What To Feed A Nursing Dog To Gain Weight


Wondering how to quickly and safely put weight back on a nursing dog is just another worry, in a long line of worries, that you go through as a proud dog “parent.”

Hopefully this stressful process which started some nine weeks ago has had a happy ending.

You have a healthy bitch and a squirmy mass of cute little puppies that you will need to keep a watchful eye over.

If you have lost any puppies then it will hurt real bad and there is nothing that I can say that will make the loss any better.

The passing of time will help as will keeping busy- which is an understatement when it comes to raising puppies. 

And the focus of this article will be in helping you to look after your nursing dog by helping them put some weight back on…

Why do nursing dogs lose weight?

There is one main reason why a nursing dog loses weight.

And that is that all of their energy and their fat and calories are going into feeding puppies.

And the amount of weight that a nursing dog might lose depends mostly on how many puppies are in the litter but it can also depend on how demanding and greedy the litter are for food. 

However, a dog who has just given birth also seems to be much skinnier because their body is a completely different shape.

The puppies who were making her look fat have been “born” and so the space that they were taking up around her tummy have gone.

And her breasts have filled up with milk.

And so her shape, bless her, is a weird mix of looking skinny and just looking different. 

Feeding a pregnant dog to gain weight

Taking care of your nursing dog’s weight needs to be thought about a long time before they give birth.

In order to help your nursing dog gain weight, you need to feed her more calories whilst she is in the latter stages of pregnancy. 

Not doing anything until the puppies are born and then trying to increase her food consumption whilst she is nursing, will make it much harder for her to keep her puppies healthy, let alone put on some lost weight.

Although it is crucial for the health of the mother and her puppies that she is fed a high quality and nutrient rich food throughout the whole pregnancy, it is in the last third of the pregnancy (three to four weeks) that the puppies’ growth rate will really accelerate. 

Over this period, you should increase the amount of food that you are feeding them by up to 25%

How much should a nursing dog be fed?

As a rough guide, I would say that a nursing dog should be fed between two or three times the quantity of food that they would normally eat.

The best thing to do is to start by feeding her as much as she wants, when she wants and take it from there.

As long as your dog doesn’t become obsessed by eating and starts to ignore the puppies and as long as you aren’t seeing her vomiting from overeating, dogs will pretty much control how much they need to eat. 

What type of food should a nursing dog be fed?

Ideally your dog should be fed a high quality food specifically designed for puppies.

The market is awash with lots of brands of puppy foods.

But essentially the main difference between puppy food and adult dog food is that it is higher in protein.

Your average adult portion of kibble will be made up of 18% protein, whereas your puppy kibble should contain as much as 22% protein.

Puppy food needs to contain more protein because they are growing physically bigger almost everyday.

And protein aids this growth.

Adult dogs aren’t growing and so they need a much lower level of protein. 

And a nursing dog has similar nutrition needs to their puppies- they need far more nutrition than other dogs because of all the extra energy they are using to nurse the puppies.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t feed your nursing dog their normal food but it will mean that they will need to eat far more of it than if they were fed puppy food. 

Are there any foods that will help increase milk production?

With all of this talk of the importance of food on a nursing dog, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that water plays an incredibly important role in the health of your pregnant dog.

And it is at its most important when it comes to helping a nursing bitch produce a healthy amount of milk. 

A nursing dog that isn’t drinking enough water won’t produce enough milk. 

Water stops a dog from becoming dehydrated and nursing dogs, like puppies, are at far greater risk of dehydration than adult dogs because of all the energy that they are using up.

Once again, don’t limit the amount of water that you offer your nursing dog, the more she drinks (within reason) the healthier she will be.

I would just make sure that there is a plentiful supply of fresh, clean water.

Be meticulous with that drinking bowl and clean it out with dish soap regularly.  

If your dog is becoming a bit picky and turning her nose up at a bowl of water then make it more creamy and exciting by mixing in some powdered puppy milk. 

And talking of picky dogs, what other foods might you consider feeding them in order to get them to eat properly?

What could you feed a picky nursing dog?

Some bitches won’t eat for about 24 hours before they are due to give birth and maybe for a day or two afterwards.

A lot of this can be put down to the dogs just not feeling like it although once the puppies are born some mothers are so reluctant to leave them that they won’t even get up to eat.

If this sounds familiar, don’t be afraid to take some food to the mother.

And if they are reluctant to eat their normal kibble or a puppy kibble that you have bought especially for them and they are being “picky” then don’t be afraid to spoil them.

It is not unknown for breeders to spoil their nursing dogs with high fat and high flavour treats such as ice cream or eggs.

The most important thing is that your dog eats and continues to ingest huge amounts of calories. 

What other things can help with weight gain apart from food?

Although eating more food plays a large part in getting a nursing dog to gain weight, it isn’t the only thing to consider.

Other factors will also play a part.

A dog’s weight is a sign of their general well being and a nursing mother is more likely to gain weight if she is enjoying the experience of having puppies.

Keeping her stress levels down is an incredibly important part of this.

Your dog should be nursing her puppies in a place that to her feels like a palace.

It needs to be in a quiet warm and dry place away from other distractions.

And it needs to be comfortable and clean.

And for the first few weeks of nursing the only people who should be accessing this area should be very, very familiar to the dog. 

Once these basic needs have been met a nursing mother can focus on the health of herself and her puppies which means that she won’t be too stressed out to eat as much as she needs to. 

Start weaning the puppies at around three weeks

As I have said repeatedly throughout this article, when a dog is nursing her puppies it is very difficult for her to put on weight.

And so another important piece of the puzzle is to start to wean the puppies between the ages of three to four weeks of age.

And to finish weaning them when they are between the ages of seven and eight weeks of age. 

And my final part of this article will be about something a little distasteful perhaps because I want to talk about what we can feed a nursing dog who has diarrhea.  

What food could you feed a nursing dog with diarrhea?

A bout of diarrhea in any  dog could potentially be quite dangerous because of how much it can leave them dehydrated.

I mean, when you think about it, there is lots of water in diarrhea isn’t there?

In a dog that is nursing, getting diarrhea can be even more dangerous. 

And there is a strong connection between dehydration and weight loss.

Something that I use very successfully in my dogs to cure any diarrhea as quickly as possible is sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes are a great cure for diarrhea because it is high in fiber- which helps bind the digested food back together.

Another alternative that you might have heard about, and is topical as I write this the day after Halloween is pumpkin.

But if this cure doesn’t work (or anything else that you try out) within 12  hours, you must get hold of your vet as a matter of extreme urgency.