To have a healthy litter of puppies, there should be no shortcuts. One must ensure the overall health of their mother, even before she gets pregnant.
Pregnancy is such a physically demanding period and expectant dogs with sub-optimal nutrition and poor physical condition can experience numerous complications.
Dr. Gen Maala Castro, who runs Consult A Vet Animal Medical Clinic, shared that she has had many cases of stillbirths, puppies with cleft palates, or pups gradually fading and dying within the first two weeks of life, and dams with depleted mammary glands, unable to produce milk to keep their young alive.
Immediate attention on nutrition
As soon as fur parents notice that their dog is pregnant, Dr. Castro said immediate steps should be taken to keep the dog healthy, starting with a change in diet.
“In the first trimester, it is very crucial for the dam to have a proper diet,” she advised. “Puppies turn out healthy because the mother during pregnancy was able to get the right dog food.”
Supplements, she said, are not enough, as she has experienced having puppies with cleft palates, which can be traced to nutritional deficiencies. “Giving ordinary adult dog food is also different from giving a proper diet that is high in protein with DHA,” she said.
As with humans, DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is one of the key nutrients for the brain development of a growing puppy. Other essentials are omega 3 and calcium phosphorus for bone development, vitamin B complex for the nervous system, and probiotics for a healthy gut.
In her clinic, Dr. Castro also focuses on giving folic acid, a supplement for the pregnant dam to decrease her offspring’s chances of developing cleft palate.
Dr. Castro said one healthy dog food is IAMS which contains all these essential nutrients. She said IAMS is specifically formulated to provide the optimum diet for pregnant and nursing dogs and for growing puppies.
“Rather than making unsure concoctions and feeding table food or raw food to your pets, I go for the practical choice,” she explained.
“IAMS has been studied and tested, so if you want healthy pets and puppies, just go for the dog food that is complete and backed up by studies.”
Healthy inside and out
It is also important for a dog owner to ensure their dogs are free from parasites.
Dr. Castro said dogs must be dewormed, given anti-tick and flea preventive (ask the vet how to use this), and vaccinated to strengthen the immune system and for mama dogs “to develop strong maternal antibodies that they can pass on to their offspring.”
She shared there was a case of a mama dog who became anemic because she was infested with parasites. The mama dog had heavy bleeding which led to the abortion of the babies.
She also warned that dogs with atopic dermatitis, a condition that makes their skin red and itchy, usually give birth to pups with the same condition. It is best to have the said dogs spayed to prevent pregnancy.
Pet owners must look out for signs of pregnancy in dogs so that proper care can be given immediately. These are vomiting, engorgement of the breasts and tummy, and increase in appetite.
“It’s easier nowadays because we have foods commercially available that you just have to choose from according to the size, breed and type, and just follow the proper serving guidelines,” she said.
This article also appears in the Manila Standard
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