Diet & Exercise
A common mistake is overfeeding a pregnant bitch. For the first two-thirds of the pregnancy, she does not require any more calories than she consumed before her pregnancy. Continue to feed her the same amount of the well-balanced, complete nutrition diet she received prior to pregnancy.
At around week five, the puppies start to grow significantly, and this increases her calorie and nutrient requirements. If she was receiving a diet labeled as complete for all life stages, start to feed more of the food per day in frequent, small meals. If her diet was a standard maintenance diet, you may need to transition to the diet you will use to feed the puppies.
The only exception is for large breeds. The large breed puppy formula is not complete for lactation, so feed her a performance diet instead. By the end of the pregnancy, she will need 25 – 30% more food per day than she consumed prior to pregnancy.
The bitch should gain between 15 – 25% or her original body weight by the end of pregnancy. Large breed or overweight dogs, or those with small litter sizes need to gain less weight than small breed or underweight dogs, or those with large litters.
No diet supplements are recommended other than the feeding guidelines above. Adding supplements to the food creates a nutritional imbalance, and over-supplementation can be dangerous to both the mom and the pups. The only exception to this is a bitch with a poor appetite throughout pregnancy. It is normal to have some appetite loss early in gestation, and again at the end of the term, but otherwise she should have a healthy appetite. If her intake is poor, consult your veterinarian before altering the diet.
Exercise and Lifestyle
Minimizing stress during pregnancy is important, so for the most part it is helpful to maintain her regular routines, including daily exercise. Regular, low-impact exercise is beneficial.
For high performance dogs, avoid activities that push her to exhaustion or risk trauma to the abdomen. Replace them with long walks or low-impact, steady running. A dog that was not active prior to pregnancy should not start a vigorous exercise regime, but a daily walk is recommended.
Next: Preventive Care