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Feeding the Lactating Bitch

Feeding pups is the hardest job a mum can do. That is why a lactating bitch, at peak lactation, with a large litter of pups...can eat as much as she wants! It is imperative that top quality food should be continually available. By top quality food, we are referring to a diet designed for the special requirements of a lactating bitch.


The food for the lactating bitch must have all the nutrients necessary for the repair and functioning of her body, plus all the necessary ingredients for producing high quality milk - in vast quantities. The food must also be very concentrated. Being a 'growth-type' of diet it must have high levels of energy, first class protein, first class fat, first class minerals, an abundant supply of vitamins, and be low in carbohydrates and unnecessary components. This is the lactation version of the BARF Diet®.


The whole aim is to provide as much milk forming food as possible so that she can easily care for her litter and not loose any condition herself. This means not a lot of change to the basic BARF Diet®, but will take into account...

  • an adequate intake of liquids to make milk
  • high levels of good quality protein
  • a calcium rich balanced source of minerals
  • a source of concentrated energy
  • the B vitamins to help her use that energy
  • essential fatty acids plus vitamin E to stabilize those essential fatty acids
  • vitamin C to boost the immune system and help cope with the stress
  • vitamin A for the health of her immune system and the internal lining of her mammary glands

The foods your lactating bitch will need the most will be...

  • A complete and balanced raw diet like BARF World®'s BARF Diet® patties and nuggets
  • Fortified milk mix

Raw meaty bones or BARF World®'s BARF Diet® Patties must form the basis of the lactation diet...

because they supply the minerals needed, including calcium and phosphorus. This is for her greatest health, best milk production and therefore for the pup's greatest health. High levels of protein are also essential for the production of milk. This means that other protein supplements are an excellent idea. Tripe, offal, eggs and cottage cheese are great sources of protein and can become part of the diet.


Feed the raw meaty bones either whole or minced along with Dr. Billinghurst's BARF Diet®™ Patties as alternate meals. Give the fortified milk mix as the main source of fluid - if she will take her fluid this way.


The fortified milk mix

This formula consists of one cup or 250 ml of milk [preferably raw], one teaspoon of honey, one or two teaspoons of flax seed oil, one raw egg [or two egg yolks] - about 60 gm, and one or two junket [rennet] tablets plus multi-B and C vitamins - so long as this did not put her off drinking it. This is blended, brought to body temperature, and kept at body temperature for ten minutes to allow the junket tablet to work. Preferably, you will have tried this mix on her prior to whelping so you will know that she will drink it and that it does not cause digestive upset.


How much food and how often?

These two questions are really the same question. This is the one time in the life of your bitch that she must be permitted to eat as much of this high quality food as she likes. There will be no harm done by letting her eat ad lib - as much as she likes, particularly if she has a big litter to support. A goal you have for your bitch after the pups are born, is that she should have the same weight or perhaps a bit more than she had about the time she was mated. Your next aim for her is that she should maintain this weight by the time the pups are weaned. What this means is that she should not deplete her own body reserves during the period of lactation.


Newly made mothers can be difficult. There are no guarantees on what they will or will not want to eat and/or drink. You will need to be patient and be prepared to offer alternatives if one type of food is refused. After the first few days, it is usual for her appetite to return. Her demand for milk will peak at about week three and continue for one or two more weeks, by which time you will have begun to wean the puppies.


For more information on feeding the lactating bitch read Grow Your Pups with Bones by Dr. Ian Billinghurst B.V.Sc.(Hons), B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed..