10 Best Dog Foods for Pregnant Dogs: Our 2019 Guide

The only thing better than a cute and cuddly puppy is a whole litter of cute little puppies. Though we don’t condone backyard breeding, if your dog is pregnant, you need to know how to care for her properly. Pregnancy in dogs is very different from pregnancy in people, both in terms of term length and in the nutritional needs of a pregnant dog. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to learn, understand, and provide for your dog’s needs in all stages of life.

Balanced nutrition is essential for all dogs, but a pregnant dog is supporting not only her own body but the growing bodies of an entire litter of puppies. If you don’t take the time to learn about your pregnant dog’s changing nutritional needs, your dog (and her puppies) might miss out on important nutrients that could impact their health.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the nutritional needs of pregnant dogs. We’ll also provide some tips for choosing the best food for pregnant dogs and give you our top 10 picks.

Understanding Pregnancy in Dogs

Pregnancy in dogs lasts for about 63 days from the time they become pregnant. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, there are very few outward signs, so you may not even know that your dog is pregnant. You may notice a slight weight gain, but your dog will otherwise act like her normal self. Some dogs experience mild morning sickness, but usually only for a few days during the 3rd or 4th week of pregnancy. You may also notice that your dog appears to be more tired and less hungry than usual – some dogs also throw up after eating.

If you suspect that your dog might be pregnant, it is important that you make an appointment with your veterinarian. After your dog is mated, plan to take her to the vet for a prenatal checkup two to three weeks later. Your veterinarian will be able to answer your questions about the gestation process and about your dog’s changing nutritional needs. As long as your dog has been pregnant for at least 3 weeks, you may also be able to get an ultrasound to see the puppies in her womb.  Your vet may also recommend a blood test to check your dog’s hormone levels.

Around four weeks after conception, your veterinarian will be able to palpate the dog’s abdomen to feel the puppies. Do not attempt this yourself, however, because it is a delicate procedure. If done incorrectly, you could harm your dog or cause a miscarriage.

In the end of your dog’s second trimester, you’ll see her belly start to grow. Around day 40, you’ll see her nipples growing larger and darker, her breasts will enlarge, and you may see some milky fluid discharge. Around day 45, when the third trimester is starting, your vet may want to see your dog back again to take x-rays of her belly to check on the developing bone structure of the puppies. This is also the perfect time to find out how many puppies you can expect.

During the final two weeks of pregnancy, you might be able to see and feel the puppies moving in the dog’s belly. Your veterinarian may recommend one final visit to check the size of the puppies to make sure they will fit through the dog’s birth canal. If they’ve gotten too big, he may recommend a c-section. For some large-headed breeds like Bulldogs, c-sections are standard procedure. At this time it’s important to talk to your vet about possible complications, so you know what to look for during the whelping and who to call if there’s a problem.

Do Pregnant Dogs Have Any Special Dietary Needs?

During the first few weeks of pregnancy, you don’t need to make any significant changes to your pregnant dog’s diet. Eventually, however, you’ll want to increase your dog’s calorie intake to help sustain the growth of the puppies developing in her belly. It isn’t until week 4 or 5 of the dog’s pregnancy that you need to think about making dietary changes.

In the second half of your dog’s pregnancy, you should increase her calorie intake by 30% to 50%, depending how many puppies she’s having. You can expect your dog to gain 15% to 30% of her body weight during this time, part of which comes from the weight of the developing puppies. If you are already feeding your dog a high-quality dog food, you may not need to change recipes but should adjust the amount to account for her higher calorie requirements.

Here are some general dietary recommendations for pregnant dogs:

  • Make sure your dog’s food contains at least 29% protein – 22% is the minimum protein requirement for puppies, but more protein is almost always a good thing.
  • Be sure that most of the protein in your dog’s diet comes from animal sources – animal proteins are complete proteins and more biologically valuable than plant proteins.
  • Choose a dog food that contains at least 17% fat, ideally from animal sources – fat provides a concentrated source of calories for your pregnant dog and her puppies.
  • Make sure your dog’s food is highly digestible and contains low-to-moderate fiber content (no more than 4% to 5%) to prevent hypoglycemia.
  • Shoot for a calcium and phosphorus intake between 1 and 1.8% calcium and 0.8 and 1.6% phosphorus to support milk production as well as bone and joint development in the puppies.
The quality of your pregnant dog’s diet is what matters most. Choose a formula made with wholesome, natural ingredients that is free from fillers and additives. If your current dog food already meets these requirements, there is no reason to switch. If you do switch to a better food, maintain that diet for your dog after whelping and just change the feeding amount as needed. Keep in mind that your dog’s calorie needs will still be higher after whelping until she is finished nursing.

What to Look for in a Good Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs

The best dry dog food for pregnant dogs is whatever food meets your dog’s needs in a healthy way. If you are currently feeding your dog a high-quality diet, there is no reason to change anything other than the feeding amount. If your dog is currently eating a product made with low-quality proteins or a long list of unnatural ingredients, pregnancy is a good time to switch to a better food.

Here are some things to look for in a good dog food for pregnant dogs:

  • High-quality animal protein. Animal proteins are more biologically valuable for dogs than plant proteins, and they are complete, containing all essential amino acids. High protein content is essential to support your pregnant dog’s lean mass and to support muscle development in the growing puppies as well.
  • Rich in healthy fats. Fat provides a concentrated source of calories for your dog and should come from animal sources. Things like chicken fat and salmon oil are healthy sources of fat. Make sure your dog’s diet includes DHA For puppy brain development.
  • Highly digestible carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide a nutritious source of energy, fiber, and essential nutrients for your pregnant dog. Whole grains are a great source or, if your dog is allergic or sensitive, try starchy vegetables or legumes.
  • Complete and balanced. Balanced nutrition is essential for all dogs, but making sure your pregnant dog’s basic nutritional needs are met is even more important because the nutrients she gets will also be passed on to the developing puppies.
  • No artificial additives or fillers. Your dog’s food should be made from wholesome, natural ingredients without the use of fillers, by-products or artificial additives – this is true in any stage of life, not just when your dog is pregnant.

Now that you know more about your pregnant dog’s nutritional needs, you’re ready to start shopping for the best food for pregnant dogs. Keep reading to see our top 10 picks.

The 10 Best Dog Foods for Pregnant Dogs

The best dog food for a pregnant dog is one that meets her nutritional needs through the use of healthy, natural ingredients. Look for an animal source of protein at the top of the list with digestible carbohydrates, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. Beneficial supplements like prebiotic fiber, probiotics, and chelated minerals are a bonus as well.

Here’s our top pick for the best dog food for pregnant dogs:

NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery

Overall Best Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs: Pet nutrition experts agree that fresh food is best for dogs. Fresh pet food is made with natural ingredients and is generally prepared in small batches to ensure quality. Whether your dog is pregnant or not, fresh dog food is a rich source of essential nutrients and digestible protein. NomNomNow is a fresh pet food service that sends monthly deliveries of fresh pet food right to your door. Choose from several recipes featuring premium animal proteins, digestible carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. What really makes this company unique is the fact that they pre-portion your dog’s food according to his nutritional needs. During the first four weeks of your dog’s pregnancy, you can keep feeding her the same amount. After that, however, you should talk to a representative to adjust the calorie content of your dog’s portion according to her changing needs.

Pros: Fresh food delivered monthly, pre-portioned packages, prepared in small batches, wholesome natural ingredients, several recipes to choose from, complete and balanced

Cons:  Very expensive compared to traditional kibble, might be tricky to portion for changing needs

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canine Grain-Free Recipe

Most Popular Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs: Because there are so many different dog food recipes out there, it can be difficult to choose just one. When you’re not sure where to even start shopping for dog food, you can always go with a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. This brand uses premium roasted meats to deliver a powerful punch of protein and natural meat flavor your pregnant dog won’t be able to resist. This Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canine Grain-Free Recipe is a great choice because it features high-quality animal proteins like buffalo, roasted venison, and beef to provide a full 32% crude protein. This recipe features grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and peas with plenty of healthy fats from chicken fat and ocean fish meal. It is supplemented with plenty of fiber as well as dried fermentation products to provide probiotic support for healthy and regular digestion. This formula is nutrient-rich and highly digestible, sure to provide for your pregnant dog’s nutritional needs as well as those of her developing puppies. It provides over 30% protein with 18% fat and 370 calories per cup.

Pros: Made with premium roasted meats, over 30% protein, highly digestible, grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber and probiotics for digestion, rich in healthy fats, chelated minerals

Cons:  Contains several sources of plant protein (pea protein and potato protein)

American Journey Chicken & Brown Rice Protein First Dry Food Formula

Most Affordable Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs: They say that good dog food isn’t cheap and cheap dog food isn’t good. While this is largely true, it doesn’t mean that good dog food has to be expensive. In fact, there are plenty of affordable recipes out there that offer good nutritional quality – American Journey Chicken & Brown Rice Protein First Dry Food is a great example. This formula features real, deboned chicken as the first ingredient and provides a total of 25% protein. It contains digestible whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice and barley with supplemental fiber from peas, rice bran, and flaxseed. It also supplies a rich blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, including DHA to support brain development in your puppies. This formula contains fresh fruits and vegetables to deliver natural sources for key nutrients with vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and balanced nutrition. Overall, this formula provides a protein-rich diet with 15% fat and 365 calories per cup.

Pros: Deboned chicken first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated minerals, blend of omega fatty acids, complete and balanced

Cons:  Contains some plant protein (pea protein), may be too high in fiber for some dogs

The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food

Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs: If you suspect that your dog has an allergy or sensitivity to grains, you may want to switch to a grain-free diet (with your vet’s approval, of course). Simply removing grains from your dog’s food doesn’t automatically make it healthier, however – you still need to make sure that it is made from wholesome, natural ingredients. This Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food is a great choice because it features wholesome, natural ingredients in a dehydrated recipe that preserves the nutritional integrity of those ingredients. This recipe features free-range chicken as the main ingredient and single source of protein. It also contains fresh fruits and vegetables as well as organic supplements like flaxseed and kelp for a boost of nutrition. Because it is dehydrated, you’ll need to rehydrate it before feeding but doing so will only increase the moisture content of your pregnant dog’s diet, which will help with milk production after delivery.

Pros: Free-range chicken first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, high-quality nutrition, dehydrated not cooked, no artificial additives, made in the USA, human-grade ingredients

Cons:  Expensive compared to traditional kibble, some dogs dislike the texture.

Wellness Chicken Stew with Peas & Carrots Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Best Wet Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs: Hydration is important for all dogs but is particularly important for pregnant dogs to support milk production. Many pregnant dogs lose their appetite during the first few weeks and some experience nausea, both of these things can lead to poor hydration. Wet food is loaded with moisture and it also tends to be lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein, making it a great choice for pregnant dogs. This Wellness Chicken Stew with Peas & Carrots Grain-Free Canned Food is a great choice because if features premium natural ingredients in a wholesome, nutritionally balanced formula. This recipe contains fresh chicken as the main ingredient with supplemental protein from chicken liver and eggs. It also contains a blend of fresh vegetables to provide supplemental fiber, carbohydrate energy, and rich sources of key nutrients. This recipe is highly digestible, rich in moisture, and loaded with protein for your pregnant dog without any artificial additives.

Pros: Rich in protein and moisture, real chicken first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, no artificial additives, chelated minerals

Cons: Contains some thickeners

 Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Food

Best Food for Pregnant Dogs with Allergies: If your dog has food allergies or sensitivities, you may want to limit the number of ingredients in his food. Reducing the number of ingredients your dog is eating limits the risk for triggering a reaction. This Zignature Turkey Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Food is a great choice because it contains only a handful of premium-quality, natural ingredients starting with farm-raised turkey. This recipe includes a single source of animal protein to deliver a full 31% of crude protein. It contains digestible grain-free carbohydrates like chickpeas and peas with a rich blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, including DHA for puppy brain development. This recipe is supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients, balanced with vitamins and chelated minerals. Overall, it provides over 30% protein with 18% fat and 457 calories per cup.

Pros: Limited number of main ingredients, farm-raised turkey first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in protein and fat, chelated minerals

Cons: Expensive compared to many dog foods, may be too high in fiber for some dogs

4 More Top-Rated Dog Foods for Pregnant Dogs

If the dog foods reviewed above don’t seem like the perfect fit for your pregnant dog, don’t worry – there are still plenty of other options out there! Here are four more top-rated dog foods for pregnant dogs we recommend:

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe

The quality of your dog’s diet matters greatly, so it is best to start with premium ingredients. This Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe is an excellent choice because it is packed with premium sources of animal protein. This recipe features real deboned beef as the first ingredient with freeze-dried red meat for supplemental protein and a punch of natural meat flavor. It contains digestible whole grains, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, and peas as well as supplemental fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables. These ingredients also act as natural sources for key nutrients, balanced with vitamins and chelated mineral supplements. This recipe also contains supplements like dried fermentation products for probiotic support as well as plenty of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. This recipe provides a full 38% protein with 17% fat and 374 calories per cup.

Pros: Premium animal proteins, freeze-dried red meat, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, probiotics for digestion, rich blend of omega fatty acids, chelated minerals

Cons: Expensive compared to most kibbles, contains several sources of plant protein

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

Raw food is what many pet nutrition experts recommend for a high-quality diet for dogs, but the fact is that raw diets are simply not affordable for most pet owners. As your pregnant dog starts to eat more in the second half of her pregnancy, expensive pet food becomes even more costly. If you want to provide your dog with the nutritional quality of raw food without sacrificing the convenience of dry food, consider this Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken. This formula consists of high-protein kibble mixed with freeze-dried pieces of raw food. It features real, cage-free chicken as the primary ingredient with grain-free carbohydrates like peas and tapioca. It is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, not to mention plenty of DHA for brain development in puppies. Overall, this recipe provides 37% protein with 20.5% fat and 508 calories/cup.

Pros: High-protein kibble with freeze-dried raw pieces, cage-free chicken first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in omega fatty acids, chelated minerals

Cons: Very expensive compared to most kibble

Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Food

When it comes to high-quality nutrition, organic pet food is a great option. If you want to take things a step further, consider freeze-dried raw food that hasn’t been cooked – this ensures that your dog’s food retains more of the original nutritional quality of those organic raw ingredients. Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Food is a nutritious option to consider for your pregnant dog because it is packed with protein and healthy fats with all the essential nutrients your dog needs. This recipe features real chicken as the first ingredient with chicken organs to provide rich sources of essential nutrients. You’ll also find a variety of organic fruits and vegetables for nutritional variety with vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure complete nutritional balance.

Pros: Premium-quality ingredients, real chicken first ingredient, organic fruits and vegetables, high nutritional value, probiotics for healthy digestion, chelated mineral supplements

Cons: Very expensive compared to kibble, some dogs dislike the texture of freeze-dried food

Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Duck, Peas & Egg Recipe

Protein is an essential nutrient for dogs in all stages of life. While dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats, they still need a lot of protein and it is best when it comes from animal sources. If you’re looking for a high-protein recipe for your pregnant dog, we recommend this Solid Gold Barking at the Moon High Protein Duck, Peas & Egg Recipe. It is a holistic, natural formula made with premium-quality ingredients including several animal proteins like duck, chicken meal, turkey meal, and whitefish meal. It features digestible grain-free carbohydrates like peas and chickpeas as well as several healthy sources of fat like chicken fat. It is supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients as well as vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure optimal absorption of those nutrients. This recipe contains probiotics for healthy digestion and provides a total of 41% protein with 20% fat at 345 calories per cup. Simply put, it is a wholesome, high-protein recipe any dog would be lucky to enjoy.

Pros: Several premium animal proteins, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, rich in healthy animal fats, probiotics, fresh fruits and vegetables, 41% protein and 20% fat, chelated minerals

Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), not all dogs require a grain-free diet

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much should I feed my pregnant dog? During the first few weeks of pregnancy, you shouldn’t see a significant change in your dog’s appetite. In fact, some dogs become less hungry during the first few weeks of pregnancy, but you should still offer the same amount of food. During the second half of your dog’s pregnancy, you should increase her daily ration by 30% to 50%. Do not make the change all at once – instead, start increasing the amount you feed her a little at a time. Another option is to simply keep your dog’s food bowl full and let her eat as much as she needs to. Be mindful of this with dogs prone to obesity, however, because you want to give your dog enough food to support the growing puppies without causing her to gain too much weight.
  2. How often should I feed my pregnant dog? Most dogs do well with two meals a day, but pregnant dogs may need more frequent meals. There is no need to change your dog’s dietary habits until the 4th or 5th week of pregnancy, however. At that time, you might want to add a third small meal to her daily portion and eventually work your way up to a fourth meal. Be mindful that you don’t drastically increase your dog’s intake all of a sudden – you should increase it slowly as the puppies grow.
  3. What about food allergies? If your dog suffers from food allergies, feed her a limited ingredient diet free from whatever she is allergic to. If you’re not sure what she’s allergic to, try switching to a limited ingredient formula made with a single source of protein she’s never had before along with a novel carbohydrate. You don’t necessarily need to feed her a grain-free diet unless you know or suspect that she is allergic or sensitive to grains. Keep her on the same diet for at least 12 weeks until all signs of the allergy disappear.
  4. Is a grain-free diet good for pregnant dogs? The actual nutritional needs of pregnant dogs are not significantly different. Certain nutrients like calcium and phosphorus become more important, but protein and healthy fats are always essential. The same goes for grain-free food – if your dog doesn’t need a grain-free diet normally, there is no reason to switch when your dog becomes pregnant. In fact, there is no reason to feed your dog a grain-free diet at all unless she is allergic or sensitive to grains. Grain-free diets are not inherently healthier than regular dog food and, in fact, there is some concern that they may be linked to an increased risk for certain health problems like dilated cardiomyopathy.
  5. What are the best foods to help dog produce more milk? If you’re wondering what to feed a pregnant dog to produce milk or the best food for nursing dogs, the answer is the same – a high-quality, nutritious diet. Your dog’s basic nutritional needs don’t change when she is pregnant, she may simply need more calories. All dogs require a diet rich in premium animal protein with moderate content of healthy fats and plenty of essential nutrients. As long as your dog’s nutritional needs are being met, she should produce milk. The best food for nursing dogs is just a healthy diet in general. If you’re wondering about supplemental foods to help dog produce more milk, consider adding some chicken broth to her diet to keep her hydrated.

Conclusion

Pregnancy is a joyous time because it means that you’ll soon be welcoming a litter of puppies into the world. Providing your dog with a healthy and nutritious diet is always important, but it is even more important when your dog is supporting the growth and development of an entire litter of puppies. Choosing a complete and balanced diet made with premium animal proteins, plenty of healthy fats, and optimal levels of key nutrients is the best way to support your pregnant dog’s health and wellness.

Shopping for dog food can be overwhelming at the best of times simply because there are so many options. If you’re not sure what to feed your pregnant dog, check out our top picks for the best dry dog food for pregnant dogs in different categories. Good luck!

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