My Pregnant Dog Not Eating

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 13, 2024
My Pregnant Dog Not Eating

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We expect our pregnant dog to eat more since she has to provide enough nutrition not only for herself, but also her developing offspring. A dog pregnancy lasts around 65 days, a process which has various stages. The dog's appetite can fluctuate during these stages, resulting in her adjusting her food intake accordingly. At certain points she might eat more, others less. Much of this is due to hormone production, but a pregnant dog may stop eating for other reasons which are potentially threatening. These can include diseases and health conditions which need clinical intervention.

At AnimalWised, we discover the reasons why my pregnant dog isn't eating. In doing so, we take a look at the correct approach to feeding a pregnant dog. This way we can provide the best diet and nutrition to best ensure the health and well-being of both mother and puppies.

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  1. Why is my pregnant dog not eating?
  2. How long can a pregnant dog go without eating?
  3. How much should a pregnant dog eat?
  4. How to encourage a pregnant dog to eat
  5. What to feed a pregnant dog
  6. What to feed a pregnant dog before labour

Why is my pregnant dog not eating?

A loss of appetite in any dog should be cause for concern. A healthy dog will have a healthy appetite, but there are important exceptions. Pregnancy can be one of them. In fact, a loss of appetite might be one of the signs we know the dog is pregnant. It is essential that we determine whether a pregnant dog is not eating as a normal response to her pregnancy or as a symptom of something that threatens her well-being.

To help us do so, we look at the causes of appetite loss in pregnant dogs:

  • Nausea: during pregnancy, the mother dog's body adapts to the needs of her developing offspring. For this to happen, she will need to produce varying levels of different reproductive hormones. Such hormonal changes are not without their symptoms, with nausea and an accompanying loss of appetite being common. This is only temporary and she should start eating again a day or two if she is otherwise healthy.
  • Labor: a pregnant dog will also stop eating before she is about to enter parturition, i.e. she is about the start the birthing process. While it won't happen with all dogs, many will refuse to eat around 12-24 hours before her labor begins. During this time, she will find a nest and wait for the whelping to start. We will need to ensure we provide comfort, as well as plenty of water and even some food in case she needs it.
  • Lack of exercise: although we need to be careful when a dog is pregnant, this does not mean she will stop activity altogether. Many dogs are still very active until very late in their pregnancy, only being hindered by the additional weight of her puppies. Some guardians may be overly careful and deny their pregnant dog opportunities to exercise. If she is still eating her normal rations, she may stop eating because she is unable to burn off the food she has ingested.
  • Dental issues: regardless of whether they are pregnant, many dogs will be unable to eat if they have dental issues. The pain these dental issues cause can result in them refusing food because the experience is too traumatic. This is only when the pain is intense and the problem extensive. It is a relatively uncommon reason for a pregnant dog to stop eating.
  • Toxic substances: similarly, a dog may stop eating if she has ingested something toxic. This can be food that has gone off or even a chemical left in her environment. If this happens, they need to be taken to a vet immediately.
  • Gastrointestinal disease: in addition to food poisoning, other gastrointestinal diseases can result in a pregnant dog not wanting to eat. These can be due to parasites, viruses, bacterial infections or a wide range of causes. They can be mild and resolve on their own, but serious problems need veterinary medical attention.
  • Stress: if the dog is overly stressed or anxious, this can lead to not wanting to eat. This will not be caused by the pregnancy, but it may be exacerbated by it. We need to ensure our dog has no stressors and that we promote a calm environment conducive to relieving anxiety.
  • Other diseases or health conditions: if a dog has any sort of infection, autoimmune disease, organ failure or any sort of underlying healthy condition, the pregnancy can exacerbate the symptoms. Acute problems such as infections can also arise which will do the same.

When a pregnant dog stops eating for more than 1-2 days, it means they are seriously threatened. We will need to take them to a veterinarian immediately.

How long can a pregnant dog go without eating?

Pregnant dogs may stop eating due to their hormone levels. When they experience nausea, they tend to go off their food for a while until they adjust to the change in their hormonal balance. Once she begins to feel better, her appetite will return and she will most likely make up for the lost time. It's very important to allow her to eat until she is satisfied as she will need additional calories to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Once she has given birth, her appetite should return to normal. However, if her appetite loss continues for more than 1-2 days during her pregnancy, she will need to see a veterinarian immediately. She will need to be taken even sooner if we see other symptoms which suggest a medical emergency such as abnormal bleeding.

Learn about the possible causes of this latter symptom with our article on why a dog is bleeding from her vagina.

My Pregnant Dog Not Eating - How long can a pregnant dog go without eating?

How much should a pregnant dog eat?

A pregnant dog is not only eating for herself, but also for her developing puppies. It should be no surprise that she will need a higher calorie intake to ensure this development is healthy and to provide them with the best start in life.

How much should a pregnant dog eat?

For an estimation, your pregnant dog will need a 25% calorie intake increase for each puppy she has. It will be difficult for her to eat enough for 10 - 12 puppies and maintain her normal digestive functions, but we need to be able to offer her this amount of food for a healthy pregnancy.

For example, if your dog would eat 3 cups of high quality dog food, a litter of 8-10 puppies will require her to consume around 9 cups of food a day. This is only a rough guide and each will have their own individual needs. To ensure her diet is sufficient and meets her new demands, you will need to consult with your veterinarian. They will be able to tell you how much fat and protein your dog will need according to her age, pregnancy, health status and any other pertinent factors.

How to encourage a pregnant dog to eat

A dog will need to eat to have a healthy pregnancy, but she may refuse to eat for the reasons we've mentioned above. When the problem is a disease or similar health condition, the veterinarian will need to provide appropriate treatment. In some cases, she may have returned to health, but is still not eating a sufficient caloric intake. When this is the case, we will need to find was to encourage the pregnant dog to eat::

  • Offer her food in smaller portions: divide her food into smaller portion size, but increase the frequency of meals. This means she will be eating more frequently, but in smaller portions. This helps her digest the food without feeling too full.
  • Provide her with the correct diet: a pregnant dog will not only need a higher intake, but a nutritionally rich canine diet. This includes meat-sourced protein, healthy fats and low amounts of carbohydrates. Learn more in our article about the best diet for dogs.
  • Maintain a certain routine: dogs love routine as it helps them go feel secure in the home. This doesn't change simply because our dog has become pregnant. A great idea is to feed her after taking her for a calm walk. This way she will be feeling hungry and will probably eat more.
  • Always offer fresh food: if she has left food and it has been there for 10 minutes, take it away. Do not put her new food on top of her old food. This will cause bacteria to proliferate and result in the mother dog to having simultaneous diarrhea and vomiting. Make sure her food is always fresh and her dog bowl is always clean.

If these tips don't bring a solution to the problem, it's best to take her to the veterinarian for a checkup. Your veterinarian will be able to examine her and rule out any health issues, as well as give you advice for your dog's specific situation.

What to feed a pregnant dog

As we've briefly mentioned, you will need to feed your dog a nutritionally rich diet. Here are some pointers to take into account when feeding your pregnant dog:

  • Calorie intake: your dog will need a higher calorie intake due to the fact she will now also be eating for her puppies.
  • Protein: Protein may need to increase up to 70% of their normal intake due to altered breast development and the growth of her fetuses
  • Fatty acids: essential fatty acids are important for her puppies' brain and retina development, helping them improve learning, memory and vision.
  • Vitamins and minerals: as for any other animal, vitamins and minerals should not be ignored when considering a dog's diet. These have various functions in improving a dog's health. Talk to your veterinarian about whether your dog will need a supplement during her pregnancy.
  • Highly processed dog food: avoid giving your dog any highly processed food as this will not only be useless for her nutritional needs but can also cause her harm. This also goes for forbidden human food for dogs.

To learn more, we encourage you to read our article on what to feed a pregnant dog, where we dive deeper into the subject.

My Pregnant Dog Not Eating - What to feed a pregnant dog

What to feed a pregnant dog before labour

You already know what to feed your dog through her pregnancy, but what about before she gives birth? This is a unique stage in her pregnancy that will requiere certain care as their body is under a lot of stress. It's common for a dog that is about to go into labor to avoid eating. Labor can be very painful and may cause uneasiness, an upset stomach and vomiting. Therefore forcing your dog to eat at this moment is not the best idea as even if they do eat, they may throw up and it will make them feel even more uncomfortable.

The best thing you can do is offer them small and easily digestible food. This could mean high quality dog food that she never had problems digesting. By offering her small amounts, you will avoid her feeling too satiated, something that may lead her to vomiting. Small treats can also work as they are high in calorie and that can help her have the energy she needs to get through labor.

Lastly, you will need to offer her fresh and clean water. Even is she refuses to eat, offer her water as it's very important she is not dehydrated during the process of giving birth. Although it's relatively common for pregnant dogs not to eat 12 - 24 hours before giving birth, drinking water is very important and should be promoted.

Once she has given birth she will need to rest and continue eating nutritionally rich food to produce milk for her puppies. You will observe that she will gradually recover and go back to her old eating habits.

You can learn even more about ensuring your pregnant dog's health with our article explaining whether we can vaccinate a pregnant dog.

If you want to read similar articles to My Pregnant Dog Not Eating, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

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