What Is the Best Dog Food for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs According To the Experts?
Owning a pregnant or nursing dog is super exciting! You get to watch new life come into the world, and see your pup show her natural instincts as a mother dog. Dogs usually have around 9 weeks of pregnancy followed by 10 weeks of nursing—that’s a total of around 6.5 months of carrying and feeding growing puppies.
As a dog owner, your job doesn’t change that much when your dog gets pregnant. You’ll still need to keep her on a basic routine, take her out to go potty, go on nice walks, spend time playing, and attend to your pregnant dog’s needs. One thing you can do a little differently to support a healthy pregnancy is to focus on what you feed your pregnant dog.
Pregnant and nursing dogs eat almost exactly the same as they do when they’re not pregnant or nursing, and their nutritional requirements only change very slightly. The best food for pregnant dogs isn’t some mysterious concoction of special nutrients: your pregnant pooch needs the same basics like fresh meat and protein, cartilage and organ meat, fat, and fiber.
Best Food for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs
The most basic rule for dog owners to remember when choosing the best dog food for nursing dogs and pregnant dogs is quality first. A high-quality diet made from fresh ingredients and without filler can make all the difference for the health of your pregnant dog and her puppies.
Ingredients like wheat, soy, rice, and animal byproduct meals are something we recommend avoiding. Instead, choose pet foods that list animal proteins, organ meats, and veggies as their first ingredients. Now without further ado, let’s answer the question: what is the best food for a nursing mother dog or pregnant pooch?
1. Most Convenient: Sundays Food for Dogs
Basic Info — Beef formula:
|First 5 Ingredients||USDA Beef, Beef Heart, Beef Liver, Beef Bone, and Quinoa|
|Guaranteed Analysis (crude)||35% Protein — 25% Fat — 3% Fiber — 15% Moisture|
|Calorie Content||550 kcal/cup|
Sundays Food for Dogs makes air-dried dog food from fresh meat, organs, healthy grains, vegetables, and simple holistic ingredients to create a complete diet. Unlike kibble, Sundays starts with meat and doesn’t contain filler ingredients. Kibble simply doesn’t have enough meat to be protein-rich enough for pregnant dogs, but Sundays has a whopping 35% crude protein!
Sundays is a convenient option since it’s not messy and can be stored at room temperature, but they don’t offer novel protein formulas, so this isn’t a good choice for dogs with food allergies. Other than that, this is our pick for the most convenient and best dog food for nursing mom dogs and pregnant dogs in the dry food category.
2. Best Human-Grade: The Farmer’s Dog
Basic Info — Beef formula
|First 5 Ingredients||USDA Beef, Sweet Potato, Lentils, Carrot, USDA Beef Liver|
|Guaranteed Analysis (dry matter)||41% Protein — 31% Fat — 3% Fiber|
|Calorie Content||722 kcal/pound|
Made from human-grade ingredients and cooked in human-grade facilities before being flash-frozen to seal in freshness, The Farmer’s Dog is the best dog food for nursing moms and pregnant dogs who prefer home-cooked meals. You don’t have to spend hours prepping homemade dog food for your pup to eat freshly cooked meals—The Farmer’s Dog cooks fresh for you and will ship the food right to your door.
If your dog likes wet food and you’ve been looking for the best canned dog food for nursing dogs, this is a good substitute! Like canned food, The Farmer’s Dog has a high moisture content and tastes a whole lot better than dry food.
3. Best Protein Variety: We Feed Raw
|First 5 Ingredients||Beef Heart, Beef Liver, Beef Kidney, Beef Necks, WFR Vitamin + Mineral Mix|
|Guaranteed Analysis (crude)||12.2% Protein — 10% Fat — 1% Fiber — 68% Moisture|
|Calorie Content||816 kcal/pound|
We Feed Raw makes high-quality raw dog food that contains only animal proteins and a proprietary blend of vitamins and minerals. Fat and protein have high digestibility for dogs, and formulas that contain mostly meat may be easier for your dog’s body to process and draw nutrients from.
Some veterinarians recommend feeding a variety of protein to your dog while they’re pregnant or nursing to help them get a range of nutrients. We Feed Raw has a handful of protein options, including novel proteins like venison—great for dogs with allergies!Save 25% off your first subscription trial box.
How To Feed Your Pregnant Dog (Or Lactating)
The same rules for feeding a non-pregnant dog apply to feeding a pregnant or nursing dog, with a few minor adjustments. Like adult dogs, growing puppies need the nutrients found in fresh meat, organs, bone, and vegetables. What mama eats, the puppies also “eat,” so it’s important that you choose the best dog food for pregnant dogs.
We’ve got a few general pieces of advice and information, but it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to get specific instructions for your dog. Remember, small breeds may have different needs than large breeds, and individual dogs can experience a variety of pregnancy symptoms that may be related to or affected by diet.
Proper Nutrition for Pregnant & Nursing Dogs
- Protein should be the bulk of any canine diet, and the best food for nursing dogs and pregnant dogs should include fresh meat as the first ingredient. Fresh meat protein is high in essential amino acids which help your dog’s body produce energy and support the growing puppy fetuses. Once your dog gives birth, the protein in their diet will give their bodies the energy to lactate and make milk. Your dog should be getting essentially the same ratio of protein they usually eat, though they may need more volume of food as their pregnancy progresses.
- Your pregnant or nursing dog will also need fat and essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Some proteins are higher in fat than others, but most commercial dog foods also have added fat to achieve the correct ratio. Fat is high in calories and delivers plenty of energy to your dog’s body. Essential fatty acids feed fetal brain growth and help the puppies to develop normally.
“EPA and DHA are among the few dietary nutrients actually found in the brain because the lipid-packed brain uses these fatty acids as a building block. DHA goes towards building the structure and function of the cell membranes in the brain, and that includes memory and learning,” said Dr. Chris Bessent.
In recent studies, puppies were either given low or high amounts of DHA in utero, before and after weaning, and then trained to associate certain symbols with the correct direction to take in a T-shaped maze. The puppies fed higher levels of DHA not only had more DHA in their membranes but scored much higher than the puppies raised on a low omega diet.”
- Organ meats (like liver and kidney) are high in these essential fatty acids and other key nutrients. Similarly, bone contains important vitamins and minerals like calcium and phosphorus, plus they’re high in essential fatty acids and protein. All these things are important when considering proper nutrition for your pregnant or nursing dog, and can also help support a balanced immune system.
- Finally, your dog can also benefit from a healthy dose of fresh vegetables and healthy grains to infuse their diet with other essential nutrients. Additives like eggs, mussels, pumpkin, and goat milk may also be recommended by your vet.
Caloric Needs of Pregnant & Nursing Dogs
Like pregnant humans, the caloric needs of pregnant dogs can increase as they enter the final weeks of their pregnancy. While it’s important not to increase the amount of food they eat too much, they are growing new life and will be using extra calories and nutrients. Here’s a suggested guide to changing your dog’s calorie intake during pregnancy and nursing.
|Pregnant Dog Caloric Intake Guide|
|Life Stage||10 lbs||30 lbs||50 lbs||70 lbs||90 lbs|
|Inactive Pregnant Dog (4 weeks or less)||296||674||989||1,272||1,540|
|Active Pregnant Dog (4 weeks or less)||404||922||1,353||1,740||2,100|
|Pregnant Dog (4 weeks → delivery)||518||1,274||1,940||2,570||3,170|
Once your dog has delivered her puppies, she will still need those extra calories to help her produce milk and keep her puppies fed. Dogs usually wean their pups fully around 10 weeks, but the first four weeks of lactation are the most important.
|Lactating Dog Caloric Intake Guide|
|# of Puppies||Weeks Since Delivery & Dog Weight|
|30 lbs — 50 lbs||30 lbs — 50 lbs||30 lbs — 50 lbs||30 lbs — 50 lbs|
|2||1,645 — 2,328||1,789 — 2,546||1,897 — 2,709||1,969 — 2,818|
|4||2,185 — 3,146||2,473 — 3,581||2,689 — 3,909||2,833 — 4,127|
|6||2,455 — 3,555||2,815 — 4,100||3,084 — 4,509||3,265 — 4,782|
|8||2,725 — 3,964||3,157 — 4,618||3,481 — 5,109||3,697 — 5,437|
Best Dog Food for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs FAQ
Is your dog pregnant? Get answers to your pressing questions about feeding your pregnant or nursing dog.
Can you make homemade dog food for pregnant and nursing dogs?
Yes! If your dog eats homemade dog food regularly, you should keep feeding her homemade dog food when she gets pregnant. We don’t recommend switching your dog’s diet food if she is already pregnant unless your veterinarian recommends it.
Where can I find recipes for the best homemade food for pregnant dogs?
Recipes for homemade dog food can be made nutritionally complete, but be sure to speak with your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist to ensure your dog is getting everything they need during and after pregnancy. Like commercial dog foods, the best homemade food for nursing dogs and pregnant pooches is made from high-quality ingredients.
What is the best human food for nursing dogs?
It’s not a good idea to feed pregnant or nursing dogs human food. Human food is high in salt and fats that aren’t beneficial to your dog. For the health of your dog and her puppies, stick to feeding her dog-approved foods.
Is Starter Mother & Babydog dry food from Royal Canin a good brand of dog food?
We don’t recommend this brand of dog food since it does not contain whole ingredients or whole animal protein. The first five ingredients of this Royal Canin formula for mother dogs are chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, chicken fat, corn, and wheat gluten—none of these are top-notch or fresh ingredients.
- Expertly Curated: The Definitive Guide to the Best Dog Food for Every Life Stage and Dietary Need
- Best Dog Foods for Dogs Who Need To Gain Weight
- Best Dog Food For Senior Dogs
- The Best Lamb Dog Food: Our Top Picks for Optimal Nutrition
- What is the Best Raw Dog Food Delivery Service? The Top 6 Rated & Compared