Feeding your pregnant bitch and weaning her puppies
During the last four weeks of pregnancy, your bitch should be fed solely on a good quality complete and balanced puppy food, which should be tailored to either small or medium-sized breeds.
If your pregnant bitch is a small (10kg or less) or medium-breed (between 10-25kg), feed her a puppy food that matches her breed size. If you have a large-breed dog (25kg or greater) you should feed her a medium-breed puppy food as this actually contains higher amounts of calcium and energy than large-breed food. In terms of quantity, the amount of food she is fed should be increased up to one and a half times her normal daily requirement and split into 3-4 smaller meals per day.
Once she has given birth to her litter, her daily food requirements will increase again - up to three times her normal daily ration will be required when the puppies are three weeks old and at the height of feeding. Continue to feed your lactating bitch medium-breed puppy food until her puppies are weaned, or longer if she is in light condition.
Weaning is a term used to signal the time at which you start introducing solid food to your puppies; this can begin at around 3-4 weeks of age. Introduce puppies to the complete and balanced puppy food mum has been eating as the smell of it will be familiar and mum will show the puppies what to do! Soak the dry biscuits for 15 minutes in boiling water to soften them, then mash with a fork. More water can be added if required, to reach a sloppy slurry-like consistency. Canned puppy food is also a good starter food and can be mixed in with the mashed biscuits.
At first, offer the food 1-2 times a day for a few days. If the puppies show no interest in the food, don't worry - just try again in 2-3 days' time. Once they are eating twice a day for a few days, gradually introduce the puppies to a puppy food which matches their breed (e.g. small, medium or large). By 6 weeks of age, try to have your puppies eating 3-4 small meals of this food a day. Don't force your puppies to eat; they will do so in their own time. If by 4-5 weeks of age they are still showing no interest in solid food, they may be drinking too much from their mother and not feeling hungry enough to try to eat. If this is the case, you should separate the puppies from their mother for a few hours until they are awake and hungry, and then introduce the food.
The first few weeks of feeding puppies can be very messy. However, the whole experience should be enjoyable for both you and the puppies, so take it slowly. Allow the puppies to walk in the food as they will then spend time cleaning each other up and getting used to the new tastes. If food is introduced too quickly or they are allowed to eat too much, this may upset their tummy, which in turn can lead to diarrhoea. If this occurs, stop the food for 24 hours and then reintroduce it again very slowly.
Often, once the puppies start eating solids, the bitch will no longer clean up after them, so it is important to keep their living area clean. Puppies will naturally go to the toilet after eating, so it is often best to feed them on newspaper or outside and then allow them time to toilet before putting them back in their crate/cage. As you would for mum, remember to always have a shallow bowl of fresh clean water available for the puppies.
Puppies can leave their mother once they are over 6 weeks of age and are eating solids 3-4 times per day for a week. Please note that there is no need to give milk to weaned puppies, as they get all nutrients they need from a complete and balanced puppy diet. Many puppies are actually allergic to the sugars (lactose) in cows' milk and they often get diarrhoea from drinking it.
If you have any questions or concerns about feeding a pregnant bitch or weaning puppies, give us a call at the Feilding clinic on (06) 323 6161 and we will be happy to help.