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Feeding Priorities for Pregnant or Nursing Dogs

A dog’s pregnancy averages 63 days in length and nursing continues for a few more weeks. This may be the most important time in your dog’s life when it comes to precise nutrition. For a pregnant or nursing dog, malnutrition can lead to serious health issues and jeopardize the health of her puppies.1 Talk to your veterinarian about your specific dog’s unique needs and keep these critical nutritional considerations in mind:

  • Food for pregnant or nursing dogs must include sufficient calories to meet increased energy needs for milk production and the growth of puppies
  • Increased fat helps satisfy the higher demand for calories
  • High digestibility is important to help maximize calorie intake from smaller amounts of food
  • The mother’s milk production and the bone growth of her puppies require more calcium and phosphorus
  • More protein is needed to nourish the healthy development of puppies
  • DHA for developing puppies’ nervous systems

Frequently asked questions regarding pregnancy, nursing and nutritional essentials.

What is digestibility and why does it matter?

High digestibility translates to more efficient nutrient absorption by a pregnant or nursing dog’s body. It’s important because it helps a dog maximize the nutrition in every bite she eats. This can be crucial because there’s less space in a pregnant dog’s abdomen.

Why more energy and fat?

Pregnant and nursing dogs have very high energy needs. In fact, nursing dogs have 4-8 times the energy requirements of healthy adult dogs. Increased fat in precisely balanced nutrition helps supply more energy.

What should I feed my dog while she’s pregnant and nursing?

We recommend feeding Hill’s® Science Diet® Puppy Foods as soon as possible. These formulas feature essential nutrients in sufficient amounts and help developing puppies get off to a great start in life. Ask your veterinarian to recommend one of these Science Diet® puppy foods:


Can I feed Science Diet® Puppy Large Breed dog food to my pregnant or nursing dog? What if she is a large breed dog?

We do not recommend Science Diet® Puppy Large Breed for pregnant or nursing dogs. It does not provide enough calcium and energy to meet a dog’s needs during this special time. The food of choice for all pregnant or nursing dogs regardless of breed is Science Diet® Puppy food in varieties listed above.

Are there special instructions for feeding my pregnant or nursing dog?

Feed your pregnant dog the amount suggested on the food package, and keep feeding her puppy food until her puppies are finished weaning. Ask your veterinarian if you should make food available to her at all times after the puppies are born. This can help wean the puppies to a regular food and you’ll have peace of mind knowing their mother’s energy needs are being met.

When do I wean my puppies?

Most puppies begin eating solid food at 3-4 weeks of age. Weaning should be effectively completed at 6-7 weeks of age. 2 You will then need to consider which puppy food is appropriate for your puppies based on breed and expected body size when your puppies become adult dogs.

When should I see my vet?

Visit your veterinarian weekly if possible during pregnancy and nursing to check her condition and make sure her nutritional needs are being met. It’s important that you set up a specific schedule with your veterinarian to determine how often your dog should be examined during pregnancy and after puppies are born.

Start puppy care right.

Keeping a record of your puppies’ weights, development and activity every 1 or 2 days2 can be very helpful for your veterinarian’s routine assessments in the first year of life.

1 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Normal Dogs; Pregnancy in Dogs; p. 238
2 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Growing Dogs: Weaning Period; p. 247


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