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Dog Pregnancy & Lactation

The inadequacies of a diet may not be severe enough to stop a female from reproducing; however, it could prevent optimal genetic performance or result in increased nutrient mobilization from body stores to meet the nutritional requirements of offspring.

Deficiencies in maternal nutrition in other species have been associated with adult disorders in progeny, therefore, it is essential that we understand the importance of optimizing nutrition in the reproducing canine. These essential nutrients include all of the essential amino acids (building blocks for proteins), the essential fatty acids (functional components of cellular membranes and the endocrine system), as well as various vitamins and minerals and other antioxidants.

The production of offspring is essential for the continuation of the species; however, nature regards the reproductive system as “non-essential”. This may appear to be somewhat of a contradictive statement but it actually makes sense because in a time of food shortages pups would be born, at best, frail and without a supply of nourishment that a healthy dam would be able to produce. The likelihood is that they would not survive to maturity; in nature’s view a waste of energy. Consequently, in times of shortage, nutrients are directed first to the essential organs, heart, brain, kidneys, etc., so the animal will survive long enough for more plentiful food sources.

Nature’s way is unlikely to occur with domestic companions but it emphasizes the need for optimal nutrition in breeding animals. The breeding female should be maintained at her optimal weight and condition. About two to three weeks prior to coming into heat, the quality of the food should be increased slightly. More concentrated food is important at the time she ovulates and conceives as her body responds to this enhanced nutrition with an increase in hormone production resulting in a maximum number of healthy eggs and number fertilized. This signals her body that times are good and it is an excellent time to reproduce. This is also why underweight females or malnourished females often fail to conceive, especially when all other indications prove her to be normal.

Pregnancy and motherhood place high demands on a dog. She provides all the energy that fuels her puppies’ growth, both in the womb and for the first weeks of life, and her diet throughout this time should be the best possible to successfully meet these demands.

The objectives of a proper feeding program for reproduction are to maintain optimum health and body condition of the breeding female throughout the various reproductive periods, reproductive performance and puppy health and development through the weaning period. Key indicators of optimal reproduction are ease of conception, a low rate of fetal and neonatal death, normal parturition, maximum litter size, adequate lactation and an optimal rate of growth of healthy puppies. Providing adequate nutrition throughout reproduction has long-range health implications for the offspring - immune function is impaired for life in animals born to nutritionally deficient queens.

The first step is to diagnose pregnancy. Gestation usually lasts an average of 63 days, although puppies may be born alive up to seven days either side of this. One of the earliest indicators of successful breeding and conception is a steady gain in body weight, assuming the diet or amount of food per day has not changed.

Poor nutrition may lead to fetal death, fetal malformations and underweight puppies. Dams that are underweight at parturition may experience poor lactation performance and inability to maintain body condition. On the other hand, obesity has an equally negative effect on pregnancy outcome. Stillbirths or dystocia (abnormal or difficult labor), and cesarean sections occur more frequently in obese dams than in dams at ideal body condition. Therefore, good nutritional management is essential.

One of the most important changes in nutrient requirements of pregnant and lactating dams is an increase in energy or caloric requirement. Although many essential nutrients are required at increased levels during pregnancy, dietary energy is often the most limiting “nutrient.” Food intake normally fluctuates slightly throughout gestation. There are two common times when food intake and weight decline. Reduced food intake occurs approximately two weeks after mating and is thought to occur in association with fetal implantation at about day 15 postconception. Food intake increases and then peaks between six to seven weeks of pregnancy. The second decline in food intake occurs during the last week of pregnancy prior to the birth of puppies.

Lactation is the most energy-demanding stage of a dog’s life. Peak milk production typically occurs at three to four weeks of lactation and peak energy demand should occur concurrently. Puppies begin eating the dam’s food in increasing amounts from three weeks of age until weaning. Since dams that lose weight are prone to lactation failure, a marked increase in total intake is required to meet energy demands.

Special Nutrient Considerations for Pregnancy and Lactation
The use of dietary supplements is often highly debated. Everyone knows someone who claims that some “special additive” will help solve a given reproductive problem. It is very important to understand that dietary supplements are needed only when the diet fails to supply optimal levels of a nutrient. If a breeder is feeding a diet that requires elaborate supplementation, it is advisable to seek high-quality foods that meet the nutritional needs of the pregnant or lactating female. Supplementation thereafter should serve only to enhance the diet, rather than replace foods that are not supplying adequate nourishment.

The dogs’ natural diet contains maximum levels of high biological protein. Therefore, if a female is consuming the Mother Nature’s menu, protein requirements should not need to be increased during pregnancy. Protein quality and quantity are important to provide all the essential amino acids for growth and development of the fetuses and maintenance of the female. Meat and organs supply high quality biological and digestible protein.

Fats and Essential Fatty Acids
Fat is beneficial because of the increased energy demand during pregnancy. Fat delivers over twice the number of calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrate and facilitates absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Studies comparing the fat content of reproductive diets concluded that higher fat levels increased the number of offspring per litter, decreased puppy mortality, and improved reproductive efficiency. Moderate to high-fat foods enhance lactation performance in dams.

The dog’s body can synthesize some of the fats it needs from the foods it eats. However, two essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body and must be consumed in the diet. Their names are linolenic and linoleic acid and these basic fats are used to build specialized fats called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for the normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Deficiencies are responsible for a host of symptoms and disorders including reproductive disorders, abnormalities in the liver and kidney, changes in the blood, reduced growth rates, decreased immune function, and skin changes. Essential fatty acids are a vital part of every cell membrane in every cell in the dog’s body. Essential fatty acids must be present in the pregnant dog’s diet to ensure that hormones and egg cells are normal and healthy.

Linoleic acid (omega-6) is essential in diets for dogs and is abundant in animal tissues, therefore supplementation should not be required if the diet is adequate. Linolenic acid Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is not considered “essential” for dogs as of yet, but will likely be regarded as a requirement in the near future.

Recently it has been discovered that the omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the complete development of the fetal brain during pregnancy and the first two years of life. The Omega-3 fat and its derivative, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is so essential to development that if a dam and offspring are deficient in it, the offspring's nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders. DHA is also important for normal retinal and brain development. DHA status correlates positively with neonatal birth weight, birth length, and head circumference.

The DHA fatty acid status of the developing fetuses depends on that of their dam. Pregnancy is associated with a decrease of biochemical fatty acid status and normalization after delivery is slow. Because of the decrease in fatty acid status during pregnancy, the neonatal fatty acid status may not be optimal. However, this status can be optimized by maternal fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy. A dietary source of EPA in combination with DHA should be included in the diet of pregnant and lactating dams. Raw fatty fish, brain, eyes, eggs, liver and supplemental cold water fish oil are sources of essential fatty acids.

A true carbohydrate requirement for dogs has not been demonstrated. Many pet owners and pet food manufacturers insist on adding species-inappropriate vegetables or grains to a dog's diet claiming that they would eat them along with the stomach and intestines of their prey. Dogs in the wild reflect their preference for animal tissues. The wild dogs’ diet consists mostly of muscle meat and fatty tissue from various animals. Heart, lung, liver and other internal organs are eaten. Bones are crushed to get at the marrow, and bone fragments are eaten as well. Even hair and skin are sometimes consumed. However, when ingesting prey, plant materials contained in the entrails are avoided. For instance, wolves have been observed to ignore the stomach and its contents, and although some vegetable matter is taken separately, it not well digested.

A true carbohydrate requirement for dogs has not been demonstrated. Many pet owners and pet food manufacturers insist on adding species-inappropriate vegetables or grains to a dog's diet claiming that they would eat them along with the stomach and intestines of their prey. Dogs in the wild reflect their preference for animal tissues. The wild dogs’ diet consists mostly of muscle meat and fatty tissue from various animals. Heart, lung, liver and other internal organs are eaten. Bones are crushed to get at the marrow, and bone fragments are eaten as well. Even hair and skin are sometimes consumed. However, when ingesting prey, plant materials contained in the entrails are avoided. For instance, wolves have been observed to ignore the stomach and its contents, and although some vegetable matter is taken separately, it not well digested.

Dogs consuming a natural prey diet lack salivary amylase, the enzyme responsible for initiating carbohydrate digestion. All animals have a metabolic requirement for glucose. This requirement can be supplied either through endogenous synthesis (endogenous synthesis refers to the synthesis of a compound by the body) of glucose or from carbohydrate food sources. Metabolic pathways in the liver and kidney use other nutrients to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This glucose is then released into the bloodstream to be carried to the body’s tissues. The dog can maintain normal blood glucose levels and health even when fed a carbohydrate-free diet.

The need for a dietary source of carbohydrate during pregnancy and lactation is often debated. During pregnancy, the dam’s needs increase because glucose is a major energy source for fetal development. Similarly, during lactation, additional glucose is needed for the synthesis of lactose, the sugar (disaccharide) that is present in milk. While some studies have shown that carbohydrate-free diets fed to dogs during reproduction have adverse effects, these effects do not occur if the protein and fat levels in the diet are sufficiently high. This indicates that carbohydrate is an indispensable component in the diet, even during the metabolically demanding stages of pregnancy and lactation.

Vitamins and Minerals
The primary vitamins are vitamin A, D, E, K, C, and B complex, all of which must be accounted for prior to, during pregnancy and throughout lactation. Of these, A, D, E, and K are the fat soluble vitamins. Vitamins C and B complex are water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins are commonly stored in special fat storage cells called lipocytes, whereas, the water-soluble vitamins are not stored within the body except in small amounts. Minerals are grouped into macro and micro categories. Macro-minerals are needed in greater amounts in the diet and are found in larger amounts in the body than micro-minerals. Macro-minerals include calcium and phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride. Micro-minerals include copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A and pregnancy is a controversial topic. The main source of vitamin A is called carotene and is found in the yellow pigment of plants. Under optimal conditions, dogs can indeed convert carotenes to vitamin A. This occurs in the upper intestinal tract by the action of bile salts and fat-splitting enzymes. Of the entire family of carotenes, beta-carotene is most easily converted to vitamin A. Early studies indicated an equivalency of 4:1 of beta-carotene to retinol. In other words, four units of beta-carotene were needed to produce one unit of vitamin A. This ratio was later revised to 6:1 and recent research suggests an even higher ratio. This means that a dog would have to eat an awful lot of vegetables and fruits to obtain even the daily minimal requirements of vitamin A, assuming optimal conversion. Better sources would include whole fish, liver and animal fats.

Vitamin A is essential for normal cellular differentiation and in regulating organ development in the fetus. Long-term studies have shown that adequate amounts of vitamin A (retinol) are necessary to prevent deformities and provide for normal puppy development during lactation. This vital nutrient is needed for the growth and repair of body tissues; it helps protect mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs; it prompts the secretion of gastric juices necessary for proper digestion of protein; it helps to build strong bones and teeth and rich blood; it is essential for good eyesight; it aids in the production of RNA; and contributes to the health of the immune system. Vitamin A deficiency in pregnancy results in offspring with eye defects, displaced kidneys, harelip, cleft palate and abnormalities of the heart and larger blood vessels.

Concerns about vitamin An overdose during pregnancy are overly exaggerated. Synthetic forms of vitamin A can indeed be toxic but natural vitamin A found in foods like cod liver oil and liver do not cause problems except in excessive amounts and side effects from large doses of natural vitamin A promptly resolve when the dosage is reduced.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin A. It is vital to fetal growth, bone development, tooth enamel formation and neonatal calcium balance. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is important to convert vitamin D precursors into the active D form. This conversion takes place in the outer skin layers. Dogs may have limitations to meet the metabolic need for vitamin D photosynthesis; therefore, should consume a dietary source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is acquired from animal organs such as liver, and egg yolk, fish or fish oils.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps to reduce the risk of oxidative stress, which may disturb fetal development. Vitamin E plays a vital role in the health of the immune system along with other antioxidants such as vitamin A, and the minerals zinc and selenium. Vitamin E helps prevent the destruction by free radicals, of vitamin A in the dog’s body. This group of nutrients must be present to ensure the healthy growth of all bodily systems in growing fetuses including the immune and skeletal system. Vitamin E is also involved in the formation of the genetic material - DNA – passed on by both the sperm and the egg. Animal studies have implicated a lack of vitamin E in early termination of pregnancy by resorption or abortion.

B Complex Vitamins
The B-complex vitamins are actually a group of eight vitamins, which include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), cyanocobalamin (B12), pantothenic acid and biotin. These vitamins are essential for: the breakdown of fats and proteins (which aids the normal functioning of the nervous system), muscle tone in the stomach and intestinal tract, skin, hair, eyes, mouth and liver function. The B vitamins are most effective for health when consumed as a complex, rather than individually. Specifically, folate, B6, and B12 have im0ptant roles during pregnancy.

During the early stages of pregnancy, folic acid (folate), together with cobalamin (B12) and Pyridoxine (B6) are important nutrients that maintain normal healthy development of the neural tube and nervous system; for growth of the fetuses and is vital for cell division from a single cell to a fully developed puppy. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are closely related. They are necessary for the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, and a deficiency of either can lead to advanced anemia. In this type of anemia, the red cells are fewer in number but are larger than normal (macrocytic). The quantity of white blood cells may also be reduced. Vitamin B6 also helps cells to form and is used by the body in the utilization of amino acids. Folate, B6, and B12 are sensitive to heat, oxygen and ultraviolet light. Major dietary sources of these B vitamins include raw organ meats, especially liver, and to a lesser extent, muscle meat.

Vitamin C
Dogs do not have an essential requirement for a dietary source of vitamin C. Under normal conditions, they synthesize vitamin C in their liver which produces the active enzyme L-gluconolactone oxidase, the last of the chain of four enzymes which synthesize ascorbic acid. There is no purpose in supplementing the dog’s diet unless there is a high metabolic need or inadequate synthesis. It is important to note that dietary vitamin C in natural products has a distinct advantage over supplemental synthetic vitamin C, e.g. in supplemental form since food sources also provide a number of other important micronutrients, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, and pectin. Vitamin C, in the form of ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid, is widely available in foods of both plant and animal origin. Fruits, vegetables, and organ meats, e.g. liver, kidney, thymus, spleen and lungs, are generally the best sources.


Adequate consumption of zinc and conditions for its optimum absorption are required in early pregnancy. The “intelligence” mineral, zinc is required for mental development, for healthy reproductive organs, for protein synthesis and collagen formation. Zinc is involved in the blood-sugar control mechanism and is needed to maintain proper levels of vitamin E in the blood. Zinc deficiency during pregnancy can cause birth defects. It helps organize cells into healthy tissues and organs so the developing fetuses have what is needed when vital organs are being developed. Food sources include various organs and meat.

As its primary function, iron combines with copper and protein to form hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Iron also is necessary for certain enzymes in the body to function normally. Puppies can be born with lower than normal stores of iron if the dam did not receive adequate iron during pregnancy. Feeding supplemental iron to the dam while nursing can not make up for this lack of reserves since this treatment does not increase the iron content of the milk. Puppies with this condition often develop iron deficiency anemia during the nursing period. Iron values in the blood often decrease in the dam near the end of pregnancy. Iron is found in organs, meat and fish.

Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus are required at levels greater than maintenance to support fetal skeletal development and lactation. During the later stages of pregnancy, iron and calcium requirements significantly increase as the fetuses begin to draw more from the dam to meet their own demands. One of the biggest mistakes made by breeders is to supplement with calcium in the hopes of preventing eclampsia.

Eclampsia is a condition of severe muscular spasms and high temperature that can occur in dams in the period from before birth through to weaning of the pups. It most commonly appears in the two to three weeks following whelping when the dam is at peak lactation. As the dam pours calcium into the milk, she must replace it. That replacement comes from the dam’s food and her bones and it is the bones that the body depends on most. If there are insufficient calcium stores in the bones or if hormones are not available to get calcium from the bones into the blood, the calcium levels will drop resulting in eclampsia.

Although normally unnecessary if feeding a proper diet, the time to add extra calcium to the diet, is after the birth of the puppies, not before. Excessive prenatal calcium may down-regulate parathyroid gland (hormone) secretion and impair normal mobilization of calcium from skeletal stores. As demand for calcium increases during late pregnancy and lactation, calcium homeostasis is no longer able to maintain critical levels. A diet containing sufficient digestible bone supplies calcium to phosphorus in a ratio of 2:1, more than adequate amounts for normal lactation demands.

Magnesium requirements increase during pregnancy due to the synthesis of new tissue - both fetal and maternal. Magnesium may also be important for normal vascular circulation during pregnancy. A severe deficiency during pregnancy may lead to birth defects puppy mortality. Magnesium and calcium work in combination: Magnesium relaxes muscles, while calcium stimulates muscles to contract. Research suggests that proper levels of magnesium during pregnancy can help keep the uterus from prematurely contracting, which results in the onset of labor. Magnesium also helps build strong bones and teeth, regulates insulin and blood-sugar levels, and helps certain enzymes function properly. Food sources of magnesium are found in bones, liver, heart and kidneys.

Selenium is essential for all dogs but especially vital for proper fetal growth and development. The requirement for selenium appears to increase during pregnancy, particularly during the later stages. A lack of selenium, together with vitamin E has been implicated in fading puppy syndrome. Selenium deficiency may result in infertility, miscarriages, and retention of the placenta. Since selenium is a trace mineral, it is only required in small amounts. Selenium is supplied by meat and organs.

The need for adequate fluid intake deserves some discussion. During reproduction, water serves as a carrier of nutrients and wastes eliminated from the developing fetuses. Other important functions of water intake during pregnancy and lactation are the regulation of body temperature and as an aid in milk production. Fresh water in a clean bowl should be available at all times. Keeping water bowls clean and changing water frequently tend to encourage water consumption. Animal tissue is high in moisture content (75 %+), which contributes to fluid requirements.

Feeding for Pregnancy
With a few exceptions, the diet for the pregnant dog is not much different than the diet of the adult dog, providing it is optimal. The dog’s natural whole prey diet supplies fat and protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. It provides all the required nutrients for the female to meet energy needs and maintain most favorable health throughout pregnancy and lactation.

At the time of mating, the breeding female should be at her ideal weight. During the first half of the pregnancy she does not require additional food; presuming the diet is optimal. Fetal puppies do not grow much during this time and it is important the queen does not become overweight. Since overweight dams have difficulty giving birth, they should be encouraged to take exercise but not to the extent that she becomes overtired or jumps and twists too vigorously.

During the last half of the pregnancy, the puppies do most of their growing. If the queen has not done so already, now is the time that she may demand more food. Meal size should be gradually reduced and numerous meals fed throughout the day rather than several larger meals. In general, highly digestible, nutritionally-dense foods are better suited at this time not only because nutrient needs increase as pregnancy progresses but increased abdominal fullness may impair the dam’s ability to ingest adequate amounts of nutrients.

By the ninth week, the fetal puppies do not grow much more in weight but they undergo final development. During the last week of pregnancy, as the dam comes closer to the delivery date, the total amount of food fed should be gradually reduced, so that a couple of days before she is due to give birth, she is receiving about half of the amount she was fed during the eighth week. At the same time, supplements should be gradually eliminated. Females in the wild, towards the end of pregnancy, eat more of the organs of their prey rather than meat and bone material. In other words, they eat concentrated foods, rich in essential fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins. In the last days before giving birth, the queen may begin to go off her food and draw on many of the nutrients stored in her body. These reserves include among other things the calcium stores in her bones. She may remain off her food for several day days after the puppies are born, which is why it is so important that she has been properly fed to this point.

Feeding for Lactation
A lactating dam, at peak condition, with a large litter of puppies, can be fed as much as she wants. It is imperative that top quality food is available to her. The only time food should be limited, is if the litter is very small – one or perhaps two puppies. The diet that meets the demands of lactation should include an adequate intake of fluids to make milk. Fresh water, but not milk, should be available at all times. The lactation diet must contain high levels of quality protein and a calcium-rich, balanced source of minerals such as bones. It must also provide a source of concentrated energy from fats and essential fatty acids along with adequate vitamins and minerals from meat and organs. The feeding principle throughout lactation is simply based on quality and quantity. If these requirements are met, then the puppies will thrive and the queen will maintain condition.

Feeding the Urban Carnivore

Whole Animal Carcass Patties
An assortment of whole animal carcass patties should ideally be rotated ensuring both white and red meat patties are offered. The carcass patties are the foundation of the pregnant and lactating dam’s diet. The Urban Carnivore offers a wide range of whole animal carcass patties including chicken, beef, lamb, bison, elk, duck, goat and quail. Whole animal patties contain meat, organ systems, bones, cartilage, etc., as naturally found in a prey animal carcass. Dams that require more energy (calories), especially during lactation with larger litters, should be maintained on mostly duck, chicken, and lamb, as these diets are higher in fat. Any of the Urban Carnivore red meat patties should also be included for variation.

Offal (Organ Meat)
The Urban Carnivore Offal can be mixed in with the whole animal patties or fed as a small separate “snack” each day. The Urban Carnivore offal consists of a variety of organs such as liver, heart, kidneys, lung, spleen, tongue and pancreas. These organs offer a nutrient-dense source of nourishment for the dam and growing fetuses. Additional offal in the dam’s diet follows canine natural feeding behavior where they often show a preference for entrails over other parts of the carcass, especially during the last week of pregnancy. Therefore, it can be increased in the diet in an amount where stools remain formed. If stools become loose with increased amounts, the offal should be decreased to a level where normal stools are observed. Throughout lactation, offal can also be included in the diet, three or four times a week. Approximate amounts range from 1 tsp for tiny breeds to ¼ cup for giant breeds.

Raw Meaty Bones
Along with whole animal carcass patties, the dam can continue to eat suitably sized whole raw meaty bones such as chicken or duck necks for nutritional purposes and also to maintain teeth and gums. However, the addition of whole raw meaty bones should be temporarily discontinued during the last two weeks of pregnancy. Towards the end of pregnancy, it is important to feed less calcium rich foods so that the dam’s parathyroids get the signal that they need to start working. The parathyroid hormone is responsible for taking calcium out of the bones to keep the blood calcium levels normal. This means feeding less bone and more meat and offal. Once the dam is lactating she needs increased calcium. There is very little calcium deposited in the puppies bones before they are born compared to what they need and receive through the milk after they are born. Whole chicken or duck necks or ground Chicken Meaty Bone patties supply extra calcium during lactation.

The Urban Carnivore Earthorigins or Earthgreens vitamin/mineral supplements offer a natural food source of additional nutrients that would be consumed in nature’s environment. Supplementation should serve only to enhance the diet, rather than replace foods that are not supplying adequate nourishment.

Earthorigins or Earthgreens can be mixed in with the whole animal patty meal once a day. Cold Water Fish Oil can also be added in the diet daily or throughout the week to supply the essential fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Supplements may be eliminated from the diet the last week of pregnancy prior to delivery of puppies. If the dam requires a high-fat diet throughout lactation, then additional supplementation with vitamin E is beneficial. As well as the Urban Carnivore Vegetables ‘n’ Fruit and/or Green Tripe patties can be included in the diet and are especially beneficial if the dam shows any signs of constipation. Several meals of fatty fish can also be rotated in the weekly diet for variation.

Raw egg yolk can also be added to the whole animal carcass patties three or four times a week. Eggs are considered the “prefect protein” containing all the essential amino acids, as well as many “essential” vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, B12, calcium, phosphorus, iron, iodine, selenium, and zinc. There are, however, other nutrients called phytochemicals which have been found in eggs, the carotenoids; lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs are also rich in choline, an essential component of all cells.

It has become increasingly clear from recent research that a number of problems experienced during pregnancy and even throughout a puppy’s life can be prevented. If breeders do the best they can to provide their breeding female with a healthy diet and lifestyle, and to remove environmental dangers, they will give the puppies they breed the best possible chance of being healthy both at birth and long into their future.

Feeding the breeding dam does not have to be complicated. While nutrition and reproduction may require years to understand, the actual practice of providing nutrition can be summarized quite simply: feed the appropriate amount of a diet that meets the animal’s needs.