Hoping to wean puppies as late as possible but still maintain the correct development?
Are you looking to avoid unnecessary vet bills concerning your girl’s physical condition?
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
Steve was right.
He was right about many things, and his impact on the world certainly won't be forgotten. I've had moments of connecting the dots and crystalising knowledge that can be helpful, possibly life-changing advice for someone or for their dog at least.
I was booked to microchip a Labrador litter. I had previously ultrasound scanned the Dam and confirmed her pregnancy, so I was keen to see the litter in the flesh. When I arrived, the experienced breeder expressed concern about the Dam's condition. She was thin, fragile and nearly bald on her flanks. The leeches, I mean puppies, had sucked her dry of every inch of nutrition. At one point, the owners had to support her to stand.
I suggested without thinking to put her on liquid sheep fat. Gross, I know, and the breeder even made a double-take at what I had suggested. I only know of this as it had popped up in a discussion with another client who struggled to maintain weight on his working dog. That nugget of information had sat dormant in my brain for months, if not years, and I had just connected two dots.
The puppies were chipped, and I left.
It wasn't until 12 months later, and the same female was being bred again that I was given the update from the breeding. She remarked how amazing that product was and that she would not breed a female in the future without this diet addition.
It's imperative to keep your Dam in the best physical condition while feeding her puppies so they grow and thrive correctly until weaning commences. Signs of a female being in deteriorating condition may include:
- Weight loss
- Poor coat condition and loss of fur
- Decreased milk production
- Lethargy and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioural changes such as irritability, restlessness or aggression
What can you do to help maintain a Dam's good condition?
During the nursing period, the Dam's energy demands are significantly higher. She typically requires more frequent larger meals to meet her and the litter's nutritional needs. You must adjust the amount of food based on the Dam's body condition, ensuring she maintains a healthy weight.
A well-balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for the Dam's health and milk production. She should be fed high-quality, premium dog food. The food should be rich in essential nutrients, such as protein, calcium, and vitamins, to support her energy needs and milk production. Ideally, no less than 20% Protein levels, 8% Fat, 1% Calcium and 0.8% Phosphorus.
Many owners feed the Puppy version of the same brand of food she was currently fed. This food can also be used to wean the litter when old enough.
Supplements may also be required to ensure her diet remains correctly balanced during the change of life stage and condition.
SF-50 powder is a multi-vitamin containing a comprehensive range of vitamins and minerals, including Calcium, Vitamins A, B, D, E, copper, and Iron that replaces SA-37 of yesteryear. It can be given to nursing bitches to help their body to deal with the 'stress' of a litter.
Liquid sheep's fat, referred to as Tallow, is a concentrated source of calories and fat, which can benefit dogs that require additional energy in their diet. It can benefit underweight dogs or dogs recovering from illness or surgery. Great care should be taken to avoid feeding this to any dogs that have a sensitive pancreas or have suffered any bouts of pancreatitis.
Ensure that the Dam has access to clean, fresh water. 78% of her milk is water, so her water requirements may increase during lactation. It's important to monitor her water intake and refill the bowl regularly. Dehydration can negatively affect milk production and overall health.
Minimise an environment that may cause the Dam to be stressed. Provide a quiet, calm, comfortable space for her and the puppies. Reduce disturbances and limit visitors, especially during the early weeks when the puppies are very young. A stressed dam may have difficulties with milk production.
While exercise is essential for the Dam's overall well-being, avoid excessive physical exertion during nursing. Provide opportunities for gentle exercise and mental stimulation if needed, but also allow her sufficient rest and quiet time to recover and care for her puppies.
Restrictions should also be made for bitches recovering from a C-section particularly whilst they still have stitches, including jumping on and off furniture.
Remember, each dog is unique, and her individual needs may vary throughout the lactation period. So a different approach may be needed to help maintain the Dam's optimal physical condition and the well-being of her puppies.
Need more advice?
Remember that the specific needs of a pregnant or lactating dog may vary based on factors such as the dog's size, breed, overall health, and individual requirements.
If you want more support and advice during your breeding journey, join the Canine Family Planner's Very Important Breeder Winner's Circle membership. Dog owners in the VIB's Winner Circle are a tight-knit community of like-minded breeders who desire access to world-class resources within a private and safe environment. It's the only place you can access me and my 23 years of experience, covering every aspect of dog breeding, pregnancies, and puppy rearing.