and give her 1-2 drops in her mouth 2x a day for 2 days and then 1x a day. Fenugreek is best given in capsule form and hidden in a chicken heart or some ground meat.
What about the other extreme? Mom is making too much milk!?
You don't want it to turn into mastitis, so it is important to take care of it right away. Decrease her food and water intake for a few days. Put a warm compress of Chamomile tea on her breasts before the babies nurse. Make sure they do nurse! Sometimes it is necessary to manually express the milk to get her going. You can make a warm compress to open up the milk ducts and gently massage towards the nipple. You should see the milk coming out. Keep her nipples clean with Colloidal Silver to prevent clogging and infection.
Should mom not be making milk or you have too many babies to feed, you might need to bottle feed some. It is customary to bottle feed the biggest pup, as he would be easiest to transition.
Personally I feed the smallest too, to help them along, because the biggest pup will bully himself to the nipple and might just drink it all. So use your motherly instincts!
If mom is not able to take care of the pups, you need to feed them the first week every hour to every 2 hours. Keep them warm and clean their private parts with a warm wet cloth to make them go pee and poop. If the pups are crying they are either hungry, cold, hot or need to go to the bathroom.
Here is a puppy formula:
1 egg yolk
8 oz of goat milk
(store bought or condensed reconstituted are ok, cow milk is NOT ok!)
1 tsp of karo syrup ( Do NOT use honey!)
Here is were you can get some of the items:
Colloidal Silver: Clarity Colloidal Silver
Fennel: Essentially Oiled Pets
Weaning puppies onto raw is the best way to give a good start in life. Here is the simple way to do that. Keep in mind I am raising Rott- and Mastweilers, so you need to adjust to your dogs size.
At 3 weeks: They are more into trying other food. So week 3 is when the weaning really starts. I offer before nursing a meal of green tripe 3x a day.
At 4 weeks: I offer ground chicken with bone and green tripe and move on to beef and pork. Take off the chicken skin, it is a choking hazard at this age.
At 5 weeks: They are eating several proteins. Now they can start to have liver and another secreting organ added in slowly and building up to their full amount the rest of the week. Also, at this time you can introduce whole bone like chicken wings. I still take the hammer to them to make it easier.
At 6-9 weeks: We move on to drumsticks and thighs. You still want to hammer the middle of the bone, or let them eat the knuckle and take the middle away.
3 weeks: Green tripe 3x a day before nursing.
4 weeks: Ground chicken with bone and green tripe.
Start adding new protein every few days.
5 weeks: They're eating several proteins, can move to chunks,
whole bones crushed, and offal is introduced.
6 weeks through 9 weeks: Add chicken wings and drumsticks with crushed bone
10 weeks and beyond: Good to go for the rest of their lives....