Young dogs need a lot more calories than their older counterparts. But meeting this need is easy; just follow the guidelines in this article.
Caring for your breeding female dog
If your female dog is eating a good balanced diet, she will not need any extra food for the first five weeks after she’s mated. In the womb, most of the growth of developing puppies takes place during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy. So you should start increasing her daily feed intake by about 15% each week from about the fifth week onwards. By the time she is due to give birth, she may be eating 50% more food than usual. It may be difficult for her to eat large meals because of the pressure the puppies put on her stomach.
The last couple of days before giving birth, many female dogs loose interest in food. The day before she has her babies, her rectal temperature may drop slightly, and she may start looking for a place to give birth. It’s a good idea to give her a large, comfortable box early in the pregnancy, so she’ll be used to it and will probably want to give birth in it. Once she starts feeding her puppies, her energy (calorie) need will rise quite a bit. By the third to fourth week of lactation, she may require up to four times her normal quantity of food. Give her food in several meals, and make sure food is easily accessible to her at all times; bring the food to her so she doesn’t have to leave her pups. Remember that it’s very important for her to eat enough high-quality food, designed for lactation, so she can feed her fast-growing puppies. It’s also important that she has access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Raising motherless puppies
If you can’t find a suitable foster mother dog to feed orphaned puppies, you will need to feed them at less than six weeks of age on a suitable puppy-milk substitute. Or, if your female dog is not able to produce enough good milk, you will also need to use a milk substitute and give the puppies’ supplemental feedings. Puppies under one week old need to be fed 6 times a day, or every 4 hours, day and night. After they are two weeks old, you can reduce this feeding routine to 4 meals a day or every 6 hours. You will need to use either a syringe or a puppy feeding bottle.
Ask your vet to show you how to feed the puppies. By the time the puppies are about three weeks old, they can feed by lapping their milk substitute from a bowl, and will begin to nibble a little food, as well.
Puppies must be kept warm, but not too hot. You can use heat sources such as heating lamps, hot water bottles covered with towels or blankets, or heating pads covered with blankets. Just make sure it’s not too hot!
Puppies under 3 weeks of age need to be stimulated to pass urine and feces. Their mother would have licked them to clean them; you can simulate her behavior by stroking their rears with warm, damp cotton batting.
For the first few weeks of their lives, puppies feed on their mother’s milk, which is very rich in calories, protein, fat and calcium. At around 3-4 weeks of age, puppies can lap or nibble moist food from a bowl. Young puppies may need four or five meals a day. In the early stages of weaning, their mother’s milk is still an important part of the diet. But by 6 to 8 weeks, most puppies can be completely weaned, and are ready to leave their mother.
- Once weaned, your puppy will continue to grow very quickly, and will need about two to three times the energy intake (calories) of an adult dog of the same weight. The time for you to change the frequency and size of the feedings depends on the breed of your puppy. Small breeds reach their adult weight at six to nine months, whereas very large breeds such as Great Danes are not fully grown until they’re 18 to 24 months.
- Larger breeds have two distinct phases of growth, and after they’ve turned 6 months, you should feed them an appropriate junior-dog diet. These diets have more calories than adult foods to meet your young dog’s needs for maturation, but fewer calories than puppy foods to reduce the risk of joint or hip problems later on.
- If you’re feeding your puppies a special puppy diet, the label on the food package will tell you how much to feed puppies of various ages and sizes.
- Do not overfeed your puppy as fat puppies are more likely to have weight problems and can develop joint and leg problems.
- Your puppy’s feces should be well formed and firm. Feeding a highly digestible food will produce smaller amounts of wellformed feces.
- Some puppies are particularly sensitive to changes in their diet, so make any such changes gradually, and resist the impulse to feed table scraps.
- Puppies should be fed 4 times a day until they’re 4 months old, 3 times a day until they’re 6 months old, and then at least twice a day after that. This is especially important for very small and large breeds of dogs.
- Puppies should have clean fresh water available to drink at all times. As the puppy gets older, you may find that giving him milk to drink causes diarrhea.