Gestation breeding bitch

2010| Nutrition & Health | Dog Breeding Guide, Royal Canin SAS

Managing nutrition and the bitch’s bodyweight before, during and after pregnancy is critical to the health of her and her puppies. Malnutrition due to inadequate nutrient intake can lead to abortions or stillbirths. Excessive feeding can lead to obesity increasing the risk of dystocia and prolonged labour.

Feeding a Pregnant Bitch

At the beginning of gestation, the bitch may have a temporary loss of appetite that is considered normal. During the first 42 days of the gestation period, the mother’s energy needs are the same as those of an adult dog that is not reproducing. Hence there is no difference in her nutritional needs for the first two thirds of gestation. An appropriate diet for gestation, one that is highly digestible and high in nutrients should be fed (e.g. a puppy diet).

During the last third of the gestation period, foetal growth increases exponentially and the mother’s nutritional needs therefore increase accordingly. The energy needs of the bitch increase by about 10% each week from week six of gestation until whelping. However, this rule of thumb should be moderated according to the size of the litter.

It is not essential to feed a gestating female ad libitum. It is likely she will gain weight this way, and this can harm both her and her litter. Weight gain should be monitored and the food ration be adjusted accordingly.

Depending on the size of the bitch, she should not gain more than 25-30% of her original weight during gestation.

The larger the litter, the more the queen's nutritional needs increase and the less physical room there is for the stomach in the abdominal cavity. Thus, it is essential to divide the meals into smaller more frequent portions in such cases. Towards the very end of gestation, food must be left available to the bitch at all times.

Lactation

Successful lactation requires good nutrition before breeding and throughout pregnancy. During lactation, energy requirements increase and are directly proportional to milk production, which in turn is directly related to the number of feeding puppies.

The food fed to the bitch during lactation should be nutrient dense and highly digestible. After whelping, the bitch’s energy requirements steadily increase and peaks between three to five weeks. This peak is two to four times higher than the bitch’s normal energy requirements. The energy requirements return to maintenance levels at about eight weeks after whelping, corresponding with the timing of weaning.

The requirement for protein increases more than the requirement for energy in the lactating bitch. Therefore the food selected needs to be high in digestible protein. Additionally calcium requirements increase to two to five times normal during peak lactation.

Lactating bitches are typically fed dry food as they are nutrient dense.

Key Points:

  • Feed your pregnant and nursing bitch a food that is highly digestible and is high in nutrients (e.g. a puppy diet).
  • No food increase is required until 42 days of pregnancy in the bitch. After week six of gestation food increase by approximately 10% a week is necessary.
  • By the end of pregnancy, bitches usually require between 25-50% more than their normal intake of food.
  • Avoid overfeeding gestating bitches. Excessive weight gain can be detrimental to the bitch and/or the puppies.
  • Provide several small meals per day during the latter stage of pregnancy, and during lactation. This is particularly important for bitches with large litters.
  • Always ensure clean, fresh water is available.
  • Lactating bitches have significantly increased energy and nutrient requirements.

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