Feeding a raw diet can lead to increased fertility in females by providing them with essential fatty acids, vitamin A and C and antioxidants, as well as maintaining them in an ideal body condition for mating leading to an easier pregnancy and healthier puppies.
There are some specific nutrients that are important for male fertility and sperm health, these are zinc found in beef, chicken, lamb, liver, eggs and carrots; methionine and selenium from eggs; and magnesium and manganese in green vegetables. A feeding guide for each stage of pregnancy is detailed below:
Before her season
Lightly increase the amount of food, reduce vegetables and give more chicken wings and egg, this will lead to an increase in weight before mating which will increase hormone production and fertility. You are aiming for a body score of 5/9, with a light covering of fat and well-developed muscles, shiny coat and high energy. Revert to her normal amount of food one week after mating.
For the first two thirds of pregnancy, feed 2 - 3% of her bodyweight per day divided into one or two meals. For the last third of pregnancy increase this to 3 - 4% of bodyweight per day divided into two or three meals. Give less bone and more vegetables so the diet has a mild laxative effect. Mum may go off her food completely on the day before giving birth.
About supplements, do not supplement with too much vitamin A (e.g. cod liver oil) in first 6 weeks of pregnancy as can be dangerous for foetal health, it is okay to give before pregnancy and during lactation. Do not supplement with extra calcium during pregnancy and switch to a lower calcium diet (less bone) one week before labour to stop tissue calcification and other potential birth defects.
Depending on the litter size and the age of the puppies, feed from between 3% and 6% of bodyweight per day divided into two or three meals. With large litters you can give mum free choice of the amount she eats so she can keep up with her energy demands. After the pups are born mum should return close to her ideal weight and maintain this until the puppies are weaned with the peak demands for milk between week 3 and 5. When weaning the pups off mum’s milk reduce the amount of food back to normal to reduce milk production.
Pups live on their mother’s milk alone for the first 3-4 weeks, after this time in the wild, they will start to pick up food scraps discarded by wolves and chew on them and learn to eat. Milk remains a part of their diet until they are 6-7 weeks old. At this point the mother will start to regurgitate her own food and give it to her puppies, they may eat this until they are 20 weeks old. The gradual switch to adult food starts around 12-16 weeks when they start to get their permanent teeth.
For domestic puppies you should start weaning at 3-4 weeks and aim to finish at around 8 weeks old. At 3-4 weeks, under supervision, offer cut up bits of chicken wing for them to lick and play with to get used to the smell and taste; then slowly introduce soft food such as egg yolk, lightly cooked chicken and vegetables. At 6 weeks offer chicken wings and adult food with a bone content of no more than 10%. It is important to ensure that these puppies grow slowly to stop bone problems, it is not necessary to supplement calcium and it may be harmful. To ensure this happens, it can be useful to add extra vegetables, grated veg or veg pulp from a juicer is ideal, other easily digestible food to add is egg yolk, natural yoghurt or goats milk. At 12 weeks switch to a full adult diet. Feeding guidelines are listed below:
0-4 months – feed 8-10% of pup’s bodyweight in 3-4 meals
4-6 months – feed 6-8% in 3-4 meals
6-8 months – feed 4-6% in 2 meals
8-12 months – feed 3-4% in 2 meals
12 months over – feed 2-3% in 2 meals
This is a guideline, you may need to adjust the amounts according to your pup’s individual needs, considering breed, metabolism and exercise levels. Measuring the body condition score is the easiest way of judging whether you are feeding the correct amount.