Everyone knows how important it is for human mothers to be taken care of during pregnancy right up to the time they give birth, and one element of care is consuming sufficient top quality nutritious foods. It’s equally as critical for Pomeranian females, even prior to being bred, so when the puppies are born, they’re as healthy as possible.
Any female Pomeranian that may be used to breed litters must be cared for properly. This should start well before her estrous cycle and should include being fed the best nutritious foods available so litters she does produce are all in tip top shape when born.
If you and your vet believe your female dog will be a viable candidate for breeding, a thorough examination should be carried out to determine if she’s fit and healthy. She may have physical issues that could jeopardize the pregnancy and whelping, along with any inheritable problems that could cause serious problems.
This is when the time comes for the more intense screening. The vet needs to assess and treat her for external and internal parasites that may affect her health and/or could be passed onto her litter. She must be given all the correct vaccinations, as determined by the vet.
She needs to be weighed as that helps in the overall evaluation of her health. Changes will generally be made to her diet, in the amounts and also the quality of foods she eats to help her achieve the ideal weight. If a bitch is overweight or underweight, breeding won’t be as successful.
- 1 What Dangers May Occur?
- 2 When the Female Dog is Pregnant
- 3 There are two main goals of a good quality diet:
- 4 Consequences of an Incorrect Diet
- 5 Whelping.
- 6 Lactation
- 7 Another guide for increasing her intake of food above the maintenance amount is this way:
What Dangers May Occur?
It’s a common belief among veterinary nutritionists that if a female dog is malnourished prior to breeding and throughout the pregnancy, it will have a serious effect on the mortality rate of the puppies at a rate of 20-30%.
As with performance and growth, the reproduction cycle is a physiological state and has specific nutritional demands that are far greater than a typical maintenance phase. During pregnancy and in the short period after birth, a dam drains her nutritional stockpile. If she’s malnourished, she simply won’t have enough energy, minerals, vitamins and protein to enable her to carry the litter to term.
There are four ways malnourishment can occur:
• If her diet consists of low quality food.
• If she doesn’t have enough high quality food.
• If her diet isn’t properly balanced to ensure she gets sufficient nutrients of all types.
• If she isn’t eating because the food isn’t palatable and you don’t notice.
It can happen during any part of the reproductive cycle. However, the most hazardous time is in the later part of pregnancy when her body’s demand for proper nutrition is at its peak.
If the female dog isn’t fed the right way, her health (and the health of her litter) may be impaired in many ways including:
• Low conception rates and birth defects.
• Difficulty carrying the whole litter to term.
• Trouble during labor.
• Problems with mammary development (thus affecting the volume and quality of colostrum and milk produced.
• Female dogs that are underweight or overweight may also experience some of these issues.
If the dam hasn’t been fed sufficient nutrients during pregnancy, the immune systems of her puppies and her own can be seriously affected. When the immune system is being formed and developed, it’s extremely sensitive to inadequacies of nutritional requirements and it may not perform as well during any future pregnancies, even if you get her nutrition levels back to where they should be.
It’s common for a dam’s malnourishment not to be obvious until it’s too late. She may be out of shape and thin when she’s whelped, and not have enough body-fat and muscle reserves to handle lactation. As a result, her puppies may face “fading puppy syndrome,” and symptoms include: frequent crying, looking weak, lacking coordination and not eating much. Some puppies don’t survive for long.
Most vets will carry out blood tests on breeding females prior to breeding to determine whether the female is healthy and has been on a good quality food diet so her nutrition levels are good. The test will also check to see if she has low blood protein or is anemic. If these issues exist, it’s time to reverse the malnourishment and bring the dam’s health back into good stead before breeding can start.
When the Female Dog is Pregnant
After your dam has become pregnant, her diet should improve even more. It needs to be high quality food and a well-balanced gestational diet, despite her nutritional needs only increasing marginally during the first half of her pregnancy.
Choose food that’s easy to digest. It should be a top grade commercial diet for puppies during the pregnancy and lactation periods because this type of food will have the correct calcium-phosphorus balance. Calcium supplements should only be provided in the form of feeding more dairy products e.g. puppy milk, cottage cheese.
If the food is high quality, supplements aren’t recommended. If the bitch takes in too much vitamin D or calcium, it may calcify soft tissue in the fetus, and cause other possible defects. Lactation does need lots of calcium but using supplements throughout the pregnancy period won’t stop a depletion of calcium when lactating (aka eclampsia) and could make the problem far worse. Mixing supplements and meat products may decrease the amount of carbs in the diet and may cause stillbirths and hypoglycemia (low blood sugars).
If you’re feeding your dam a well-balanced, high quality puppy/lactation balance, the volume of food the dam should eat during the first 5-6 weeks of gestation doesn’t need to be increased by more than 10% of normal. The reason is that the fetus grows less than 30% within that period. However, the last 3-4 weeks prior to birth will see a rapid growth increase.
You need to increase your dam’s food consumption gradually so it’s 15-25% higher than normal when it comes time for whelping. This helps increase the dam’s nutritional stores and weight. It’s common for her appetite to decrease late in the period because her abdomen becomes distended. The smartest thing to do is feed her 2-3 times a day so she still gets sufficient nutrients throughout the entire pregnancy period.
It’s critical to maintain a high level of nutritional balance through the last trimester and, as explained earlier, it means feeding her 2-3 times per day. Her diet should be well-balanced, high quality, palatable lactation/puppy growth food so she has enough reserves to maintain her own good health and that of the puppies as they grow closer to being born.
This will also to help them remain healthy during that initial few weeks of life. If she doesn’t get enough of all the right nutrients before whelping and during lactation, serious problems may occur, possibly causing the death of one or more puppies.
Despite the increased nutritional needs of a pregnant female dog, deficiencies of all the right nutrients is most likely to happen once the puppies have been born and the new mother’s body has an enormous amount of stress due to the heavy demands required for lactation.
There are two main goals of a good quality diet:
1. To take in enough nutrition to increase her weight by 25-35% by the time she’s ready to give birth.
2. To help maintain the ideal weight after she has given birth when she needs to make enough amounts of colostrum and milk to help her puppies grow until weaning time.
Ideally, her diet should include a minimum of 29% protein and 17% dietary fat and no more than 5% fiber. It’s all measured as dry weight, not based on calories. If this describes her diet, then she should cope well with the rigors of growing puppies and lactation.
Consequences of an Incorrect Diet
If you don’t feed your dam correctly, she may end up out of condition, thin and underweight, and have brittle fur and/or bad muscle tone. These issues will only get worse during the lactation period.
She may decide to eat more food to get enough nutrition but this may cause seriously bad diarrhea. Breeders always watch for problems and they adjust the diet by improving aspects of the food they use, by volume and/or by quality and types.
Most dams stop eating approx. 12 hours before whelping, and their body temperature will drop by 1-2 degrees. You must encourage her to drink more water and/or ice to avoid dehydration, labor problems, weakness and low quality milk.
Milk letdown can be another problem. This is a process where milk moves from the upper section of the milk secretion gland to the lower part where the nipple is ready for the puppies to suckle.
Once the mother has given birth, she needs to go back onto her diet as quickly as possible. An over-attentive or new mother could be reluctant to move away from her puppies. Bring water and food to her if she won’t move. Some new mothers will be anorexic after being whelped but it only lasts a couple of days.
Breeders entice them to eat by giving them all sorts of treats including: roast chicken breast, ice-cream, special cat food, puppy meal replacements and a variety of home-made mixtures. The basic idea at this point is to get her to eat anything. A few days of treats won’t hurt her but it may get her back eating normally again quicker. Warming food before serving is another way to entice your Pomeranian girl to eat. If you have concerns about your new mother not drinking sufficient amounts of fluid feed warm canned puppy food mixed with milk to a very sloppy mixture for a few days.
During the lactation period, nutritional deficiencies are quite common. Her body prioritizes how and where nutrients are used and lactation and growth of the litter are top of the list. She will exhaust all her reserves to support that action, often risking her own health at the same time. So you must ensure she gets more than enough nutrition so she can maintain a good weight while the puppies suckle.
Nutrients are required in ever-increasing amounts. Giving her enough calories isn’t enough so you have to make sure her food has a minimum of 17% fat content. The number of calories needed varies according to:
• The Dam’s needs and temperament.
• The size of the puppies.
• The number of puppies.
The larger the number of puppies, the more need there is for milk and the nutrients required. Small dog breeds such as the Pomeranian often have a higher per pound of weight energy need. Small breed dogs can be fed a commercial growth/lactation, high quality cat food because it has higher nutritional value and more calories. If the bitch is nervous or temperamental, that expends extra energy so she needs more to balance again.
The general guide is that when she’s at peak lactation, it’s wise to feed her 25% more food for every puppy in her litter to help keep her at a healthy weight range.
As an example, if she eats two cups of food a day and her litter has 6 puppies, you would feed her five cups of food total each day.
Another guide for increasing her intake of food above the maintenance amount is this way:
• Week 1 of lactation: increase food amount times 1.5.
• Week 2 of lactation: increase food amount times 2.
• Week 3 of lactation: increase food amount times 3.
Of course, the breeder can decide how to do it himself. If she’s eating food, she needs three meals per day.
The majority of canine foods don’t have enough nutritional density (particularly in regards to calories) to handle lactation. Using these foods is the main cause of malnutrition. If your bitch is eating free choice food and is thin by the whelping time, her caloric density and food quality are both too low.
If this describes your dam, it would be better to change the food and buy higher calorie-dense, superior quality foods. If desperate, you can add a fat source such as one tablespoon of fat for each cup of dried food. Vegetable oil, tallow, lard or grease are all ok to use and will increase calories by 30%.
Ensuring a female dog is being fed high quality and enough quantities of all necessary nutrients is something that can’t be over-emphasized in any way.
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References and Further Reading:
 Denise Leo “The Pomeranian Handbook”.