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The Truth About the Best Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs

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Best Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs

The best dog food for pregnant dogs is ultimately what the individual dog thrives on. Let's face it: just like people, dogs are individuals and as such, some dogs do fine on certain dogs foods, while some others do not. This is why there is such a great range of reviews on every dog food out there, with some owners raving on a particular food and others blaming it for causing their dogs digestive upset and other problems such as a dull, itchy coat and ear infections. While there is no one best dog food for pregnant dogs, there are however several guidelines to follow to ensure future momma dog remains happy and healthy and in top condition throughout her pregnancy.

pros and cons of raw diet for dogs

The Truth About the "Best Dog Foods"

With a plethora of dog foods on the market formulated for old dogs, young dogs, athletic dogs and even specific breeds, it's no wonder why it is so challenging picking a good dog food. With a pregnant dog, the choice can be narrowed down a bit, but heads may still spin from too many choices.

As mentioned, a list of the best dog foods for pregnant dogs cannot be made based on the fact that pregnant dogs are individual dogs. It would be unethical to form a list of the best dog foods for pregnant dogs considering that there may be dogs who are intolerant or allergic to certain ingredients or dogs suffering from serious digestive issues.

Those folks who understand the science of nutrigenomics, know for a fact that what is good for one dog may be poison to another. According to Dog Food Reviews, dogs have a genetic predisposition to develop certain food sensitivities towards certain ingredients, and therefore, a dog food that apparently appears to be loaded with beneficial ingredients, will fail to reach its full potential in the body of a dog who has an intolerance towards them.

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Even among humans, it's impossible to formulate the best diet; hence why there is so much controversy on vegetarian, vegan, ketogenic and other fad diets. Several of these diets have been known to cause nutritional imbalances and some people have even gotten sick on them.

However, while it's difficult to postulate the best diet, most experts agree though that eating too much fast food, refined foods, carbonated drinks and sugar are not beneficial to health. While there are really no best diets, one thing is for sure: some foods are far superior than others. The same principle can be applied to dogs. Skip low-quality dogs foods full of fillers, preservatives or artificial colors.

"There is no one best diet for dogs. Individual dogs, like individual people, digest food differently."~Dr. Margaret V. Root Kustritz, The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management

The Best Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs

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Back to dogs, while there are individual factors to consider, and therefore, it is impossible to formulate which dog foods are best for pregnant dogs, it is possible to formulate some general guidelines that can help owners of pregnant dogs make an informed choice. Following are some guidelines that can turn helpful for finding the best dog food for pregnant dogs,

Owners of pregnant dogs should look for a dog food that is balanced and approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), explains Dr. Kustritz.

AAFCO recognizes four specific life stages in dogs: pregnancy, lactation, growth, and adult maintenance. For a pregnant dog, therefore. look for an a food being suitable for “pregnancy and lactation”" growth"or “all life stages."

At some point during pregnancy, mother dog will have different dietary needs to withstand the rigors of pregnancy and puppy rearing. She'll need increasing amounts of food and a quality diet approved for growth (e.g. a puppy food or a performance diet). The ideal diet should contain digestible calories, and the correct level of proteins and fats to meet the very high energy needs associated with gestation.

Correct levels of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are very important too. considering that these minerals contribute to correct bone formation in puppies.

And what about raw food diets? There are a few risks that come with these diets. One is the risk of salmonella which may pose a risk to dogs and their owners. Salmonella is a type of bacterium that has been known for causing gastrointestinal disease, and in pregnant dogs has been reported at times to cause loss of litters and early puppy deaths.

Other possible pathogens associated with raw food include Campylobacter associated with poultry, Escherichia coli associated with hamburger and Yersinia from pork products.

Another concern is the risk for the diet not being adequately balanced. If you are planning to feed your pregnant dog a raw or homemade diet, consider consulting with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that it is balanced and meets a pregnant dog's specific needs.

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When Should the Diet be Changed?

Many owners of pregnant dogs think about implementing dietary changes as soon as their dogs are bred. However, dogs who are pregnant won't need their diets changed until around midgestation, which is after the initial 4 weeks, when there is an increased demand for calories.

Dog owners at this point, often consider switching over to a special diet specifically meant for growth or performance/working dogs. These special premium diets meet a pregnant dog's calcium requirements and should contain enough folate.

If you are planning to change diet, make sure to do so gradually to prevent any digestive upset. Most dogs foods have clear directions on how to switch dog food from one brand to another on the back of their bags.

This special diet should be fed even after whelping up until the puppies are weaned off mother dog's milk. Then, steps should be taken to taper mother dog off the special diet by reducing the quantity and gradually incorporating her previous food. This, along with reducing the times the pups are allowed to suckle, should help decrease momma dog's milk production, making her more comfortable.

"During the last half of pregnancy, energy requirements increase, as does the need for protein and carbohydrates. This is usually provided by the increased intake of a feed for growth, pregnancy and lactation."~Dr. Johnny D. Hoskins

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Keeping Mother Dog in Top Shape

As the pregnant dog progresses into the pregnancy, she'll need increasing amounts of food. Care should be taken in keeping mother dog in good shape without being overweight or underweight. While a plump mom can help feel the breeder good about the whole pregnancy, excessive pounds can actually turn out being problematic.

Obesity increases the risk for difficult or prolonged labor, decreases milk production and negatively impacts the puppy's overall health and growth, explains veterinarian Dr. Robin Downing in an article for VCA Animal Hospitals. Underfeeding, on the other hand, can lead to embryo loss, abnormal development, small litter size, and puppies that fail to thrive.

Ideally, the pregnant dog should not gain more than roughly 15 to 20 percent her normal weight before breeding. Owners of perspective breeding females dogs who are obese, should have them undergo a weight reduction program before breeding.

And What About Adding Vitamins/Supplements?

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Many dog owners are tempted to provide pregnant dogs with vitamins and supplements in hopes of helping them whelp healthy litters, but this well-meaning practice can actually lead to problems.

One common issue is the over supplementation of calcium. In particular, dog owners whose pregnant dogs went on to whelp and developed low calcium levels (hypocalcemia, also known as eclampsia or puerperal tetany), may feel compelled to provide their pregnant dogs with calcium in future whelps, in hopes of preventing this from reoccurring.

However, calcium supplementation during a dog's pregnancy is contraindicated. The reason being that, this practice can actually lead to low calcium levels in the first place because of the way a pregnant dog's parathyroid hormones work.

If too much calcium is given to the dog during pregnancy, the dog's body will work hard to get rid of it. When, mother dog then whelps and starts nursing, demand for calcium goes up, but the body at this time is still geared in dumping 'the excess' and that strips the calcium needed from the body ultimately causing the serious health issue.

While calcium is contraindicated, supplements with B vitamins and omega fatty acids may be worthy of considering, points out veterinarian Dr. Jane Barber. Something to discuss with the vet on a pregnant dog's next check-up.

Did you know? A Tufts survey revealed that out of more than 1,000 dog breeders 17 percent, (that's more than one in six) were feeding to their pregnant and lactating dogs diets that were not nutritionally adequate.


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  • The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management byMargaret V. Root Kustritz
  • VCA Hospitals: Feeding the Pregnant Dog, by Dr. Robin Downing
  • DVM360: Breeding management 101 — Who, what, where, when, and why (Proceedings)

    By Jane Barber, DVM, MS, DACT

  • Tufts University,Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, What to Feed Your Pregnant or Lactating Dog

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