Ensure Good Nutrition
for Your Pet - II
Nutrition for Pets in Reproductive
Nutritional needs of cats and dogs during
reproduction are different for gestation
(pregnancy) and lactation. The gestation period in
both cats and dogs is about nine weeks - 63 days.
The important point to remember is that dogs and
cats in any life stage or with any lifestyle
should be fed to condition. Keep them looking
healthy and avoid laying down excess fat.
Gestation: During the first six weeks of gestation,
the fetuses do not grow significantly and the mother's
nutritional needs can be met with her maintenance food,
providing it is suitable for all life stages or specifically
identified as a gestation diet.
Beginning with the seventh week of gestation, food intake
should be increased gradually by up to 50% over her
maintenance intake at the time of breeding. The mild increase
is continued until delivery (called "whelping" in dogs and "queening"
in cats). This will support the rapid growth of the fetuses
during the last three weeks of gestation.
A bitch or queen with a large litter may need to be fed
more frequently, especially in the final stages of pregnancy
since her stomach may not be able to expand sufficiently for
normal-sized meals. It is not unusual for a drop in appetite
near whelping or queening. At whelping or queening and the day
immediately after, bitches and queens frequently lose their
appetite. Keeping nutrient dense, highly palatable foods
available at this time is beneficial so that when they do eat,
they get as much nutrition in each mouthful as possible.
feeding tips: Gestation
Feed a diet that is highly
digestible and energy and nutrient dense
Do not increase feed intake
until the seventh week of gestation
Provide several small meals
per day during gestation
Increase food intake to
approximately 1.5 times maintenance by the end of gestation (a
Bitches and queens should gain
about 15% to 25% of their body weight by the end of gestation
Bitches and queens should
weigh 5% to 10% above their normal body weight after whelping/queening
Large amounts of nutrients are required for a lactating
animal. During the first week of lactation, food intake will
typically be about 50 to 75% greater than the maintenance
level. During the second week, food intake may be increased to
twice the maintenance level and to three times maintenance
during the third week. Queens often increase their intake
more, on a percentage basis, than bitches.
The third and fourth weeks of lactation are the most
nutritionally demanding for the new moms. Their offspring are
still consuming almost all of their nutrients from milk and
have not begun substantial intake of either dry or canned
food. Once the kittens or puppies start eating some of mom's
food or food placed out specifically for them, their
consumption of milk will begin to level off and may even
decrease until weaning. Because the large volumes of food the
bitch or queen needs to support this large milk production may
be difficult to consume, it is important to feed a nutrient
dense diet to prevent the break down of body proteins and
fats. Both lactating queens and bitches can usually be fed
free?choice during lactation.
At weaning time, the food amount for either the queen or
the bitch should be tapered back to the amount she was
receiving when she was bred. Continued feeding of the
lactation amount will only put extra weight on her.
Milk production is influenced by the quantity and quality
of dietary protein. If a queen or bitch is being fed a high
quality, nutritionally balanced pet food, she will not require
additional vitamin or mineral supplementation during her
breeding cycle. The use of such supplements is unlikely to be
beneficial and, in some cases, may actually do harm.
Practical feeding tips: Lactation
Feed a diet that is highly
digestible and energy and nutrient dense.
Provide adequate calories to
prevent excess weight loss.
Feed two to three times
maintenance during peak lactation.
Provide free-choice feeding or
several small meals per day during peak lactation.
Slowly reduce the mother's
intake for the week before weaning.
Always provide clean, fresh
Article courtesy: The
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Printed with permission.
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