Pregnant cats and dogs require a highly nutritious diet that is made up of a wide variety of food produce.
During the first 6 weeks of a dog pregnancy, food requirements remain the same as before pregnancy. The temptation to overfeed should be avoided at this time. Cats however are different, their food intake increases as soon as they are pregnant and they should be fed more at this time.
High quality protein and fat are essential for a healthy pregnancy and fetal development.
Around week 6 of the dog pregnancy, nutritional needs increase. From here on meals should be given more regularly in small portions. This prevents putting too much food into a body already pushed for space due to developing fetuses.
During the cat pregnancy, her body is preparing early for the developing fetuses. Energy stores are built up throughout the pregnancy. In the last 2 weeks, she eats twice her normal food amount.
Following the birth
When the dog gives birth she may loose her appetite temporarily. Small, nutritious, portions of food should be offered so that she can maintain her strength.
As the puppies develop and become more demanding for milk, the mother’s appetite should also increase. Her food intake may increase up to 4 times the normal amount in order to provide the puppies with rich milk.
Feeding the puppies or kittens
When puppies and kittens are around 3 weeks old they can be given minced meat and bones.
Between 4-6 weeks old, the permanent teeth are ready to cut through and the demand for nutritious food increases.
At 6 weeks of age, puppies and kitten can be fed chicken carcasses, necks and rabbit.
Growing kittens and puppies require 2-3 times as much energy per kilogram of body weight than adult cats and dogs.
Why should food quantities be monitored for puppies, particularly larger breeds?
When there is a new puppy in the family there is a temptation to spoil him with overfeeding. Whilst puppies do require more energy per kilogram of body weight than the adult dog, this still needs to be limited to avoid obesity.
According to author of, ‘Give your dog a Bone,’ puppies should certainly not be overfed to ensure that growth is achieved slowly and gradually. “The way you feed your new puppy will determine its health for the rest of its life. Its that important.” (Billinghurst1993)
At what age can raw meaty bones be introduced to puppies and kittens?
Between 4 and 6 weeks puppies and kittens begin to cut their permanent teeth.
According to Veterinarian and author ‘Tom Lonsdale,’ puppies and kittens are able to eat chicken carcasses, necks and rabbits at around 6 weeks old. This coincides with the time puppies and kittens begin to cut their permanent teeth.
Does the cat eat more or less within a week of successful mating?
When a cat becomes pregnant she begins to eat more within the first week of her pregnancy, laying down early energy stores for the developing fetuses. (Lonsdale 2001)
Is it normal for a bitch immediately after giving birth to lose her appetite temporarily?
When the dog has given birth to her pups, she may lose her appetite temporarily. (Billinghurst 1998)
Dietary considerations during pregnancy and post pregnancy through to 6 months of age.
A pregnant dog at the onset of the pregnancy will normally, for the first 2 weeks, not need to increase her food intake. However, the food she does consume should be, as always, of the highest quality made up of a variety of foods.
Diet for the pregnant dog
The female dog has a gestation period of 63 days, which is exactly 9 weeks.
Once the female has mated she will require more protein in her diet, more vitamins and more minerals. This means her diet at this stage should include more chicken wings, more offal (such as liver and kidney), more flaxseed oil, more raw eggs, more kelp and cod liver oil, plus additional supplements of vitamin B, C and E. As vitamin C boosts the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant, it should be added to the diet throughout the pregnancy and into the lactation period. The dosage for vitamin C is a minimum of 500mg per 20kg of body weight twice a day.
Following the mating period and during weeks 1 to 5:
-Maintain the raw meaty bone diet
-Eliminate cod liver oil (it is high in vitamin A and can be dangerous to fetal health)
At this stage the puppies are growing very slowly, therefore the mothers diet does not need to increase in quantity. She needs to keep slim and active rather than be fed too much and put on unnecessary weight.
The diet should be made up of high quality raw produce, which includes vitamins B, C and E.
During week 4
The pregnant female may experience morning sickness.
Her appetite may decrease
Keep the diet simple; do not introduce any unfamiliar foods.
Weeks 6 to 7
The puppies are now growing at a faster rate and as a result the mother will require a larger food intake. As there is now less space in her body for large meals, she should be fed small meals at more regular intervals. This will maintain her energy levels without weighing her down by giving her a full and uncomfortable belly.
The nutrition density of food needs to now include:
-More eggs, more high quality meat, more offal, flaxseed oil and less fruit and vegetables.
-The raw meaty bones can be reduced at this stage
-The long, large bones can be eliminated
-During this time add extra kelp, Vitamin B, C and E to the food.
-Cod liver oil can now be reintroduced back into the diet.
-The food should now be increased to one and a half times the amount of food she was consuming in weeks 6 and 7.
-Carbohydrates can be added such as cooked brown rice, whole meal bread and rolled oats soaked in water or milk. These complex carbohydrates should be no more than 20% of her overall food intake.
-During this final week of pregnancy the puppies do not grow very much. As a result the mothers food intake can be reduced.
-The vegetables should be increased
-The meat and offal decreased
-The flaxseed oil can be increased.
-This altering of food ratios makes up a slightly laxative type diet, allowing waste material to pass easily.
-Close to the time of birth reduce the food to a quarter of normal food intake.
It is interesting to note that pregnant dogs in the wild eat far more offal and meat than bones, which dramatically lowers the amount of calcium intake and increases the amount of phosphorus in their diet. Research has shown that too much calcium in the diet at this time can cause soft tissue calcification and other birth defects.
(Billinghurst 1998) In agreement with Billinghurst, author of ‘The Complete Holistic Dog Book,’ warns that excess calcium leads to fetal problems. However, it is advised that calcium is adequate for the mother during pregnancy as low calcium can lead to weak bones and seizures. (Allegretti et al 2003)
When the puppies are born and her appetite has been restored following giving birth, the quantity of her food needs to be increased.
Diet for lactating mother
Following the birth of the puppies, the mother can basically be fed however much food she wants, especially if she is supporting a large litter. Her raw, high quality diet should continue and can be based on three specific meal types. These three meal types ensure that she provides high quality milk to her pups, whilst maintaining her own immune system, overall health and energy.
1. Raw meaty bones
2. Meat and vegetable raw patty mix
3. Fortified Milk
1. The raw meaty bones should be made up of raw chicken necks, wings and carcasses. Meaty bones from the chicken provide high quality protein, a balance of calcium and phosphorus, omega 6 and a concentrated source of energy; the fat. If raw meaty bones are refused, they should be minced and incorporated into the patty mix.
2. The raw meat and vegetable raw patty mix. The patty mix should have a ratio of 20-40% vegetables and 60-80% minced meat plus supplements. The following recipe is to make a total mixture of 2kg.
Recipe for ‘Meat and Vegetable Raw Patty Mix.’
20-40% raw pulped/crushed vegetables and fruit (choose from)
60-80% minced raw meat (choose from the following)
Supplements including offal (include all of the following)
200ml plain live yoghurt
3-4 tbs flaxseed oil
lambs liver (this should be approx 10% of all meat content)
1-2 cloves garlic
3-4 tbs kelp
Vitamins B and C
230g cottage cheese
2 tbs brewers yeast
All of the ingredients should be of a high human grade quality, preferably organic.
Other additions to the mix can include Vitamin A (for the immune system and the internal lining of mammary glands) and extra essential fatty acids such as salmon oil and borage seed oil.
During lactation, the mother will also require extra calcium in the form of synthetic calcium supplements. This is the only time whilst feeding a raw meaty bone diet that she will require calcium in excess of what the bones can give her.
Cod Liver Oil should also be added. A 25kg dog should be given 3-4ml daily.
B and C vitamins can be given without danger of excess, as they will easily pass through the liver and kidneys to be excreted in the urine. Vitamin C can be given up to bowel tolerance. B vitamins can be given on body weight ratio to the human dose.
The ingredients, once thoroughly mixed can be divided into small portions and frozen. When they are being thawed prior to feeding, vitamin E should be added. A 25kg dog should be given 400iu Vitamin E per day.
3. Fortified Milk
This recipe should be blended and served at room temperature. Vitamins B and C can be added if the dog or cat isn’t put off by this addition.
Fortified Milk recipe:
1-2tsp Flaxseed Oil
2 raw egg yolks
1 digestive enzyme supplement (eg: bromelain)
The aim is to return the mother back to her original body weight. If there are times of loss of appetite, Zinc and B vitamins can be added to the diet to assist. An herbal supplement ‘Fenugreek’ can be added to the diet to stimulate lactation.
During the second week of lactation the busy mother can be consuming double the amount of food.
In the third week of lactation this may increase to three times the normal amount of food intake.
At week 7-8 of lactation the puppies can be weaned from the mother. The amount of milk being produced can be reduced by: lowering raw meaty bones, stopping the fortified milk and increasing the ratio of vegetables to meat in the mixed patties. At this time, the mother can be given long, large meaty bones to keep her busy and active.
If for any reason the mother is not feeding her puppies, replacement milk can be made at home for them:
Replacement milk for orphan puppy
250ml full cream milk
20ml natural yoghurt
2 egg yolks
10ml flaxseed or hemp oil
10drops Vitamin B
250mg Vitamin C (non acidic e.g.: Ester C)
At about 3 weeks of age the puppies become interested in the food their mother is eating. At this time they can be introduced to a raw, nutritious diet that will lay down the foundations for health, longevity, growth and energy.
The puppy diet 3-5 weeks old
This is the time when the puppy will be interested in his mother’s food. Therefore, this is a good time to introduce the raw meaty bone diet in the form of finely minced patties made of bone and lean meat. (Lonsdale 2001) The meat and vegetable patties can slowly be introduced prior to starting on raw meaty bones.
A highly nutritious puppy porridge recipe from author of ‘Grow Your Pups With Bones,’ can also form part of the diet at this stage:
100g soaked oatmeal porridge (in water)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp brewers yeast powder
2-3 tbs pulped vegetables and or fruit
1 tbs shredded coconut
1/8 tsp kelp powder
2 egg yolks (Billinghurst 1998)
Once the puppies begin to cut their permanent teeth, small soft bones can be introduced such as chicken or rabbit carcasses and chicken necks. (Lonsdale 2001)
The puppy diet from 4-6 weeks to 6 months old
Based on the BARF diet for pups by Dr Billinghurst, the diet should consist of raw meaty bones, raw vegetable and lean mince patties.
The raw meaty bones can be fed on their own:
These bones are soft and small, therefore suitable for puppies.
The recipe for the:
Raw Vegetable and Mince Meat Patties
1kg raw crushed vegetables* and fruit*
1kg finely minced lean meat (chicken, beef, lamb, kangaroo)
200g plain, low fat yoghurt
3 raw free-range eggs (yolk and egg white)
2 to 3 tbs flaxseed oil
200g lambs liver
1 to 2 cloves of garlic (only if your pet likes the taste!)
2 to 3 tbs kelp powder
2g Vitamin C
2g B Vitamins (Brewers Yeast)
2.5g Calcium carbonate powder
The mixture can be separated into small 100g packages and frozen for convenience.
Vitamin E should be added to the patty just prior to feeding time.
The amount of Vitamin E is: 5kg body weight = 100iu Vitamin E/daily
Cod Liver Oil should also be added upon feeding.
The amount of Cod Liver Oil is: 5kg body weight = 1-2ml/daily
The calcium added is to balance the high phosphorus levels in the meat and offal. The general rule is for every 150 grams of meat, 300mg of calcium carbonate should be added. Fortunately when feeding raw bones there is no need for synthetically added calcium.
*Vegetables that can be used for the patties are: silver beet, spinach, celery, and root vegetables such as carrots and sugar beets.
*Fruits that can be added include: tomatoes, apple, orange, mangoes, and bananas
The ratio of vegetables to lean mince in the patties should, over time, be changed to include more vegetables and less meat. This prevents the puppy from receiving too much protein and an excessive growth rate, both of which can cause skeletal problems, especially in the larger breed dogs.
To increase variety to the puppy’s diet, healthy food scraps and an occasional porridge meal can be added as well. Healthy scraps for example are left over rice, scrambled egg, cottage cheese, fruit salad and plain yoghurt.
Large bones should also be given to the puppy so that he can chew the cartilage from the ends and obtain lots of exercise and teeth cleaning in the process. This activity also assists teeth that are cutting through. (Billinghurst 1998)
Nutrients found in the raw meaty bone diet for puppies:
Raw Meaty Bones provide most of the protein, fat, minerals and vitamins a puppy needs to be healthy. They are however short in B vitamins.
Fat found in the chicken bones provides a balance of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. In particular, chicken wings contain lots of iron in the marrow.
Chicken produce is always from a young bird, therefore there are no toxins, and the bones are soft and a great size for puppies cutting their teeth.
As raw meaty bones are naturally balanced in calcium and phosphorus, calcium supplements are not required. If added to a raw meaty bone diet, they could do more harm than good as excessive calcium can lead to skeletal problems.
Information on the supplements, which form part of the puppy’s diet
B Vitamins are essential to maintain a healthy puppy. In particular vitamin B6 assists in the absorption of minerals. A lack of B6 can cause a lack of appetite, anaemia and nausea. As all the B vitamins are water soluble, excess of them is not a problem and will be easily excreted out of the body by the kidneys.
Vitamin C is the, “safest and least toxic vitamin…” (Billinghurst 1993) Vitamin C can be given up to bowel tolerance on a daily basis. A starting amount is 50mg Vitamin C per kilo of body weight. Every cat and dog is different. If the Vitamin C causes diarrhea then you’ve given too much. Vitamin C assists the immune system, reduces inflammation, it is an antioxidant destroying dangerous free radicals, assists in the formation of red blood cells, assists in the uptake of iron from the digestive tract and is strongly recommended for pregnant mothers and during lactation. (Billinghurst 1998)
Vitamins A and D are supplied in the cod liver oil supplement. Cod Liver oil should be given, at least 1 teaspoon (5ml) per week. Vitamin A is essential for growth and development of bones and teeth. It is important for the immune system, to maintain hormone levels, for healthy eyes and skin, eyes, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, the urinary tract and the activity of the adrenal glands.
Vitamin D is important to prevent an unhealthy skeletal system. Rancid fats can destroy Vitamin D, therefore EFA’s such as flaxseed oil should not be given if its old, not in a dark bottle and if its not been kept refrigerated. By adding Vitamin E to the diet, it can protect such oils and prevent them from going rancid. Rancid fats in the body promote degeneration.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects the fats in the cell membranes. It is vital to the immune system and is involved in the formation of DNA. In particular when feeding cod liver oil or flaxseed oil, Vitamin E should be added to prevent destruction by any free radicals if the oil is possibly rancid. Vitamin E can be given daily, the average amount for a puppy being 200iu.
Brewers Yeast, being a popular and important addition to the diet is made from the dead bodies of yeast organisms is packed full of B vitamins, it is rich in phosphorus and contains a chromium compound known as GTF (glucose tolerance factor) which controls blood sugar levels. It also contains the antioxidant selenium, which is known to slow down the ageing process, assist the immune system (by increasing antibody production) and assist in the treatment of arthritis. (Billinghurst 1993) As meat and bones are in short supply of B vitamins, Brewers Yeast is a good addition to the puppy diet.
Kelp is the most abundant, iodine rich sea vegetable. The iodine in Kelp helps to restore thyroid function, which improves and increases metabolism. It is also abundant in other essential minerals.
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, Omega 3, vitamins and given with the shell, they provide calcium too. I usually save all of my eggshells, dry them out in a warm oven and then grind them into a powder using a coffee bean grinder. I can add this to my cat or dog’s diet if no bones are available.
1 egg shell = 1000mg calcium
A 6kg puppy not being given bones with the meat, requires approximately 500mg of calcium a day, which is a quarter of a large eggshell. (Allegretti et al 2003)
Garlic assists the immune system and is known to rid the body of internal and external parasites.
Plain yogurt with live culture is excellent food for cats and dogs, kittens and puppies. It’s high in protein, calcium, Vitamins B and A, enzymes, maintains a healthy gut and it is an excellent source of fat and calcium.
Liver is high in protein, rich in vitamin A, rich in minerals (Zinc, Selenium, Iron, Manganese), contains vitamin C, is high in B vitamins and contains vitamin E and D. However, as liver is very rich in nutrients (like other offal), it should only be fed in small amounts. It should only form 5-10% of the puppy’s diet.
Crushed or pulped vegetables and fruit provide vitamins, minerals and fibre.
A list of what not to give or do with a growing puppy or kitten
-Commercial pet food*
-Nylon bones (they can cause bowel blockage)
-It’s essential to not overfeed
-Do not use your puppy or kitten as a dustbin, unhealthy scraps belong in the trash.
In reference to commercial pet food, author of ‘Give a Dog a Bone,’ describes it as, “just a belly full of lifeless food. Food that sits in a lump in a swollen, flabby belly of a thinly muscled pup that will never grow to its full potential.” (Billinghurst 1993) I believe this quote sums up beautifully why commercial, heavily processed pet food is not the way to a healthy, happy growing puppy or kitten.
As the puppy grows and develops, it remains important to not overfeed him. With a raw, highly nutritious diet and access to the outdoors, a ‘wild dog’ lifestyle can be imitated to maintain a happy healthy dog. This means that he may occasionally eat soil, faeces from another animal, the bark from a tree and of course a tasty insect that he proudly caught himself. This behaviour not only adds variety to the diet but it gives the puppy lots of exercise, which can sometimes be far more beneficial than long, tedious walks on a lead. Whilst walking with the lead is important to learn, especially in social settings and of course in places where there are busy roads and lots of people, playtime should not be underestimated. (Billinghurst 1993)
Allegretti, J. & Sommers, K D.V.M. 2003, ‘The Complete Holistic Dog Book, Home Health Care for our Canine Companions.’ Celestial Arts, USA
Billinghurst, I 1998, ‘Grow your pups with bones,’ Warrigal Publishing, Australia.
Billinghurst, I 1993, ‘Give your dog a bone,’ Warrigal Publishing, Australia.
Raw Meaty Bones website. http://www.rawmeatybones.com/papers.php
Lonsdale, T. 2001. Article entitled, ‘Diet Guide for Domestic Dogs and Cats.’ http://www.rawmeatybones.com/diet/ExpDiet.html