Feeding during Pregnancy
Between the third and seventh weeks I feed my whelping bitches both morning and night, thus practically doubling their diet, and at this time I begin adding one-half teaspoonful of dicalcium phosphate. This procedure is continued during the remainder of pregnancy and lactation, or until after the puppies are weaned.
From the seventh week on, I feed three times a day, without increasing the amount of food. In other words, the bitch is now receiving the same amount of food in three meals that she formerly had in two. She should not get any hard or indigestible food. At this time a commercial food soaked in beef broth makes an excellent diet, to which ground meat may also be added. Pay strict attention not to overload her stomach or to feed her anything which will cause indigestion. During the two days preceding and following whelping, feed raw minced steak. This supplies canine energy-giving food in the most concentrated form, and it will tempt the bitch that might not otherwise eat, thus insuring strength for her ordeal.
The amounts of wheat germ oil, cod-liver oil, and dicalcium phosphate mentioned here are the daily dose, and should not be added to every meal. In my kennels they are included in the evening feeding, but that is a matter of choice for the individual breeder. In the case of wheat germ oil, I give eight drops (for spaniels) before the bitch comes in heat, and continue until after the puppies are weaned and the bitch has lost her old coat.
While the puppies are still in the uterus of the mother they depend on her entirely for their growth and health. She has to supply enough calcium for the bone development of the whole litter if they are not to have rickets. By a provision of nature this calcium is withdrawn from the dam before the puppies are allowed to suffer. However, there is a limit, and should that point be passed, both bitch and puppies will show signs of insufficient calcium.
Bone is cartilage which has become hardened by the laying down of calcium. This is demonstrated clearly when cutting tails. If the tail is docked at the proper age there is no sign of bone, but there is cartilage where the bone will eventually be, approximating in size and shape the bone which will follow. The strength of any bone depends on the amount of mineral salts which it contains. If bones are poorly calcified they are weak, and when X-rayed are seen to be much less dense than those which contain sufficient calcium. In order that the skeleton may develop properly, the bitch must be kept supplied with an adequate amount of calcium and phosphorus, and with vitamin D to bring about calcification. Keep this in mind around meal-time, and do not forget to add dicalcium phosphate and wheat germ oil to give her vitamin D.