Assistance with dog lactation and nursing healthy puppies

A Dog's Milk Composition

Below are the percentages of nutrients at mid-lactation:

  • 12.4% DM
  • 9.5% Fat
  • 7.5% Protein
  • 3.8% Sugar
  • 1.1% Ash
  • 5.8% Casein
  • 2.1% Whey Protein

The composition of a dogs milk (like all mammals) changes during the course of lactation. 

  • protein increased from 4.3% to 6.3%
  • fat  increased from 2.4% to 4.5% early in the period and then dropped to 2.7%
  • carbohydrate did not change
  • iron decreased from 13 ug/ml to 6 ug/ml
  • zinc decreased from 9.7 ug/ml to 8.7 ug/ml
  • calcium increased from 1366 ug/ml to 1757 ug/ml
  • copper did not change significantly
  • manganese did not change significantly
  • magnesium did not change significantly
  • The iron concentration of dog milk, about 10 ug/ml was much higher than human milk.
  • The iron concentration is strongly influenced by the stage of lactation, and decreases with time. 

Nutrition During Canine Lactation

Several factors determine the amount how much the mothers' food should be increased:

  • the size of the puppies
  • the number of puppies in the litter
  • puppy age

The bitch needs the most nutrition when puppies are 3 to 4 weeks old. If a bitch is nursing more than 4 to 5 puppies she should receive a diet containing almost 1/3 protein and 20 to 25% fat during heavy lactation. Usually breeders will supplement her puppy food with boiled chicken, cottage cheese, boiled eggs (pealed), hamburger or liver.

Proper vitamins and trace minerals are required also. It is possible to give excessive amounts of Vitamin D and calcium, and often the bitch is lacking in zinc and Vitamin C. If you supplement, make sure you use a vitamin made specifically for lactating bitches so that the proper ratio of phosphorus to calcium is maintained.

Mom should be fed 1.5 times her normal food for the first week, 2 times her regular amount for the second, and 2 to 3 times maintenance amounts for the third week of lactation. It's important she receives enough calories at this time. Do not add those calories with mainly fat.  Increasing only the fat in her diet can cause problems with low birth weights and high death rates.  Fat must be balanced by protein increases, so that 17% protein should balance with 7.5% fat, 25% protein should balance with 20% fat, and 29% protein should balance with 30% fat for example, to make sure she will not be protein deficient.

It may be necessary to divide her food into three or 4 meals per day. 


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