Life Stage Nutrition: Breeding Female Dogs

Making sure your female dog is getting the right nutrition during pregnancy

Created: 5/15/2017 Updated: 8/13/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

diet, Diet & Nutrition, dogs, health, Health & Wellbeing

Life stage nutrition: Breeding bitches

Breeding bitches has a greater requirement for energy and essential nutrients than resting adults. At the start of gestation the requirement only rises a little, but goes up to a 60% extra requirement by the end of the gestation. When nursing puppies, bitches may need four to five times the energy intake they needed before mating.

A high quality, highly digestible food with slightly increased protein and a relatively high energy density should be selected for breeding bitches. Optimum levels of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids are specifically required needs and should be balanced in a ratio ranging from 5:1 to 10:1 and should contain adequate levels of docosahexaenoic acid and other essential fatty acids. The food should also contain sufficient concentrations of antioxidants to offset the oxidative stress that is associated with pregnancy.

Chocolate Labrador feeding her litter of puppies

Later stages of pregnancy in dogs

During the later stages of gestation, it is advisable to feed a bitch several small meals per day to ensure that she is able to consume an adequate quantity of food. It is important to provide enough food during this period because bitches that are underweight during middle and late gestation may have difficulty maintaining body condition for the high demands of milk production that are destined to occur later during lactation.

The most important nutritional consideration for reproducing females during lactation are calories and water. Providing enough calories and free access to plenty of fresh water will support optimal milk production and prevent drastic weight loss in the bitch during the physiological stressful period of lactation.

How OSCAR can Help...

From week 5 of pregnancy, your bitch will start to gain between 25% and 50% extra in weight. Feed a high protein, stamina diet such as one of theĀ OSCAR Puppy Complete foods.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email