Who says Mother’s Day is just for humans? Labor for your pets is equally exhausting and most mammals, such as dogs and cats invest a singificant amount of time and care in their babies post birth forming an attachment – if not as strong as the one between a human mother and child – filled with intense affection and love. Dog owners, we’re sure, will be just as anxious about the care their female dog needs when expecting as an expectant human mother.
Consultations with vets will go up sevenfold; a good vet will go a long way in reassuring dog owners whose bitches are expecting for the first time that things will go smoothly. However, there are several lifestyle changes that a vet will caution an owner about when their dog is pregnant.
Caring For A Pregnant Dog
Firstly, keep a special calendar monitoring events through your dog’s pregnancy as soon as you know she is pregnant. This will help you plan for future litters as well as track and explain the exact date and time for any unusual behavior or abnormalities (such as excessive whining or high temperatures) to your vet. Many experts recommend that after 56 days of conception, a dog owner should not leave his or her bitch alone as she may go into labor.
When it comes to exercise, continue with normal exercise during the first couple of weeks of gestation. As the bitch enters her sixth to seventh week of pregnancy and her stomach begins visibly swelling, stop strenuous exercise and rough playing and take her out for light, short strolls preferable in the early morning or late evenings so as to avoid heat stroke.
Additionally, there are a few changes that should be made in your dog’s diet:
Store Bought Diet
If your dog has been fed a store bought diet until her pregnancy, continue with this diet. Ensure that it is a premium dog food brand (Pedigree, Royal Canin and Arden Grange are all premium brands easily available in India) and continue feeding her this food until the four or fifth week of her pregnancy. Kathleen Hefner, a New Jersey vet recommends “a highly digestible, very palatable commercial diet.” She adds that this diet should contain 29% protein and 17% fat. Additionally a low fiber content and a high soluble carbohydrate content are necessary.
After 4-5 weeks of gestation, start mixing in high quality puppy food into your dog’s diet, gradually weaning her off adult food onto puppy food until she is eating a full diet of puppy food. This will give the developing puppy embryos the adequate nutrients they require for growth as well as replenish energy levels in the expectant mother.
If you prefer feeding your dog a homemade diet, many recommend you begin by giving her a small serving of cottage cheese or eggs every alternate day so as to provide her with necessary protein for fetal development. A more detailed chart for a homemade dog diet that tracks both the recommended levels of proteins, fats and so on for both pregnant and lactating dogs is as follows:
Protein rich foods include meats, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs and cottage cheese. Fats are found in oils like herring oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, flax oil as well as animal fats – beef fat, lamb fat and pork fat which you can add in small quantities while cooking your dog’s foods. Additionally, fat is found in salmon, whitefish, herrings, anchovies and sardines. Meanwhile carbohydrates are found in grains like rice, wheat, corn, barley and oats; for dogs, we would recommend sticking to rice, barley and oats.
Of course, depending on breed, age and medical history an expectant mother’s suggested diet may drastically vary. Use these guidelines as tips to crafting your dog’s diet, but consult with your vet extensively as well – he or she will know your dog’s history and be able to make suggestions accordingly.