What is the Best Food for a Pregnant Dog?

Is your dog on her way to becoming a proud momma? Will your household be blessed with a litter of puppies in the upcoming weeks? We can't help but imagine how excited you must be! But have you considered your dog's nutritional requirements during pregnancy? Are you ready to provide your pregnant dog with enough energy intake to grow and deliver a healthy litter of pups? In other words, do you have the necessary knowledge to provide the healthiest dog food for your pregnant dog?

Do Pregnant or Nursing Dogs Have Special Needs?

Pregnant dogs are in need of quite a bit of help in their quest to bring healthy puppies to life. During the nine-week gestation period, pregnant dogs must maintain their weight and satisfy their nutrient needs to give their pups the best fighting chance. After all, when they're born, puppies do not boast a strong immune system; their frail bodies are susceptible to life-threatening diseases right off the bat, and it's their mother's milk production, alongside tender, loving care, that will make the difference. Therefore, it's your responsibility to ensure that your mama dog gets the nutrition she needs and her puppies get what they need.

Today's article will help you understand why a high-quality hydrated diet, rich in food-grade ingredients and whole food nutrients, is essential for the mother dog and the puppies' every single life stage, from conception and birth to weaning. So, instead of wasting your money feeding your dogs an unhealthy dry kibble diet, we will show you how the All-natural Volhard AM/PM diet will help both your mama dog and her puppies stay happy and healthy!

The Dangers of Feeding Unhealthy Dog Food: Fading Puppy Syndrome

Every dog breeder must face the sad possibility of fading puppy syndrome, a condition that brings a puppy’s life to an end without a clear explanation. Notwithstanding his excellent health, the puppy gradually exhibits signs of poor health and eventually dies without a definitive cause of death. Although we cannot pinpoint a clear cause, research cites poor milk production and quality and inadequate immunity as primary culprits behind the fading puppy syndrome. Now more than ever, it is clear how dog food quality is imperative for healthy milk production and, conversely, for a puppy’s best fighting chance.

Breeding the Stud Dog: The Importance of Vitamin E

As we mentioned earlier, puppies must enjoy a high-quality diet every step of the way, even before they are born. Therefore, you must ensure that both the stud dog and the mama dog are fed the best food before breeding. In her book, our founder, Wendy Volhard, describes the importance of doubling the stud dog's vitamin E intake two weeks prior to breeding in order to increase sperm count and quality. Aside from this benefit, a healthy intake of vitamin E will benefit your dog through an improved immune system, healthier skin, a shinier coat, and improved eyesight and muscular function.

Eggs are the easiest way to supplement your stud dog's vitamin E intake. Feeding eggs five times a week, as well as introducing fruits and vegetables (e.g., spinach, avocado, broccoli), nuts and seeds (e.g., sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds), vegetable oils (e.g., sunflower oil, soybean oil, fatty fish oil, krill oil, safflower oil, wheat germ oil), fish (e.g., trout and salmon), and peanut butter (without xylitol!) will ensure a healthy intake of vitamin E before breeding.

Dietary Needs for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs

Dog's pregnancy lasts for approximately nine weeks or 62 days, which are separated into three trimesters. Your dog's food intake will remain stable during the first and second trimester, after which time she will require an additional 25% of dog food for the final weeks. Therefore, it is vital that you meet your pregnant dog's dietary needs accordingly in order to avoid weight loss (a pregnant dog's weight will rise anywhere between 15-20% from the moment of breeding), poor milk production, and birth issues.

Four weeks into the pregnancy, you will notice a drop in your pregnant dog's food intake. Fortunately, this lack of hunger is a telling sign of a healthy pregnancy: as they grow, the puppies will start pushing up against the bottom of the stomach, thus causing your pregnant dog to feel full. This circumstance will only last for upward to three days, after which her voracious appetite will return to normal. Feeding your pregnant dog an easily digestible meal of goat's milk and honey will satisfy her nutritional needs during this time.

Feed Your Pregnant Dog in Moderation

Pregnant dogs must receive the same amount of dog food during the first and second trimesters in order to ensure a successful pregnancy. Feeding an excessive food quantity puts your pregnant dog at risk for obesity and, conversely, of difficult or prolonged labor and unnecessary stress on the mother and the puppies. On the other hand, underfeeding your pregnant dog can lead to abnormal fetal growth, embryo loss, spontaneous abortion, and low-birth-weight puppies.

A pregnant dog's weight is often cited as a common cause of pregnancy-related issues. Obese dogs experience increased intervals between estrus cycles, decreased numbers of eggs released during ovulation, and a higher risk of dystocia (i.e., difficult birth in dogs). In addition, overweight dogs experience decreased milk production, thus putting their puppies at risk for early malnutrition. Be sure to monitor your dog's weight before and during pregnancy in order to increase her chances of a healthy delivery.

What Is the Adequate Nutrition Value of a Pregnant Dog's Diet?

Experts on canine nutrition mention the following nutrients as imperative for fetal growth:

  • Protein: 29%;
  • Fat content: 17%;
  • High amounts of soluble carbohydrates to ensure adequate energy intake;
  • Calcium (1-1.8%) and phosphorus (0.8-1.6%) for adequate production of milk.

It is vital to avoid including too much calcium in your pregnant dog's diet, as excessive calcium levels will lead to the calcification of the fetus' soft tissues and cause congenital disabilities.

Additional Needs: Pregnant Dogs and Exercise

Healthy food is not the only thing your dog needs for a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. To be adequately prepared for the job of whelping, your pregnant dog needs to exercise regularly and keep her muscles toned. Put together a light training schedule for your dog, something that she will enjoy during the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Be sure to reduce the amount of exercise as your dog approaches the delivery date. Also, please keep your dog away from areas where she may contract infections from other dogs.

Dog's Pregnancy Tip: Include Raspberry Leaf Tea into Your Dog's Diet

As she approaches the middle of her pregnancy, it’s time to introduce raspberry leaf tea to your dog. This simple ingredient will tone up your dog’s uterus, thus making the whelping process easier. To prepare the tea, infuse two tablespoons of dried raspberry leaves into two cups of water—let the water boil and simmer for a few minutes. Let the tea cool overnight, then strain out the tea and store it in the refrigerator. A tablespoon of raspberry leaf tea is the ideal amount for a 50-pound dog.

The raspberry leaf tea is also useful after delivery. Add half of the amount to each of your dog’s meals to help clean the uterus of any pregnancy fluids, tissue, and waste.

What Happens to the Dog Food after Whelping?

Your dog has just delivered, and now she's a proud mom with a litter full of hungry puppies! But what about her food needs? Does her diet need to be adjusted?

Your momma dog's first 48 hours will be all about her puppies. Unless she eats her puppies' placenta, she will have quite the appetite. However, her first post-delivery meal must be palatable, easy to digest, and, most importantly, liquid. Raw goat's milk, raw honey, yogurt, or kefir are sure to boost your dog's energy levels. You can include meat in her next meals as well.

Puppies have a pretty ravenous appetite during their three to four weeks, and your momma dog will have to keep up with their milk needs. You've already increased her diet by 25% during the last trimester, but now, she must produce so much milk that you will have to increase her diet by up to four times her normal amount. Don't forget to add the raspberry leaf tea as well!

The increase in dog food makes two meals per day completely insufficient to meet your dog's dietary needs. For example, Newfoundlands require up to four or five feedings per day in order to keep up the milk supply, whereas Wirehaired Dachshunds go up to six meals per day to produce enough milk. It's no surprise, considering that the mother must keep her own weight balanced and produce enough milk for a litter of puppies. Such intense needs might be too stressful for your dog to handle, which is why, if her litter is unusually big, she might have to start the weaning process at 21 days instead of the normal 28 days.

Volhard AM/PM Diet for the Mother Dog

So far, we've talked about the mother dog's dietary needs and how her feeding schedule must be adapted during and after pregnancy. But what about the food itself? Which foods are going to help her maintain her weight and feed a litter full of puppies? The answer lies in the Volhard AM/PM diet, a two-part dehydrated foundation mix that allows dog parents absolute control over the freshness of ingredients and vegetable choice!

In addition, AM/PM considers every aspect of your dog's nutrient requirements by exceeding the amounts of essential nutrients established by the NRC and AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles. This way, AM/PM delivers its nutritional benefits to dogs of all life stages and sizes, including the growth of large size dogs.

For mother dogs, both during and after pregnancy, AM/PM, with its high concentration of oats, helps them maintain a state of calmness and produce enough milk for a litter full of puppies! Our website contains all the information required for transitioning and implementing the AM/PM diet, so use our charts to determine how much food your dog needs, mix the ingredients together, and serve!

What about Puppy Food after Whelping?

The AM/PM diet is ideal for pregnant and new dog moms, but what about the puppies? What is the perfect puppy food after weaning? Volhard has the perfect answer for you: NDF2! This well-balanced dehydrated foundation mix is precisely what your puppies need for a lifetime of strong health, happiness, and peace of mind alongside their dog parents. We’re happy to tell you that we’ve already put together a comprehensive guide on weaning puppies over to NDF2, so be sure to check it out!

Your Dog Needs the Right Food for a Successful Pregnancy!

Many variables play crucial roles in a successful pregnancy, and food is no stranger to that list. By taking adequate care of every single step of pregnancy, from breeding to pregnancy and the puppy weaning process, your momma dog will bring a healthy litter of puppies into this world. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!


Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!

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