Feeding a Pregnant/with Puppies bitch
(Mallie and brood….)
I would like to describe how we feed a bitch during pregnancy and then once the puppies are born. I hope it may be helpful to some. I know its very difficult to generalise, but there are some areas that are the same whatever the size of the litter, and of course, I shall make clear where you might want to ‘tweek’ this regieme’ when its dependent on various factors.
* We worm the bitch shortly before mating. Personally we use Drontal Plus. We then do not worm the bitch again until the puppies are fully weaned. Our view on the use of Panacur during pregnancy is that it is an unnecessary extra chemical both mum and ‘in utero’ pups don’t need. This is presuming that you KNOW the worming history of the bitch and that it is fully up to date. If not then it would be better to be safe than sorry, indeed and worm during pregnancy. As a point of note here, I have wormed bitches during pregnancy with Drontal plus on a couple of occasions, once because we were unaware she was pregnant (opps!) and another when she pinched someone else’s wormer tablet from their bowl… and both times it has no ill effects whatsoever. However its not something I would recommend as a regular practice!
* Weeks 1 – 5 post mating your bitch. She is fed exactly what she would normally have as her maintenance diet. I change nothing. For our girls that is about 180gms, twice a day, of Skinners ’23’ complete food.
* Week 6 of pregnancy. Now you can clearly see if she is pregnant or not in most cases OR will of had your ultrasound/xray and know for sure she has puppies. This is the week its tempting to ‘feed her up’. I pass on that temptation as there is a long way to go and the last thing you want, at whelping, is a overweight bitch PLUS a truckload of puppies in there to deal with!
* Week 7 of pregnancy. So approx 1.5 – 2 weeks before her due date. I buy in a bag of the Puppy food I eventually intend to wean her puppies onto. For us this is James Wellbeloved Puppy Complete (other brands exist of course, many excellent….). During week 7 and 8 I take the bitch to 3 meals a day to spread out the ‘loads’ on her already ‘full’ stomach area. I start at the beginning of week 7 to mix the puppy food into the her usual food. I up her food by one third (so basically the extra meal at lunchtime). By the end of week 8, I have the bitch on 3 meals a day of approx 150gms of JWB puppy complete. The adult maintenance food has been phased out over these two weeks. The bitch remains on this as long as she will eat up until the day of whelping.
* The day of whelping or shortly before. Many bitches go picky about their food before whelping for a day or so. Then *usually*, even for a really good eater, the meal before they are going to whelp, they refuse food, or occasionally eat it and throw it back up again. This is completely normal. Try not to panic if your bitch does not eat much in the last couple of days before whelping. At this point in time tempt her with anything you like if you are REALLY worried, I’ve always found pouches of Natures menu, the complete wet food, in the puppy variety (which is a pink packet) very good for tempting a fussy eater. I buy a few of these in ready the week before whelping.
* During whelping I tend not to try the bitch with any food at all, even in a long drawn out one. My most recent litter, Shiney appeared to want to eat and so I gave her some scrambled eggs at one point, and half a packet of Natures Menu at another and she kept it down, but it wouldn’t have surprised me at ALL if it had come back up again at some point. The important point is that its helpful if she can keep drinking periodically. Fresh water is fine, but even better is if you can get her to drink it with lots of glucose powder in. Glucose powder can be bought in boxes for about £3.00 a box at almost any chemist. If you have none a tablespoon of white sugar to one pint of water is good for energy for her. But glucose powder dissolves better and is more built for the purpose than sugar. Personally, we buy tubs of Nutrolac puppy milk – around £30.00 a tub but last a fortnight or so each. We then use two tablespoons of milk powder, a good few shakes of glucose powder and about 3/4 pint of water and mix it up. Few bitches refuse it.
Once the puppies are all safely arrives, and that includes if a C Section was required, I allow her to settle for a couple of hours, then offer her a small meal of scrambled eggs without cows milk. I will shake a lot of glucose powder into the eggs just to sneek a bit more into her.
* Day one after arrival of the puppies. Now is the time to know that your bitch may be a little shell shocked at the events of ‘yesterday’. Some tucker straight in, and some take a few days to ‘warm up eating again’. Whats important to remember is that, yes, she has puppies now and milk production needs to stay at a good level, but that milk production is in the vast main through taking onboard LIQUIDS, so a lack of appetite is less of a worry than if she simply won’t drink. Food and drink compliment each other in milk production, but fluids are the most important factor, so try not to panic. Also remember that at this point the milk demand is fairly low because the puppies are small, so she does not need mountains of extra grub yet…. save that for weeks 2 – 4 when demand is greatest.
* Day two till end of week two. I will presume that your bitch is being fairly positive about eating. Now an average litter of 7 – 10 puppies I would feed the bitch thus at this point:
– 5 times a day, so 7pm, 12pm, 5pm, 10pm, 2.30am. Each feed to be AROUND 130-150gms of Puppy complete food and half a pouch of Natures menu puppy complete. Sometimes I use the 400gm blocks of frozen chicken mince from the freezer part of the pet shop (or Pets at Home) about £2.00 a block. Instead of half a pouch I will give about half a block of defrosted mince. Raw, uncooked, with the puppy complete.
– After every other feed I would give a drink of the Nutrolac. So two tablespoons, glucose powder and about 2/3rds – 3/4’s a pint of water. If the bitch had a litter of 9 – 12 puppies I would give this after EVERY feed.
Bear in mind that if the bitch has a smaller litter, so 1 – 6 puppies, you will need to adjust this accordingly. If she had 1 – 3 puppies I would probably swap to puppy complete as above, but only give her one extra meal a day to normal, so 3 meals for example, plus liquids. 4 – 6 puppies I would usually roughly double her food intake, so taking her to roughly 600-650gms of puppy complete a day and I probably would only add minimal meat to make it paletable, rather than to add extra bulk and protein/calories.
* Weeks 3 & 4. Demand is greatest. So for that average sized litter I would probably take every other meal up to 200gms of puppy complete plus the half a pouch/half a block of meat. I would still be keeping up the liquids.
* The day you start weaning. Depending on litter size, mothering skills and milk production this will be between weeks 3 and 4 usually. The day I start weaning puppies (and this is how we wean our litters) I reduce mum by one meal. That is usually the one in the middle of the night. The way we work things with weaning means that we move to two meals for the puppies at around 4 weeks of age. I will then take mums portion back to 150gms per meal for her remaining 4 meals. At 5 weeks we take the pups to 3 meals a day, and mum goes to 3 meals a day herself. She is still on the puppy food, and still having the puppy milk after each meal. At 6 weeks we take the pup to 4 meals a day, and mum comes back down to 2 meals a day. At this point I stop giving her the puppy milk completely.
* From the pups being on 4 meals a day – (whenever that is for you) Between the pups being 6 and 8 weeks of age, and being on 4 meals a day, I slowly take mum from the puppy complete back over to her maintence food. By the time the pups leave she is back on her normal two meals a day and Skinners ’23’. IF she happens to have ‘taken the litter hard’, and looks as if she needs some building, I will mix puppy complete and her Skinners for a month or so then take her back to just Skinners from there. However carefully you have fed your girl during pregnancy and rearing, SOME will look like scarecrows after the puppies go as they lose their coat and so on. Some will look great throughout! If you have followed the above or similar, it will NOT be that she is lacking something, it will just be ‘how she is’.
Good luck and any questions welcome!