How & What to Feed a Nursing Dog [Things You Probably Didn't Know] (2023)

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How & What to Feed a Nursing Dog [Things You Probably Didn't Know] (1)

When it comes to taking care of the new lives in your household and the tired mom, both have specific needs. One thing is for certain, the mother needs proper nutrition to keep herself healthy as well as her puppies, who get all of their first weeks of food from her. Here we will help you learn throughout the process of birth and the weeks after why it is essential to keep a good diet for the mother dog and what she should be fed.

During birth

If your dog has yet to give birth, or you know it is close pay attention here because this moment is not only a crucial time in your precious dog’s life but also yours. You have to make sure this process is smooth and seamless for the both of you by doing whatever you can before hand to prepare for the long road ahead.

For starters, you’ll need to make a nesting area for your dog to get through her late pregnancy phase. This area should be warm, large, comfortable, and in a secluded room. This gives the dog the feeling of maximum comfort and privacy during her time of giving birth.

Remember, dogs naturally give birth with or without human aid so just let the process happen naturally and make sure to keep an eye on how many puppies there are and if the momma dog is doing okay.

What to do with the puppies immediately after birth

Make sure the momma is cleaning off the puppies immediately after they are born, this is because there is a sac that the puppies were created in that is still attached to them. The mother dog works to get it off by licking them. If she does not lick them, you can vigorously rub the puppy dry, which gets rid of the sack while stimulating breathing.

Then once it has been 1 to 3 hours after the birth, if the puppies still are not nursing, you have a few options. You can place the puppy in front of one of the nipples and gently squeeze some milk from the nipple into the puppy’s mouth area, but if the puppy is still not feeding, it most likely means that there is something further wrong with the puppy such as cleft palate. In order to further inspect, open the puppy’s mouth.

(Video) How to feed a Female dog that is nursing

If there are any holes in the sinuses, call your veterinarian because this is a condition that needs to be addressed quickly. In the meantime, you may need to bottle or tube feed the puppy with puppy formula to make sure they still are able to survive.

Do not immediately remove the placentas from each of the puppies either because while it may cause vomiting later for the mother dog if she eats it, it is also possible for her to gain back the nutrients immediately because the placenta is a natural good source of those nutrients that were lost. Other vets say there is no moral reason to let the nursing mom eat the placenta, so it is a choice that you can make especially if you already have food prepared for the new mom.

Know what to do with the new mom

The new mom will be tired and dehydrated after birth, dogs give birth in a similar way that humans do: it takes a lot of effort and they are in a lot of pain. Be sure to not to take the puppies away from the mother too soon, she will be very protective of them and you never know when they may need to be fed.

Take the new mom out whenever you think she would need to go the bathroom, but do not force a schedule onto her. The best thing to do in the weeks after the birth is make sure you are not forcing the mother dog to do things she does not want to do.

You may be thinking it might be necessary to force the dog to feed to gain back its weight, but in most cases the dog will be hungry enough on its own knowing she needs to feed her babies as well as herself. It is now just a matter of knowing what to give her in order to restore all things back to how they should be, if not better, postpartum.

What do you feed a dog after giving birth

Nursing dogs need to gain back their weight in order to be healthy for themselves and their pups. You will need to find the best source of nutrients to feed your dog, which is puppy food. It’s even better if it’s homemade. It gives the nursing dog the proteins and healthy fats to meet the needs of the growing puppies as well as recover from birth.

Another big thing that needs to be factored into what you feed the nursing dog, is how it will be digested by the dog. Sure normal dog food will work, but you’re going to want to help your dog recover from the birth as well as produce milk and more nutrients are needed for both of these processes to work at the same time without tiring the dog.

To ensure that the good food gets digested and absorbed the food should be bioavailable, which means “the proportion of nutrients that enter the dog’s body is capable of being absorbed and available for use or storage,” says.

Also when choosing food, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Should be high in calories and fat, but have fish oils to keep the fatty acids balanced
  • Lots of nutrients – high in vitamins, minerals, calcium, and protein
  • Easy to digest
  • If have supplements, make sure they’re vet-approved
  • If you have never given your pet the ingredients that are in the new food, be sure to check with your vet to see if your dog is not allergic to it
(Video) How To Help Increase and Boost Your Nursing Lactating Dogs Milk Supply

And when food is given, be sure to give her plenty of fresh water to generate milk.

If you are concerned with how much food to give the nursing dog, don’t worry too much! You’re wanting to help her gain back her weight that was lost with the puppies and feed a whole new litter of puppies, so you would rather over feed her than under feed! The momma dogs will need to eat 2.5 or even 3 times their normal amount of food that it normally eats because of its new needs.

How to feed a nursing dog

You may be thinking it’s as simple as putting out a dog bowl packed full with a meal full of nutrients to feed your nursing dog, but you also need to know the proportions for an ideal meal. Since the food should be bioavailable, the meal can go straight to her system to help produce milk, but not feeding her often enough won’t do any good. If you have a large portion of a meal prepared for the nursing dog, consider breaking it down into smaller portions.

This ensures that you can feed the dog as much as you like and as often, it is recommended with this technique that you feed in 2-3 hour increments. This is just to make sure the mother dog is getting nutrients in as quick as they are leaving her body, from her milk being sucked out by the puppies and from her milk being produced.

This takes a lot out of the momma dog to be able to perform all of these actions, so you can help her best if you give her the right food and do it the right way. Another reason for 2 to 3 hour smaller portions is because it will not upset the dog’s stomach while still letting her be full at all times.

But, of course, not all dogs will want to be fed that often, so work with your nursing dog in order to learn what they need and when they need it, since this is a very crucial time in their life as well as yours communication is key.

It is also worth noting that there are some vets that recommend you leave a small bowl of kibble (normal dry dog food) next to the dog at all times, this is called free feeding. It should be full at all times so the dog has as many opportunities as possible to eat, this will help the mother feel comfortable and safe in the area that her pups are in.

The only thing to worry about from there is the bathroom breaks, they should be done as needed, if not more because food and water are constantly moving through her system with the free feeding technique.

How nursing dogs get diarrhea

The hormones that cause the mother to give birth can cause loose stools due to excess strain on the stool track which can cause a change in bacteria population in the gut which causes diarrhea.

(Video) Feeding A Nursing Dog: How to Supplement Calcium

In order to make sure that she is safe, several fresh stool samples (soon after they have passed) should be submitted to her veterinarian to be sent to the laboratory for a parasite check.

If you have any suspicions of worms, in the meantime, you can give your nursing dog medication like Fenbendazole or Pyrantel to treat her, or an additional probiotic such as fortiflora to help clean out the bad bacteria from the gut.

What to feed a nursing dog with diarrhea

It may be difficult to know what to feed a dog normally that has diarrhea, and with nursings dogs it’s even tougher. If you leave the issue alone, it can worsen and stop lactation which causes a domino effect with the puppies suffering in return of lack of milk. So here’s what you can do if your nursing dog is having diarrhea.

  1. Purchase kaopectate (kaolin and pectin only product, which are safe for nursing dogs) it can be found at the drugstore. Feed her kaopectate at 1 ml per pound or 1 tablespoon per 15 pounds of body weight ever 6 to 8 hours. This product will be easy on her stomach and coat her irritated innards as well as absorb toxins.
  2. If you cannot get to the store to purchase kaopectate you can also try feeding her a bland diet of ⅔ boiled, white rice and ⅓ boiled lean hamburger or chicken in small meals several times a day. If mucus or blood is still present, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of pumpkin to the meals. This is a good source of added fiber that soothes the irritated colon.
  3. The diarrhea should be cleared up by this step, and you can go back to puppy food after it is completely gone. You do not want to give her puppy food as it can dehydrate the nursing dog easier since her system is weak.

If diarrhea still persists after feeding her for multiple times and/or giving her the kaopectate supplement, consult a vet because there might be a very serious underlying problem that you cannot see.

Be careful with the food

Before feeding the dog any new ingredients you have never given the dog, check with you vet to make sure that they are not allergic to it or it is not harmful to the dog’s system in producing milk.

There are some who would consider putting fresh veggies to the food that the nursing dog is already getting to increase the amount of nutrients immediately given through the food, but this is not always necessary and can do more harm than good. If the dog is sensitive to one of the veggies and you add because a recipe tells you to, it could block up the dog’s system or hinder milk production.

There are also others who say that the dog is lacking calcium after giving birth so they will need supplements. But it has been found that getting too much calcium can lead the mom into going into a state of milk fever.

What is milk fever

Milk fever can occur in any dog and it can occur 2 to 3 weeks into lactation, but it is more common in moms of smaller breed dogs. It is a state that dog can go in from having too much calcium in the bloodstream from lactation which can include symptoms of stiffening and spasms that can lead to seizures which can lead to possible damage or death. If you suspect possible milk fever, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Be sure that the dog is getting enough nutrients by feeding it puppy food as often as the dog allows and allowing her to get the food and water out of her system to prevent milk fever.

(Video) Mother dog won't let puppies nurse; mother dog not producing milk for puppies

What to feed a nursing dog to gain weight

Puppy food is the best option to gain weight back for the nursing dog because of the extra nutrients it provides, having even more meals a day of that will help the dog gain weight back quickly. You can also give them treats to increase the fat and caloric intake the dog receives, as well as free feeding, as previously mentioned, because the availability of food to the dog allows for healthy “overeating.”

Nursing dog food alternatives

A few homemade alternatives can be given to the nursing dog which include:

  • Meaty bones, oxtail, chicken, rabbit – can be given frequently
  • Cow, pork and game bird – not as highly recommended but can still be given, but less frequently
  • Small amounts of organ means, leafy vegetables, whole grain, and eggs – can be given within meals to increase bioavailability


Nursing dog won’t eat

If your nursing refuses to eat, it would be a good idea to entice the dog into eating rather than forcing her to.

You can mix puppy milk into her food, if she likes the taste or offer it separately alongside water to still get fluids into her system.

You can buy tasty, healthy brands of puppy, a veterinarian on recommends Wellness, Newman’s Own, Halo, Natural Balance, Candiae and may others: they contain no artificial additives or preservatives and are common allergen sensitive.

Showing the nursing dog that you are adding plain boiled chicken breast or turkey into her puppy food should get her excited to eat. Table scraps are not what she needs but is a way to entice her to eat, a quick transition from plate to bowl of the plain chicken or turkey should hopefully entice her to eat.

What to feed a picky nursing dog

As mentioned before, there are good tasting puppy food out there that can be purchased. It might be frustrating to see that your dog does not like a certain brand when you bought a whole bag, but at least you have some for when your puppies come off milk.

You can provide them with alternatives to puppy food, as we mentioned before, it is most meats and some grains and greens. The thing that needs to be done here, though, is careful integration of puppy food. They can survive on human food but it is easier to prepare and care for the nursing dogs needs financially if they are on puppy food.

(Video) How to help your puppies nurse - Tips and Tricks

If these things do not work, you can trying feeding the nursing dog food from your hand, or on the floor. Whatever she needs to be comfortable eating. If you are unsure about other methods, speak with your vet to see if there is something in the food that is causing the dog pain, if they have a parasite that keeps them from eating or just methods of feeding in general for your picky nursing mom.


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