Raw Feeding for Pregnant & Nursing Dogs

Several months ago when I started thinking about breeding Leeloo, I started researching what she should be fed as part of raw prey model diet while pregnant and reading things like remove all bone from the diet while pregnant. As I continued reading, I learned the reason why is the likelihood of a lactating bitch developing eclampsia if they are eating a diet that includes too much calcium.  Eclampsia in dogs has nothing to do with the human condition preeclampsia.  Eclampsia is all about calcium and the ability of the parathyroid glands to release stored calcium from the bones.  Parathyroid glands control the amount of calcium in the blood and within the bones.  If you supplement too much calcium during pregnancy, the parathyroid gland when stop doing it’s job and when the bitch needs more calcium while lactating, the parathyroid gland will not “wake up” to release it.

Eclampsia, also called “milk fever”, is a very serious condition that can be fatal if not treated immediately with the administration of calcium.  This condition is most common in small breed dogs with large litters, but it can happen to any postpartum bitch at any time while she is lactating.  Calcium can come in the form of tums, Oral Cal Plus, Oralsorb, etc, but it should be given before a bitch is taken to the vet to prevent the bitch from dieing on the way.  Symptoms of eclampsia include:

  • High fever
    • Normal temp is 100-102.5 (The first 48 hours after delivery, the dam can run a temp up to 104 degrees as a normal part of the whelping process.)
  • Panting that does not stop.
  • She will forget she has puppies.
  • The lights are on but nobody’s home.
  • Anxious
  • Pacing
  • Stumbling
  • Trembling
  • Twitching around eyes
  • Muscle twitching

To prevent eclampsia, many feeding raw switch to kibble during pregnancy, but many also continue feeding raw, but remove all bones from the diet during the last trimester with success.  It is very important not to supplement calcium until the bitch is actually in labor.  Many breeders recommend starting calcium after the first puppy is born.  Feeding bitches on a raw diet more than 8-10% bone per day should be considered supplementing.

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