What to Feed a Pregnant Dog – Best Food Options for a Breeding Bitch

Last Updated: October 27, 2023

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Witnessing the miracle of life through your pregnant dog can be a real joy. You get to watch your canine companion go through this major life change and bring a litter of pups into the world.

While it's certainly an exciting time, you need to provide as much support as possible. Pregnancy is never easy for dogs. The gestation period is much shorter with dogs than it is with humans. Thus, your bitch will undergo some extreme body changes in just a short amount of time.

She will need a pristine diet of high-quality foods. 

pregnant dog with a food bowl outside

Not only will the food you provide support her body during pregnancy, but it can also keep her healthy once she starts nursing her newborns.

Cheap foods that don't provide much in terms of nutrition will do more harm than good. You must adapt to the changes your dog is going through and provide her with a nutrient-rich diet that can keep her happy, healthy, and calm.

Basic kibbles that you can find at your local grocery store aren't going to cut it. You need food that's calorie-dense and filled with all the nutrients your dog and her developing pups need. Here are some of the best foods that you can feed your pregnant dog.

5 of the Best Dog Foods for Pregnant Canines

1. The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food

The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food

This freeze-dried food from The Honest Kitchen is a great food option. It meets all of the AAFCO standards for pregnant dogs and puppies. Thus, it has higher levels of protein and more calories than most foods.

In total, it has roughly 24.5 percent protein and 14 percent fat. Chicken is the primary source of protein. It's accompanied by potatoes, flaxseed, peas, and oats.

Plus, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables for vitamins. The food is dehydrated. To prepare it, you will need to rehydrate the food with warm water. It's a soft and delicious meal your dog will love.

2. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild is one of the most respected dog food brands out there. The company focuses on providing a high-protein diet filled with wholesome ingredients.

This particular formula is no different. It contains buffalo, lamb, chicken meal, bison, venison, and beef. These meats combine to provide the food with 32 percent protein content! 

It also has some great antioxidants to support your dog's skin and coat. Prebiotics are thrown into the mix as well. They can keep your pregnant dog's gut in good shape as they nurse.

3. Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken & Freeze-Dried Raw Pieces Dry Dog Food

With 37 percent protein, this is one of the most protein-packed dog foods you can get for a pregnant bitch. The protein comes from chicken and fish meal.

The cool thing about this particular formula is that it has bits of pure dehydrated chicken. When it comes to density, this food is great. Each cup of dry food contains more than 500 calories. This is perfect for pregnant dogs.

To top it all off, the recipe includes antioxidants, probiotics, and omega fatty acids.

4. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Venison Formula

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Venison & Sweet Potato

Next up, we have this L.I.D. dog food from Natural Balance. L.I.D. stands for limited ingredients diet. It's perfect for canines with allergies. 

For pregnant dogs, the limited ingredients ensure that your pup is only getting the essential nutrients they need and nothing more.

It has a lower protein percentage of 20 percent. However, that protein comes from venison. There's only one meat source to reduce the chances of allergic reactions. The entire formula is grain-free. There are also essential omega fatty acids for good measure.

5. Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food

Bully Max High Performance Super Premium Dog Food

The Bully Max High-Performance dog food is designed for athletic dogs with good muscle development. However, it also works wonders for pregnant dogs needing a good boost of protein! 

In total, it has about 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. This combination can support your dog's body through the birthing and nursing process.

That's not all. This is a very high-calorie food, too. It has about 535 calories per cup. It's a meat-based formula that's completely free of fillers like corn, wheat, and soy. You won't find any artificial additives either.

Canned Dog Food for Pregnant Dogs

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

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

This canned food from Wellness is a flavorful option that your dog will love. The formula is rich and modeled after good down-home meals. As such, it's a great option for pregnant dogs who are experiencing appetite issues.

When she eats the food, she can take advantage of the premium proteins. It has wholesome chicken and chicken liver for a boost of vitamins.

Peas, carrots, peppers, and celery are added as well. All of those ingredients are in swimming in a chicken broth gravy that will keep your dog hydrated.

2. Crave Chicken Pate Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

rave Chicken Pate Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

The Chicken Pate recipe from Crave has a higher protein content than most canned foods. it has about 12 percent protein and 5 percent fat. The protein comes from chicken, chicken liver, and chicken heart. 

Those added organs are a great source of vitamins and minerals your pregnant dog needs.

There's also a blend of healthy antioxidants to support your dog's entire body. Another good ingredient is fish oil. It has those essential fatty acids that your dog and her pups need to stay healthy.

Homemade Dog Food Options For Pregnant Dogs

Homemade Food for Pregnant Dogs

Homemade meals are a great option for pregnant dogs as well. You have complete control over what your dog is eating. Because you're preparing it for yourself, there are no questions about quality either.

This is a quick meal that's very easy to prepare. It's packed with protein and has tons of flavor to entice your dog.


  • 1 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup of ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup of raw oatmeal
  • 1 cup of all-natural peanut butter
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of molasses


Start by combining the ground beef, eggs, and oatmeal in a large bowl. Make sure that the ingredients are fully incorporated. You should have a consistency that's similar to hamburger meat. Then, brown it all in a large pan.

Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat as its cooking. The goal is to get small chunks of meat. Once that's done, let the meat cool down and drain the excess oil.

As the meat is cooling, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. You should have a dough-like consistency. Once the meat has reached room temperature, add it to the mixture and combine everything thoroughly.

Now, form the mixture into small balls. You should use about 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Pop the balls onto a lined baking sheet and put them in the fridge. The balls will harden into manageable treats.

Homemade Booster for Lactating Mothers

Once your dog has given birth and starts nursing, it's good to provide some extra nutrition. The first couple of days can be pretty rough on her. In addition to providing plenty of high-quality food, you can offer up this booster treat.


  • 1 cup of goat's milk
  • 1 teaspoon of raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil
  • 1 egg


Simply combine the ingredients and add the mixture to her food. It's an easy way to give your dog the boost of nutrients she needs to stay healthy. You can add in some Fenugreek, milk thistle, and kelp into the mix as well.

Fenugreek and milk thistle is known to increase lactation while kelp has some good vitamins

About the Canine Gestation Cycle

Whether you're purposely breeding your dog or she has unexpectedly become pregnant, things will start moving very fast. Pregnancies for dogs only last approximately nine weeks. This is roughly 63 days from conception to birth!

Like with humans, canine pregnancy is typically separated into three trimesters. Each one only lasts for about 21 days.

The First Trimester

During the first trimester, you might not even notice that your precious pup is pregnant. Most bitches will gain minimal weight during this stage. Inside, those babies are developing. However, the process is much slower.

Crucial organs and body systems are developing, so the puppies aren't growing much in terms of size. That will happen later.

In the first trimester, changing your dog's diet isn't absolutely necessary. Breeders who planned the pregnancy may increase caloric intake by as much as 10 percent to ensure that the dog is getting enough energy. However, you don't need to do this just yet.

Most pregnant dogs will continue to be very active and act like their normal selves.

We do recommend taking your dog to the vet as soon as you suspect she's pregnant. Veterinarians can do a prenatal checkup. This can include blood tests to check hormone levels. At about 3 weeks, the vet may even be able to see the pups through an ultrasound.

The Second Trimester

Here is when things start to get a bit rougher for your bitch. At around the fourth or fifth week, some dogs will experience bouts of morning sickness. They can become lethargic and weak. She may even need to urinate more frequently.

The second trimester is when the more noticeable body changes occur as well. She may gain up to 50 percent of her weight during these weeks. The abdomen will increase in size as well. Regular vet visits are essential during this phase.

During the second half of the pregnancy is when you'll need to start making some dietary changes. Pregnant dogs will need between 30 and 50 percent more calories every day to support herself and the developing puppies. We'll get into the specifics in a bit.

The Third Trimester

From about 45 days on, you need to be extra vigilant about your dog's care. Not only do you need to ensure that your pup is getting plenty of food, but you need to provide some emotional support, too.

Pregnant dogs may start to exhibit some personality changes. They can get a bit protective as they start looking for spaces to give birth. Be careful when handling your dog. The babies are getting ready to be birthed, so there's a high risk of accidental miscarriage.

At this point, your vet will be able to feel the puppies and ensure that they're getting into the whelping position. X-rays and more ultrasounds may be performed as well.

Now is a good time to determine how the birthing process will go. If the babies have developed too much, the vet may recommend a C-section.

Dietary Changes During Pregnancy

As we mentioned earlier, you don't need to make any major changes during the first trimester of pregnancy. It's the second half of the gestation period that is most important.

You will need to increase her caloric intake by 30 to 50 percent. The exact figure will depend entirely on how many puppies are in her litter. It's possible for dogs to birth up to 12 puppies in a single litter! Though, the most common is about 8. 

Consult with your vet. Through ultrasound, they will be able to count the liter. You can then use that information to plan the diet accordingly.

Because you are going to be feeding her more food, many experts recommend that you increase meal frequency. If your dog is used to eating only two meals a day, consider switching over to a free feeding cycle. This is good during the final stage of pregnancy and post-pregnancy.

Free feeding ensures that your bitch is getting all the calories she needs. Even if it's her first pregnancy, your dog will know if she needs more energy to help her pups. It's an instinctive thing.

Having a constant supply of food available lets her manage her own diet and consume more calories as she needs.

Finding the Right Dog Food

It's not just about feeding more food to pregnant dogs. You also need to manage certain macronutrients.

There are tons of food options on the market. Unfortunately, there aren't very many products specifically catered to pregnant pups. As such, you'll need to scrutinize every option to find one that's suitable. Here are the most important things your pregnant dog will need in dog food.

High-Quality Proteins

First and foremost, you need to pay attention to the protein content. When your dog is pregnant, she will need food that is made up of roughly 29 percent protein. At the very least, the food should be 22 percent. However, we recommend going much higher.

Protein will support your dog's overall health and muscles. This is especially important when nursing. Many dogs can become thin and lanky when they are nursing due to poor muscle development.

Stick with foods that have wholesome meat ingredients like chicken, beef, or fish. Avoid any byproducts or protein ingredients from questionable sources.

Healthy Fats

Fat is another important macronutrient. Pregnant dogs do best with about 17 percent fat. Of course, this should come from healthy sources. The figure may come from animal fat, fish oil, or even flaxseed oil.

Salmon oil is best because it contains DHA and EPA. These are essential fatty acids that are known to improve the neurological development of puppies. The stuff is even used in human baby formula, so look out for those fatty acids.

Digestible Complex Carbs

Carbohydrates are crucial. However, you need to stick with complex carbohydrates that absorb slowly into the body. Things like sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, and more will do.

The carbs will be burned slowly throughout the day, which will prevent hypoglycemia. It's also good to check on fiber levels. Many carbs double as a source of fiber for easy digestibility.

Many dogs have issues digesting all that food they're eating. Diarrhea is quite common during the nursing phase. Fiber content of about 4 percent should help to keep that issue at bay.

Calcium and Phosphorus

Calcium and phosphorus are crucial for the development of puppies. It's prevalent in puppy food but not so much in adult foods. For this reason, many breeders utilize puppy foods for their pregnant dog.

1 to 1.8 percent calcium and 0.8 to 1.6 percent phosphorus are ideal.

Natural Ingredients

Finally, choose foods that contain only natural ingredients. Artificial flavors, chemical preservatives, and any other unnecessary additive should be avoided.

Your dog is going to be particularly sensitive to chemicals when she's pregnant. 

The same goes for the pups she's supporting. You should keep everything natural to avoid any potential health risks.


Pregnancy can be such a wonderful thing to witness. While it might sound a bit daunting, all you can do is provide your pregnant dog with all the support she needs. In addition to plenty of loving, a high-quality diet that's packed with protein and calories is a must!

With the right food, she has all that she needs to stay healthy while supporting her newborn pups.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.