Most of us know how to get ready for an upcoming litter. This is usually done by saving newspapers, building or purchasing a whelping box, obtaining a baby scale and a heating pad, getting rectal thermometers, scissors, baby wipes, towels and bedding. We may have gotten the mother an ultrasound to discover litter size, and prepared in advance of the breeding with hormone tests and monitoring of heat cycles. But very often we forget about some of the most important things before we breed. Diet and nutrition are necessary to give our dogs the best chance for fertility, the ability to produce healthy puppies and a good start for good lactation. 

Current dog foods may claim to provide nutrients for the dog, but enhancing sperm production in the male, and giving our bitches the best chance to carry a litter and have a fast and speedy delivery depends on their diet and nutrients. This article will outline some of the necessary vitamins and minerals for reproduction, and the foods that contain these necessary and valuable nutrients. 

A raw diet is the optimum way to go to provide a dog and bitch with good reproduction nutrition, but supplements can also be added to dogs that are fed a commercial dog food as well. The most important nutrients are listed below, and an outline for supplementing and diet recommendations will follow it. 


  • Vitamin B (NP Free B)
    The whole spectrum of B vitamins is important for fertility and preventing birth defects. It is important to give all the B vitamins, in similar doses, as they compete with each other in the small intestine for absorption. 

  • B-1
    Thiamine requirements for this vitamin go up during pregnancy. It is felt that a deficiency of this vitamin can cause fading puppy syndrome, and reduced sexual development. It also helps to protect cell development. Foods containing this vitamin include organ meats, pork, egg yolks, poultry, fish and broccoli.

  • B-2
    Riboflavin is important for tissue repair and stress. A deficiency can also cause anemia. It also is important for healthy eyes, and helps with good milk production. Foods containing riboflavin include yogurt, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, kidney and liver. 

  • B-3
    Niacin and Niacinamide are needed for alertness and avoiding depression and good skin. It is important for growth in puppies, and corn consumption blocks B-3. Foods sources are beef and pork, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, broccoli and carrots.

  • B-6
    This vitamin in important in the metabolism of amino acids found in protein and essential fatty acids. It also helps in absorption in iron, B-12 and zinc. B-6 levels are found to be deficient in pregnant human mothers, and can cause convulsions and irritability in infants. A deficiency can cause anemia and immune problems. Lack of this vitamin can be linked to cleft palate. Foods containing this vitamin include eggs, fish, spinach, carrots, meat, chicken and salmon. 

  • B-12
    This vitamin is important to nerve growth, and to prevent anemia. Its absorption is enhanced with vitamin C. Food sources are lamb and beef kidneys, lamb, beef and pork liver. 

  • Folic Acid
    It is important for the production of the genetic material, RNA and DNA. It is necessary for good brain development. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause anemia in the mother and birth defects in the puppies. Food sources include beef, lamb, pork and chicken liver and dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Biotin
    This nutrient is important to infants, who can often be deficient in this vitamin. Deficiency symptoms include a skin rash, appetite loss and weakness. It is also important for function of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands and ovaries and testicles. Foods high in biotin are chicken, lamb, pork, beef, liver, milk and salt water fish.

  • Vitamin C (Berte's Powdered Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids)
    Addition of this vitamin helps with collagen, for good restoration of the breasts post nursing. It also helps with reducing fatigue during whelping, and helps with milk production. It is an antiess vitamin and helps to synthesize hormones. It also helps to promote good immunity. Sources for this vitamin are best from powder or capsule forms.

  • Bioflavonoids
    These are considered to be antioxidants and help to increase vitamin C absorption. They are a good cataract prevention. 

  • Vitamin E (NP Vitamin E 200)
    This is often called the fertility vitamin, and is good for both dogs and bitches. It is used for the formation of genetic material and helps to prevent atony (stalled birth). It is beneficial for the immune system, and helps with autoimmune problems. It is also helpful for blood circulation. Lack of it can cause testicular degeneration in dogs. Vitamin E is found in the fats of vegetables, dark leafy green vegetables and nuts. It is best given by supplements, found in gel caps. 


  • Magnesium
    A deficiency of this mineral can cause premature birth, and inter-uterine growth retardation. It can also cause over-extension of the carpal joints. Magnesium is found in dairy products, meat, fish and seafood.

  • Zinc
    Lack of this mineral can cause miscarriage and birth defects. It can also cause skin problems, poor immunity, low sperm production. It also helps to activate vitamin A for eye development and health. It is involved in the synthesis of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, which aid in cell division, repair and growth. Food sources for zinc include meat, poultry, fish, oysters, liver and eggs. 

  • Essential Fatty Acids (Flaxseed Oil)
    Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are vital for cell formation, preventing PRA, creating normal hormone production and growth, and growing bones. Omega-6 is available in raw chicken, pulped vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flaxseed oil, fish body oil (such as Salmon Oil) and sea algae. 

Additional Helpful Supplements

  • Berte's Ultra Probiotic Powder
    Probiotics are a blend of beneficial bacteria that help with digestion, boost the immune system and help the puppies at birth by insuring good digestion of nutrients. 

  • Berte's Sea Kelp
    This is a good source of minerals and trace minerals needed for fertility and fetal growth.

  • Alfalfa
    This powder contains vitamin K, which is good for blood clotting and is a good source of amino acids.

  • Red Raspberry Leaf (Whelp Help)
    This herb is helpful for toning the uterus and helping with contractions for an easier delivery. Use during the last three to four weeks of pregnancy.

Herbs to avoid during pregnancy include angelica, barberry, black cohosh, bloodroot, cat's claw, celandine, cottonwood bark, dong quai, feverfew, goldenseal, lobelia,Oregon grape, pennyroyal, rue and tansy.

Balch, James and Balch, Phyllis A., Prescription of Nutritional Healing, Avery Publishing Group, New York, 1997. 
Belfield, Wendell O. D.V.M. and Zucker, Martin., How to Have a Healthier Dog, Orthomolecular Specialties, San Jose, 1993. 
Billinghurst, Ian B.V.SC.[Hons], B.Sc.Agr., Dip. Ed., Grow Your Pups With Bones, Ian Billinghurst, Australia, 1998. 
Lieberman, Shari and Nancy Bruning, The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book, Avery Publishing, New Jersey, 1990. 
Pitcairn, Richard H. D.V.M. and Pitcairn, Susan Hubble, Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Rodale Press, Pennsylvania, 1995. 

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