Nutrition for Pregnant Bitches – Tips from Jitka Duffková

Pregnancy is a difficult time for a bitch in all aspects. The body nourishes more organisms and it needs to be reflected in her energy and nutrient intake. A breeder, racer and sport cynology contestant, Jitka Duffková, gives advice on how to make sure the future mother gets everything necessary for her and her developing puppies.

She has been breeding German Shepherds for 27 years. Therefore, she has a lot of experience with pregnant bitches, their labours and taking care of them afterwards. She knows their needs and what can make this difficult time as smooth as possible. The dogs are healthy and happy then. 

Jitka, how many litters have you reared?
I got my first German Shepherd bitch in 1991. At that time, I already knew I will mostly focus on sport cynology and breeding will be secondary for me. The first litter in my breeding station of German Shepherds – Duffmar – was in 1993 and I have reared 15 litters since then. I’m not a large breeder, my bitches have always been contestants. I had puppies only in seasons without competitions and I had to prepare them well both physically and mentally for further sports performance. 

What nutrients are becoming the most important during pregnancy and bitches need more of them?
High-quality dry dog food designed for pregnant bitches and puppies that already contains increased amounts of necessary nutrients and the bitch will get enough of them from the food. I, myself, have been using Carnilove dog food for my current and only breeding bitch for four years and I have reared two litters during that time. For the first six weeks, I give the bitch the same food she gets normally – Carnilove Lamb & Wild Boar. In the last stage of pregnancy, i.e. Approximately 14 weeks before the labour, I gradually switch to Carnilove – Salmon & Turkey for puppies and I use it until the birth of the puppies and during the lactation period.

Is there any special dog food for pregnant bitches on the market? 
Yes, some manufacturers produce special food for pregnant bitches.
Yes, the above-mentioned Carnilove – Salmon & Turkey for puppies is a great example :).

Is it okay to supplement some vitamins or minerals to pregnant bitches? Some say it’s good to supplement calcium and vitamin D in the advanced stage of pregnancy and during the lactation period. 
If you give your bitch high-quality food and pregnancy is normal, it is not necessary to give the bitch anything else in my opinion.

The bitch’s energy requirements increase which needs to be reflected in the amount of her intake. I guess food quality plays role here and it should be concentrated and easily digestible, so we don’t have to drastically increase its amount, right?
With high-quality food, it’s not necessary to increase its amount until the last stage of pregnancy. Then, I increase the food ration by approximately one third and add meat cans and divide the total amount into more portions. 

Does the amount of daily food rations change as well? Or should the bitch have restricted access to food?
Every bitch is different in this aspect and their appetites vary. Some bitches will always be looking for food, some don’t want to eat much at the end of their pregnancies. However, I definitely don’t recommend unrestricted access to food. From halfway through, I divide the food ration into two portions and in the last stage when I increase it by approximately one third, I divide into even into three portions. 

Do you give some special products to bitches that help with the labour and subsequent recovery?
I use Canvit Amino sol. during the labour and approximately one week after. Its a liquid source of energy, amino acids, vitamins and salt for fast recovery and regeneration in times of increased physical activity.

And what about the lactation period? Is it necessary to check drinking in addition to food?
Definitely, a bitch needs unlimited access to drinking water and it needs to be refilled several times a day. 

What could happen if a bitch doesn’t get enough energy and nutrients during pregnancy and the lactation period? Would it influence only her or also puppies?
In the beginning, the bitch would give all the nutrients she has for herself to the milk for puppies.  Then, she would rapidly lose weight as a consequence and suffer from the lack of nutrients that would cause bad quality and the lack of milk for puppies. 

Does the quality of food for a bitch influence the well-being of breastfed puppies?
Definitely. If the bitch gets quality food with all the necessary nutrients, puppies are well-fed, happy and don’t have digestive problems.

At the end, could you please share what you think is the most important for the bitch during all of this besides the food?
The bitch’s mental well-being is important and enough natural and adequate exercise during pregnancy as well as after labour and during the lactation period.

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