Pregnant bitches do not need any additional nutrition during the bulk of their pregnancy. However a lot of “first-time” mums will give so much of their own nourishment to their unborn puppies that they need supplementing. If their backbone starts protruding then it is wise to increase their feeding by an extra meal a day.
When the Puppies are born
After the pups are born, it’s a different story. The lactating bitch needs one meal per day for each 2 puppies in the litter, plus one for herself. At this time it may be necessary to tempt them with strong-smelling foods, eg sardines, and to include a variety of proteins and calcium in their diet. Fish, beef, lamb, chicken, tuna, white fish, cheese, eggs and milk are all valuable additions. As she is producing milk for the puppies, she will need to increase her fluid intake – this can be done by adding liquid to her food as well as providing plenty for her to drink.
When the time comes to wean the puppies, mum will often “clean up” the puppies’ dish and it is at this time that the bitch’s diet can gradually revert to a more normal diet of a good complete balanced dog food, such as Burns.
Puppies can be weaned from 3 weeks old if it is a large litter and your bitch is looking thin, or 4 weeks for a normal sized litter. Do this gradually over a week or two, so that her milk will reduce gradually. If you take the bitch away from the puppies entirely she may well get Mastitis which is very painful for the bitch, so gradually increasing the amount of time away from her puppies will be best for her, and the puppies will benefit from continued contact with their mother. Remember that puppies can eat before they can lap, so a soggy bowl of a good quality puppy food, such as Burns Mini Bites is advised.
Feed by hand at first – the puppies are used to putting their heads up to feed, so will have to learn that their food is at floor level. However, don’t continue hand-feeding once they know where the dish is. They’ll soon get the idea and will wade in, laying in it, rolling in it, eating it off their brothers and sisters … this is the messy stage, but a warm damp flannel will clean them up before they go back into their nice warm bed. I always allow the bitch in to her puppies at this point – she will eat up the leftovers, help clean up the pups and give them a drink.
The pups need to be fed every 3 hours from early morning to late evening – about 6 times a day, and it is a good idea to change their bedding after they have been cleaned after each feed. Let them eat as much as they want before settling down to sleep again.
By 7 weeks, the puppies will be interested in crunchy food, so offering them alternate feeds of wet and dry food will be welcome. By this stage they should be lapping well, but do ensure they are taking sufficient fluids. When the puppies are ready to leave for their new homes, make sure the new owners have a supply of the same food the puppies have been used to – this will minimise tummy upsets.
Puppies are not babies!
Please don’t feed puppies on soup – it is far too salty, or porridge, or anything babies would normally have – these are puppies, and a good quality puppy food is best. Also new owners may not appreciate it if their puppies are picky about their food!