Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

Feed Program For Pregnant and Lactating Bitches

It is important not to vaccinate your bitch during her heat cycle. Read more about this problem in Avoiding Vaccinations During Heat Cycles.

Note: Do not use grain free diets during pregnancy and lactation, they are often appropriate for growth. Also, regardless of how good a brand the grain free is, diets with peas as the carbohydrate component may be a problem for fertility. There have never been any feed trials on any grain free foods when it comes to growth, pregnancy, lactation. When in doubt - don't.

A natural chemical in peas (m-xylohydroquinone) can prevent pregnancy – and peas are being studied as a possible natural contraceptive!

How Do I Know She is Pregnant?

I don't know if she is pregnant or not, but we choose not to use xrays or sonagrams to tell if she is pregnant. We save the xrays for when she is delivering, and if she runs into trouble. We do not xray just to go off and xray the bitch. We absolutely do not do a sonagram because it is our experience this often shows several puppies, then when they are due to whelp, there is only one or two or they have been reasorbed. We feel the sonagram often causes the puppies to detach and bitch to reabsorb the litter. We just choose to wait it out and only xray at the end of the whelping. Ususally we can tell by the 5th week if she is pregnant. In the old days we used an EPT test which you can get from the pharmacy - don't know if they are the same or work the same anymore but check with your vet there are other ways to test now that are more accurate. To get a urine sample tape a container to a yardstick and take out to potty, when she squats get a urine sample and test it with the EPT test. Wait until she is at least 3 weeks along in her pregnancy.Before all the expensive tests this is what we used and we did so with great successs. The other thing, these tests are tested in the labratory and they use Beagles. So the human tests were first tested on Beagles. How do I know this? Because a known breeder from the Chicago area used to work for a major drug company that manufactured a pregnancy test for women.

If you are breeding a bitch purchase the book Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook by Carlson and Giffin. They have the best chapter on pregnancy, weaning and problems associated with this proccess.

Blackwatch Feed Program - CORE 4 Supplement Kits

THE BLACKWATCH CORE 4 is based in the philosophy that no diet is 100% complete as stated on the bag, and regardless of the method of feeding; kibble, homemade or raw, we do much better in the long run when the CORE 4 supplements are included into a daily routine (dog, cats and humans). These supplements support immune and digestive function, help to keep a healthy pH and help to prevent vaccine reactions.

3 containers - 4 supplements for wellness

1. Probiotics - a blend of beneficial bacteria which protects the lining of the gut, helping to prevent overgrowth of (bad bacteria/fungus/yeasts) which compromises the protective lining of the gut. When this happens there is the potential for Leaky Gut Syndrome and Toxic Gut which can lead to bloat, compromised health, systemic yeast infections and suppressed immune systems.This is true in humans too. Probiotics are very important to help resolve difficult digestive issues and compromised immune function as well as dealing with Candida, Coccidia, Giardia, parasite infestation, E coli, Salmonella and Herpes Virus.

2. Digestive Enzymes-help to break down the food for better digestion. The three that are of most importance are amylase (carbohydrates) protease (protein), Lipase (fats) and they are often found in combination Probiotic products.

3. Dietary Enzymes
- comes from sprouted foods and it puts the "living component" back into a processed dog food. Dietary enzymes have strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and they detoxify the body quickly, which speeds any healing and repair at a cellular level.

4. Ox-E-Drops - The primary reason for this liquid concentrate is because it helps to keep a healthy the pH in the gut so pathogenic bacteria and fungus does not over growth and make the dogs more prone to bloat and systemic yeast infections. I use it in my pets drinking water and diluted drops in their daily meals (1-2 drops per 20 lbs body weight. It can be used in a 2% solution (1 cup distilled water + 1 teaspoon of Ox-E-Drops) and used to clean ears, spray on wounds, as an eye wash, colonics or douches for Pyometra in bitches. Ox-E-Drops decontaminates water, 20 drops to a gallon and it can be used internally and in a vaporizer (30 drops to 1 gallon) for respiratory problems in dogs and cats. Many rescues keep their cattery free from respiratory problems with the use of vaporizers and Ox-E-Drops.

Note: When incorporating the CORE 4 or any supplements into your feed program, please start by adding each supplement 2-3 days apart until your pet is used to everything, then you can use all at once either AM or PM feeding or divided.

Here is a list of CORE 4 Kits for your dog.

I recommend CORE 4 KIT #38 - for Pregnancy and Lactation.

If you live OVERSEAS you have available two holistic food brands to choose from or

Approximate amounts to feed pregnant bitches (giant breeds):

63 day gestation = 9 weeks

Use a holistic food with a moderate protein 23-25% and moderate fat of 12%-15% - feed their normal amount for the first 4 weeks to make sure she is pregnant. (example: Precise Foundation or Precise Holistic Complete Large/Giant Breed Adult). You do not want her to get fat before you know for sure she is pregnant. Then you can just increase the amount of food, or if you know it is a large litter, then move up to a protein that is 26-28% with a fat content that is 15%-18% range for the rest of the pregnancy AND for 3 months after so she has the calories to repair after the body. (example: use the Precise Holistic Complete Sm and Med Adult (27% protein 17% fat). Forget the title and look at protein/fat content that is needed for larger litters.

I do not recommend any Grain Free Foods for pregnancy because no companies have done feed trials on these diets as of 2012.

If a dog's coat looks bad after pregnancy that means they are nutritionally depleated and that is not good. Shedding coat is not unusua,l but it should return quickly if feed a better diet which helps minimize any hair loss.

Example for giant breed litter:

Week 1 - 4 Feed the normal amount in cups that you are currently feeding.

week 5 - add 1 cup AM and 1 cup PM = total 2 more cups a day
week 6 - add 2 cups AM and 2 cups PM = total 4 more cups per day
week 7 - add 3 cups AM and 3 cups PM = total 6 more cups per day.
week 8 add 4cups AM and 4 cups PM = total 8 more cups per day.

This is generally sufficient for the last two weeks of the pregnancy and nursing. If she is still ravenous, or has a big litter it is best to switch up Precise Holistic Complete Sm and Med Adult (27% protein 17% fat).

It is important to increase their friendly bacteria - Probiotic intake during pregnancy and lactation, you can use 4 in 1 Probiotics or 4 in 1 Probiotics Plus with veggies and fruit.

Also the use of Nzymes - antioxidant enzymes, are critical to any diet regardless of brand of food you feed. This product replaces the enzymes lost in the processing of commercial foods and needs to be replenished throughout the life of the dog. The stress of pregnancy requires an additional dose. This is what I use along with 4 in 1 Probiotics to prevent vaccine reactions. I start using this when they are weaned..just do not double dose..ease them into it.


Introduce all your supplements 2-3 days apart so the system in not overwhelmed. If they get a loose stool stop and reintroduce slower.

WATER ON KIBBLE - Puppies 8-10 weeks add 1 tablespoon canned meat and water. You want the food moist but not floating and sloppy. For older puppies and adults I will use 1/2 cup of water per meal along with Precise canned meat.

Do not microwave, soak or use hot or very warm water on your kibble. It will destroy the integrity of the friendly yogurt type cultures and the fragile vitamins/minerals and amino acids on the food.

Commercial foods need to be fed with moisture so dogs don't over consume water after a meal, and so the kibble does not pull moisture from the dogs system in order to break down properly. Use "tepid" temperature water never hot or warm and never soak your food as it breaks down and destroys nutrients. Mix up and feed immediately. If they have loose stools, you may be using too much meat or water than necessary. Adjust that before you panic and think they are sick.

Drinking Water:
It is very important to NEVER withhold water from your dog. This can lead to over consumption and bladder infections. Use common sense, do not let them drink excessively after exercise or dinner. Like a horse, let them cool down and then drink. I have found if I have water available in several places, they never overdo it since they know it is available to them when they need it. That way they drink less amounts of water, but more frequently. Withholding water for fear of bloat is a myth. Stress is the cause and bloat/torsion is the response. It is much more complicated that simply saying water is the cause of bloat.

(See my article on Bloat and Torsion for details) (See On My Soapbox)








Can I Feed The BARF Diet ?

I do not promote totally raw diets or grain free diets on growing large and giant breeds (Dogs that mature at 50+ lbs - includes any dogs of the "bulldog type" those broad body, massive fronts.

Grain free diets are very often high in calories and calcium/phosphorus and not appropriate for breeds in which we want a slow even growth with no OCD in the future.

BARF is a philosophy not a specific way to feed so when someone tells me I feed BARF, that could mean a hundred different ways they decided to feed, from being a Billinghurst purest to "thinking" they are a Billlinghurst follower, but have modified the program to suit their own needs - with or without nutritional background. All I know is, I know a heck of a lot more about dog nutrition than 99% of the people I come in contact with, and you do not see me feeding BARF to these large dogs, because it is very hard to manage. I do feed a raw component with my Precise Kibble but it is balanced. I choose to use Honest Kitchen Dehydrated raw and/or Darwins Raw pet foods.

I do have a safe and balanced raw option in all my feed programs. You can increase the amount of raw used as the puppy get older and past the drastic growth stages at 10 months of age. Take note, you can not take a normal kibble and add raw meat from the grocery store or home butchering because it is not be balanced in calcium/phosphorus ratios nor is it tested for pathogens and parasites. We cook it for our use so this is not an issue. When it is used for dogs and meant to be used raw, that is the potential problem. Unless you can grind up your own meat/bone combination it is best to use a commercially prepared balance raw meat product like Diets which is a better and safer way to go because they are ALREADY BALANCED and therefore fit with the kibble you are using without throwing off the dogs diet.

Editorial comment: There is some talk of feeding raw at a different meal than with kibble. Personally I used to recommend this but over they years of observing my own dogs and, well let's face we feed them better than we feed ourselves -- and if given the chance, right after that holistic dinner of the best raw, kibble and holistic supplements - they will drink out of the toilet, scour for fresh cat doodies, then go outside and toss around frozen poopsicles and scrounge for dead stinky things to roll in and chew on. So I am not so darned sure it makes any difference whether you fed the raw with kibble, I think if they are healthy and on the program, they adapt - they are after all, nature's trash cans.

FOR DAILY CARE: ears, eyes, teeth, skin, healthy treats, fleas

Fleas - Heartworm use Trifexis as a heartworm preventative - I will not use Ivemection/Heart Guard on Great Danes as they are genetically a sighthound. For flea and tick problems I use the Liquid Net® for Pets, fleas and ticks spray. ALL NATURAL - No harmful chemicals like pyrethrins and pyrethoids which can cause neurological problems, seizures and death in many dogs and cats. Great sprayer too!

Support Information - Required Reading

Where to Buy and How to Use a Crate

Read this: Does My Vet Understand Nutrition?

Common Puppy Problems hiccups- demodectic mange - puppy acne - vaginitis - picky eaters etc.

When do I spay or neuter?

Cropped Ears Or Natural Ears? If you have a puppy and intend to have have it cropped, make sure you read these articles. Should I Crop My Dane Puppy? and Anesthesia Guidelines For Cropping. If your dog is already cropped, here is info for taping and aftercare.


There are several articles and photos of vaccine reactions at this website. You need to know how to prevent vaccine reactions, because vaccine reactions in some breeds will kill your dog in a slow agonizing death known as Immune Mediated Response, which is always misdiagnose as HOD. So, here is info:

Prevention of Vaccine Reactions

The AAHA recommended schedule for vaccination

Dr. Jean Dodd's Vaccine Protocols-2006

Vaccine Reaction Photographs


Allergies or Systemic Yeast?

Bloat Nutrition is a Factor

Special Alert - Antibiotic Reactions in Great Danes and Other Breeds.

Sulfonamide Antibiotics
Based on information gained from the National Bone Survey, I do not recommend using Sulfonamide* antibiotics to my puppy buyers because these drugs can cause serious side-effects like sloughing of skin and internal bleeding and HOD-like symptoms including;
fever, aching joints, swollen joints, lack of mobility, depression and anorexia. The following antibiotics are sulfonamides.








Another commonly used, potentially troublesome antibiotics is Cephalexin (Keflex, Cefa-Tabs). This can also produces the same symptoms as HOD (fever,swollen/hot joints, immobility, anorexia) even in adult dogs. I will use Chephalexin, but with a watchful eye and if the dog starts acting lethargic and achy, we stop the antibiotic. Call the vet for an alternative antibiotic and make sure you are using a good Probiotic product to keep the digestive tract functioning properly.

I will not use Sulfonamides drugs on my dogs. A reaction can happen from 24 hours - 2 weeks of being on an antibiotic. If there is a reaction, my vet recommends Dexamethsone/Azium and discontinue use or antibiotic.

* Research references on Sulfonamides

Why do they go off feed?

For a couple of reasons - Hormones play a big role in your dog backing off their food - coming into season, the false pregnancy, teething around 5-7 months of age, and inactivity all have a hand in them backing off eating. Food consumption can be directly related to the amount of free exercise your dog gets on a daily basis. I have 2 Great Danes at home right now, 3 and 4 yrs of age - intact male and spayed female.

A pet owner writes:

"If we try to offer more food, it just gets left behind and they don't eat all of it."
As long as your dog is not running a fever, lethargic, vomiting, distressed or has diarrhea and you KNOW they are not sick, then it is normal for them to back off on their feed regardless of weather. This is natures way of telling you they do not need it - regardless of their weight, they are eating a nutrient dense diet and they need to take a break from it. Remember, in the wild, dogs would never eat on a daily basis, so they are telling you.."Mom, I don't need it - take it away!". They are not usually food driven like people who eat for a variety of other reasons; celebrations, misery, nervousness, pleasure etc. ...well, that is most dogs aren't. My Pug on the other hand, well that is another story!

How I Handle This:

Every week on one day I cut back on the amount by 1/2 cup each meal or 1 cup per day total - IF THIS IS A DOG THAT SELF REGULATES INTAKE and starts walking away from their food you may have to do this more frequently. My male is like clockwork...once a week he turns his up his nose and I would have to throw out half his food, if I didn't cut back once a week...then the next day he is ready to eat again.

Weather is a Factor:

Right now is July and we are in the heat of the summer (Indiana) which means humidity and horseflies, so my dogs are only out long enough to do their "business" a few times a day, then they come right back in the house until the sun sets.

Although they live in an in air-conditioned environment my male will drop down from 7 cups a day total to eating only 5 cups a day total --- and female will normally eat 6 cups a day total, will drop down to only 4 cups a day total consumption. This is because they do not get the free exercise they would normally get in good weather, so their intake is directly related to the enegy they expend. Less exercise means they need less food intake.

The only real exercise they get in the dead of summer is at night when the sun goes down, out the go to play. Their actual expenditure of calories is not as great in the heat or the dead of winter for that matter because of the decrease in exercise - so if you just remember that their intake is directly related to how much exercise they get you will realize you need to cut back at certain times.

If you don't remember they will let you know..they will walk away from their food. During this kind of weather it is not at all unusual for my males to eat half rations, by his own choice, for about 3 days, then back on full rations. This tells me he did not need the calories due to the fact that he is not expending much energy in extreme weather.

Lite or Low Protein Diets Older dogs and growing puppies should NEVER be placed on Low Protein or a lite or restricted protein/fat diet. The only time an animal should be fed a restricted protein or fat diet is due to a specific disease. Cut back the amount you feed rather than switch to a lower protein and lower fat. They need the nutrients and their brains, organ functions and coats will suffer dramatically.

Special Alert:

For Collie/Sheltie/Aussie and Sighthound Owners
For those people who own Collies, Shelties, Sighthounds, Aussies, Border Collies, any breeds with Collie background or mixed breeds with any of these dogs in them, it is critical that you know there are certain medications your dogs CAN'T take. Do not leave it up to your vet to know this..YOU must print this out and know it - it is a matter of life or death.

These dogs have a sensitivity to Ivermectin (Heartguard Heartworm medication. Only use Interceptor. Other related drugs you can not use on these breeds or there will be neurological damage.
Other related drugs you can NOT use:
Metronidazole (which is used for diarreah and giardia)

Ivermectin - Heart Guard
There are many different types of drugs that have been reported to cause problems in Collies, ranging from over-the-counter antidiarrheal agents like Imodium® to antiparasitic and chemotherapy agents. It is likely this list will grow to include more drugs as our research progresses.
Drugs that have been documented, or are strongly suspected to cause problems in dogs with the MDR1 mutation:
Ivermectin (antiparasitic agent)
Loperamide (Imodium®; over-the-counter antidiarrheal agent)
Doxorubicin (anticancer agent)
Vincristine (anticancer agent)
Vinblastine (anticancer agent)
Cyclosporin (immunosuppressive agent)
Digoxin (heart drug)
Acepromazine (tranquilizer)
Butorphanol (pain control)
Potential Problem Drugs
The following drugs may potentially cause problems when given to dogs that have the mutation. Biochemical studies have shown that this gene has the potential to act on over 50 different drugs.


Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory
PO Box 2280
Pullman, WA 99165-2280
(Phone/FAX 509-335-3745)
Here is the link for more drug information


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