Feeding Your Dog During Pregnancy

Having puppies is both exciting and exhausting for you and your pet. Whilst it’s wonderful to welcome adorable bundles of fur into your home, it’s hard work for a new mum to grow, deliver and look after a mischievous litter!

Labrador eating from bowl

Having puppies is both exciting and exhausting for you and your pet. Whilst it’s wonderful to welcome adorable bundles of fur into your home, it’s hard work for a new mum to grow, deliver and look after a mischievous litter!

Therefore it’s more important than ever for you to make sure she’s getting everything she needs from her food. Eating right will make sure that both mum and her puppies are happy and healthy.

Although adult-formula food is great for everyday use, she’ll need an extra boost of nutrients when pregnant, especially if she’s expecting a large litter.

Mums-to-be can get the higher amount of energy and protein that she’ll need from a high quality puppy food. Feeding your pregnant dog a puppy formula will help to support your pet during and after pregnancy.  

Your dog’s body condition (and any other medical requirements) can affect what nutritional demands she will have when expecting. You can find out more about your dog’s body condition with our  body condition tool.

Why should I feed a pregnant dog puppy food?

Dry dog food

Puppy food is richer in key nutrients and provides more energy than adult-formula food. Plus, it’s easily digestible. These are all important things to think about when feeding pregnant bitches.

Feeding your dog a puppy formula from weeks 3-4 of her pregnancy will help her to stay strong, and also passes nutrients to her puppies through her milk.

Your dog should be introduced to her new food in stages, to allow her tummy time to adjust. Start to introduce the puppy food into her usual formula, a little bit at a time, over the course of about a week, until the formulas have been completely swapped over.

Bear in mind your dog’s size and preference when choosing what puppy food to give her.

Per portion, dry food contains a higher number of calories than wet food. Therefore if your dog is on a wet food only diet, feed them more meals or larger portions to ensure they’re getting the extra energy that they need – especially if they’re a larger breed.You can also try combining their wet food with a bit of dry kibble to give her the best of both worlds.

As always make sure she has easy access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water so she can stay hydrated, especially if she’s on a dry-food formula during pregnancy.

How much should I feed a pregnant dog?

When feeding pregnant dogs, give them their usual portion sizes for the first few weeks of pregnancy. During these early stages, your bitch may go off her food or experience a little nausea and vomiting, similar to our ‘morning sickness’. We know this may seem alarming, but don’t worry – it’s perfectly normal. However, if you’re concerned about her loss of appetite, or if she continues to be sick, do contact your vet.

Start to increase her food intake, bit by bit, from around week five of her pregnancy. Gradually increase the portion size a little more each week, so that by week nine her meal size is about a third more than normal. By this time, mum’s weight should have increased by about 25%, or more if she is expecting a large litter.

Use controlled, measured portions to stop her overeating and becoming obese, as this can cause problems during pregnancy and labour. If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight during pregnancy, contact your vet. It’s best to feed your pregnant bitch little and often, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, as a tummy full of puppies will mean she won’t have much room for food

Feeding your pregnant dog diagram

How much should I feed a dog during nursing?

Pregnant dog portion size diagram

Nursing her new-born litter is hard work for mum, as her puppies demand a lot of her nutritious milk to help them grow big and strong. In fact, did you know that dogs actually produce more milk for their puppies than humans do for our babies?

To help her get the extra energy to nurse her needy litter, keep feeding her the puppy formula that she had throughout pregnancy. Its higher calorie content and added nutrients will give her strength, and help her produce high-quality milk for her pups.

For the first 1-3 weeks of nursing, increase mum’s daily meals from two to three. By week four (when her milk production is at its peak), go up to four meals a day. The portion size of each of these meals should increase as follows during nursing:

  • Week one: 150% of her normal portion size.
  • Week two: 200% of her normal portion size
  • Week three: 300% of her normal portion size

How much and how often you feed your dog during nursing will depend on her breed and the size of her litter. If she’s nursing a litter of more than four pups, she’ll need plenty of energy so may need constant access to food.

New mums will nurse their litter for around 6-8 weeks, but the puppies can be slowly introduced to solid food from around 3-4 weeks old. As her puppies wean off her milk, reduce mum’s food intake gradually, until she’s back to pre-pregnancy level.

If you’re unsure about feeding during this important time, chat to your vet about what to feed your pregnant dog throughout all stages of pregnancy and nursing.

Purina brands for pregnant and nursing dogs

Dry dog food

Several Purina brands offer high-energy puppy food to suit your pregnant pet’s needs during pregnancy and nursing.


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