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Diet is critical not only to puppies, but also for the health of the breeding female, whose nutritional needs vary with the stage of reproduction. The amount of added dietary energy needed to support a mother and her puppies can range from 0% to 300% or more, depending on the reproductive stage and litter size.

Stage of Reproduction
Period → Gestation Lactation
Weeks → 1-6 7-9 1 2 3-5 6 7 8
Energy Maintenance (100%) 150% 150% 200% ≥300% 250% 200% 125%
Recommended Diet
Females Females & Puppies
<24 lbs ROYAL CANIN HT 42d Small Dog ROYAL CANIN Starter Mother and Babydog
(size appropriate)

Mother and Babydog
(size appropriate)

>24 lbs ROYAL CANIN HT 42d Large Dog ROYAL CANIN Starter Mother and Babydog

(size appropriate)


Mother and Babydog

(size appropriate)


Include All Nutritional Classes for a Balanced Diet

Energy is just one component of optimal nutrition for breeding. In addition, to optimize nutrition for a breeding female, breeders must consider the amount and type of six nutritional classes: 1) water, 2) protein, 3) lipids (fats), 4) carbohydrates, 5) vitamins and 6) minerals.

It’s important to keep all six nutritional classes in mind to support both the mother and her puppies, whose growth and development depend on the female’s diet up to weaning. Select a balanced diet composed of critical nutrients, including:

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to support neurological development.
  • Taurine to support cardiac development.
  • Folate (vitamin B9) to support fetal development.
  • Fortified levels of all six nutrient classes, which are critical to puppy development and health.

In addition, keep in mind that puppies’ immune and gastrointestinal systems are extremely immature at whelping. In fact, most of their immune protection is provided by the female through the transfer of maternal antibodies via colostrum (first milk). Maternal vitamin status influences the vitamin profile of colostrum, thus potentially influencing the vitamin status of puppies (de Vries et al., 2018). The inclusion of prebiotics (fructo-oligosaccharides) in maternal diets can also influence the level of maternal antibodies, specifically immunoglobulin M concentration, in both colostrum and milk (Adogony et al., 2007; Alonge et al., 2020).

Given the important role that diet plays in the reproductive cycle and the health of the breeding female and her litter, it’s imperative to select a diet that meets the complex nutritional needs of both. Feeding the appropriate size ROYAL CANIN® Mother and Babydog Formula and ROYAL CANIN® Starter Formula during the reproductive cycle will support the mother and may also help her puppies get a healthy start on life.



Adogony, V., Respondek, F., Biourge, V., Rudeaux, F., Delaval, J., Bind, J. L., et al. (2007). Effects of dietary scFOS on immunoglobulins in colostrums and milk of bitches. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 91, 169–174. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2007.00688.x.

Alonge, S., Aiudi, G. G., Lacalandra, G. M., Leoci, R., & Melandri, M. (2020). Pre- and probiotics to increase the immune power of colostrum in dogs. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 570414. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2020.570414.

de Vries, J. Y., Pundir, S., McKenzie, E., Keijer, J., & Kussmann, M. (2018). Maternal circulating vitamin status and colostrum vitamin composition in healthy lactating women—A systematic approach. Nutrients, 10, 687. doi:10.3390/nu1006068.