Achieving optimum nutrition for the brood bitch is a common concern among breeders for both fertility and health of the whelps. In this newsletter I will try and answer some of the most frequent questions that are asked about nutrition, diet and supplements.

The most important factor in a successful pregnancy is diet. The diet of the brood bitch needs to contain a high quality protein and adequate calcium levels. For most raw feeders, this is a not a problem, but if you are feeding a commercial dog food, this is the time to consider adding some fresh food to the diet. Good protein sources include raw meat such as hamburger, beef heart, kidney, lamb, pork and poultry. It also includes raw eggs and dairy sources such as yogurt, goat's milk and cottage cheese. These sources of food not only offer a high protein source, but also are also high in fat, iron, minerals and vitamins. Protein is essential for fetal tissue growth and the good health of the brood bitch and fat is necessary for energy. I will outline the needs of certain minerals and vitamins below.

While feeding a raw diet offers the most nutrition, both raw diets and commercial diets are often insufficient in certain nutrients necessary for good fetal development. 

These include:

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
    This essential fatty acid is of paramount importance for fetal brain and nerve development, as well as eyesight. It is also helpful in maintaining a healthy immune system. A recommended dose is 1,000 mg (180 EPA and 120 DHA) per 20 pounds of the mother's body weight daily. Animal sources are best and these include Salmon or Fish Body oil (NOT cod liver oil). These oils are fragile and do not survive well when exposed to light or oxygen, nor do they survive in commercial products or powders, so gel capsules are best. 

  • Folate
    (Folic Acid, also known as B9)
    This B vitamin is important in stopping several birth defects that involve neural tube, cleft palate and spinal defects. A normal dose would be 400 mcg for a large dog, 200 mcg for a medium dog, and 50 mcg for a small dog. Food sources that are high in this vitamin include pork, poultry and liver. I have also given my "soon-to-be" bred and pregnant girls Malt O Meal cereal that is fortified with folic acid. It is important to make sure these girls have folic acid before pregnancy, (at least two months before conception) as well as during fetal growth.  

  • Calcium
    This mineral is needed for bone and tooth development in the fetus. It is important that the expectant mother receive this mineral in their diet, otherwise her body will leech it from her own sources (bone) for the puppies. It is equally important during nursing. If your dog is being fed a raw meaty bone diet, or even a commercial diet, this will supply enough of this nutrient (assuming that her raw diet is at least 40% raw meaty bones). Home cooked diets and raw diets without bone must contain at least 900 mg of calcium per pound of food served.
    Many times I have heard breeders state that they supplement extra calcium, but this can dangerous: "Calcium supplementation may be tempting but is not a good idea. As long as the expectant mother is on a quality diet, supplementation is unnecessary. Further, supplementation can suppress her natural calcium releasing hormones so that when she really needs extra calcium during nursing, she will not have the proper hormone balance to get it. This can create a very dangerous situation which can easily be avoided by avoiding supplementation of calcium."
    "Do not supplement calcium during the pregnancy. This seems to lead to problems with uterine inertia, increasing the probability that a cesarean section may be necessary. It may also contribute to the frequency of seizure problems associated with low blood calcium levels during lactation (milk tetany)."

  • Iron
    Iron is important for the formation of red blood cells and the prevention of anemia. The best source of iron is in meat products, such as beef, beef hearts, kidney and liver. Eggs are also an excellent source of iron. 

  • Dulce
    (a type of sea algae)
    Dulce also contains high amounts of iron; however iron is absorbed more readily with meat products than other foods. 

  • Vitamin C
    This supplement helps aid the uptake of iron into the system; it helps with collagen (tissue) building, and supports the immune system. 

  • Vitamin D
    This vitamin is important for the proper absorption of calcium. Foods that contain vitamin D include canned mackerel and salmon, eggs and dairy products.

The Vitamin to Avoid:
The one vitamin to AVOID is Vitamin A. High doses of retinal can cause damage to the fetus in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Avoid a high intake of liver and do NOT give cod liver oil to a pregnant bitch. Do not give a large dog more than 5,000 mg of vitamin A per day, a medium dog more than 2,000 and a small dog no more than 1,000 mg daily.

The best way to achieve a healthy pregnancy and puppies is to feed a diet that contains high quality proteins that offer variety to ensure these nutrients. Such a diet would contain animal proteins such as muscle meat, beef kidney, canned fish such as mackerel or salmon, eggs, yoghurt, goats milk AND a balance of calcium for these foods.

Normal amounts of a raw diet fed are 2% to 3% of the body weight, but this will increase significantly through the pregnancy. As the pregnancy continues, most bitches will require more food after the fourth week (about a third more daily) with this amount increasing as the whelping date nears. This amount will vary due to litter size. If she is carrying a large litter, smaller more frequent meals will be helpful for the decreasing room in her abdomen.

Please Note
Lactating females require even more food during nursing. At this time a diet high in animal protein and fat is necessary for proper milk production and to help maintain energy for the female during labor and lactation. She will burn more calories at this point than any other. 

Don't Forget!

  • Don't forget to offer variety of foods and understand that she may desire foods other than her favorites at this time. Often my girls will want more organ meat, more dairy and raw meaty bones. Follow her lead and offer her a variety of food types.

  • Don't forget to keep the pregnant female in good physical shape, which would include daily walks, time in the yard and low impact exercise. This will help during the time of whelping.

Remember the Necessary Nutrients
Nutrients that are necessary to supplement because they are not present in most foods include:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids (salmon or fish oil)

  • Folic acid (part of most B complexes)

  • Vitamin C

B-Naturals carries salmon oil in capsules to meet the omega 3 fatty acid needs and two good vitamin blends that address the vitamin issues. These include the Berte's Daily Blend and the Berte's Immune Blend. 

Other beneficial nutrients include:

  • Red raspberry which eases labor and helps speed the delivery process and aids in producing milk during lactation

  • Fennel for ingestion and increasing milk production.

  • Sea algaes and dulce for iron and extra digestion help.

 B-Naturals offers Whelp Help, which includes both the ingredients red raspberry and fennel. This product is to be used during the last three weeks of pregnancy and throughout lactation. B-Naturals also offers Berte's Green Blend, which is rich in vitamins and minerals, boosts the immune system, and aids in proper digestion.

Finally, to help your bitch during whelp if she gets stressed, B-Naturals offers Rescue and Relief Essence to calm her. 

Lew Olson
Web Site

ALFALFA  sprouts helps in weight gain, stimulates appetite, good for muscle/joint pains, contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, magnesium, enzymes, choline, sodium, silicon, Vitamins A B, D, K & P 
APPLES juice or fruit: contains pectin which is a natural toxin remover, (fruit) adds fibre to diet, great for diabetic dogs because it slows down the absorption of sugars 
BANANAS rich in potassium & magnesium, both needed for bone building & calcium balance. Use only fully ripe. 
BEEF LIVER (raw) folic acid, sulphur, iron, many vitamins & minerals 
BROWN RICE iron, amino acids, linoleic acid, Vitamins B & E. It strengthens internal organs, calms the nervous system & relieves depression 
CARROTS (grated raw) potassium, Vitamin C & Vitamin A, also fun food for puppies! 
CORNMEAL contains more lysine than any other grain (not de-germinated) 
EGGS  a complete food, can be fed scrambled or raw [soak in hot water for five minutes] but boiled is not recommended as they become hard to digest 
FENUGREEK Fenugreek seed has been used to increase milk production since biblical times. The herb contains phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals similar to the female sex hormone oestrogen. A key compound, diosgenin, has been shown experimentally to increase milk flow. Fenugreek is often used as an appetiser and can be used to help gain weight and condition.
GARLIC (fresh raw)  besides it use as a pest fighter, worm inhibitor, garlic is a natural antibiotic and antifungal, digestive helper and good for the nervous system 
GOAT'S MILK  obtained from a goat farm is best, but if you can't get raw goats milk, perhaps there is a natural food supermarket near you that may have the less desirable pasteurised goat's milk. Add in moderation 
KALE rich in Vitamin C, more digestible for dogs than spinach & should be used instead of 
MOLASSES helps in milk production, high in iron
OATS help produce milk, good source of iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, silica and Vitamin B. They act as a calmer for nerves, depression and insomnia. Helps to regulate thyroid & blood sugar 
OIL OF EVENING PRIMROSE great source of linolenic acid which is great for coat and skin
PARSLEY strengthens digestion, source of Vitamin C, iron, manganese, calcium, phosphorus. Increases milk production and helps uterine muscles
Un-sulphured. High in potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and calcium. Also contain Vitamin A & B-complex. 
RASPBERRY LEAVES whether in herb or in powder form, this is one of the most important of all the herbs for pregnancy. Raspberry leaves help the strengthen uterine walls, helps reduce labour pain, ease delivery and generally helps to expel afterbirths. [Retention of afterbirth can cause serious infections in the mother.]
RED CLOVER flower tops; helps with skin disorders such as eczema 
SWEET POTATOES very high in Vitamin A 
YOGHURT very good for digestion and addition of natural bacteria cultures. Yoghurt can be given to newborn puppies if the bitches milk is too rich or added to formula if puppies are hand -raised. Goat yoghurt is best. 

Herbs to avoid during pregnancy include Angelica, Barberry, Black Cohosh, Bloodroot, Cat's Claw, Celandine, Cottonwood Bark, Dong Quai, Feverfew, Goldenseal, Lobelia, Oregon Grape, Pennyroyal, Rue and Tansy.

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