Best Dog Food for Nursing Dogs

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nursing dog

After your dog gives birth, her body will go through many changes. And, she’ll need to meet her nutritional needs, as well as those of her pups. This is why dog food for nursing mothers is so important. But, which is the best option? 

Our number one choice is Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Not only is it suitable for adult dogs and puppies — it’s high in calories and fat for nursing moms. 

But there are many options for the best dog foods for nursing dogs. No matter if your dog wants dry, wet, or fresh food, our list includes them all. 

Our Best Dog Food for Nursing Dogs

  1. Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Overall)
  2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best Grain-Free)
  3. CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult Small Breed Dry Dog Food (Best for Small Breeds)
  4. ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Medium Breeds)
  5. Solid Gold Wolf King Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food (Best for Large Breeds)
  6. Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy Classic Grain-Free Canned Dog Food (Best Wet Food)
  7. Dr. Gary’s Best Breed Holistic Field Dry Dog Food (Best Budget Food)
  8. The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dehydrated Dog Food (Best Premium Food)
  9. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Dog Food (Best for Allergies)
  10. Ollie Beef Recipe Dog Food (Best Fresh Food) 

10 Best Dog Food for Nursing Dogs Reviewed 

The dog food formulas on this list all meet AAFCO’s nutrient profile guidelines. Before switching your nursing dog to any new food, consult with your veterinarian. 


Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Holistic Select Adult Puppy Grain-Free Salmon
  • First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Anchovy and Sardine Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Menhaden Fish Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 29% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 5.5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 448 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-calorie and high-protein dog food with probiotics and DHA for nursing mothers 

One of the easiest ways to feed your furry friend is to give them a formula that they can stick with even after their pups are weaned.

And, if you plan on keeping any of the young dogs, you’ll need dog food for their life stage as well. Why not invest in a formula that is for adult dogs and puppies?

That’s exactly what Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free dry dog food offers. All your dogs, both puppies, and adults could eat this food and thrive. 

It starts with real deboned salmon and menhaden fish meal. These ingredients offer a natural source of DHA — an essential amino acid for brain development and puppy growth. And, since nursing mamas and puppies tend to have sensitive tummies, these novel lean proteins make the food easier to digest. 

This is a grain-free option — offering potatoes and peas instead of ingredients like rice and wheat. These easy-to-digest carbs contain prebiotic fiber for better digestion. And, they provide essential nutrients like B vitamins for energy. 

And, to aid your nursing dog’s digestive tract, as well as the new puppies, this food also contains probiotics. These protect the stomach, reduce potential inflammation, and aid in a healthy immune system. 

Dog parents say this is the best kibble for dogs that need better digestive support or who need extra energy. 


Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Chicken Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Peas, Tapioca Starch
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 36% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 423 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and high-protein dry puppy food with DHA suitable for nursing pooches

Did you know that you could feed your dog puppy food when they’re nursing? Since they need more energy, protein, fat, and DHA, a new mama can easily thrive dry puppy kibble.

But, not all are created equally. So it’s important to choose an option that is packed with proper nutrition. That’s where Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Grain-Free dry dog food shines. 

This formula starts with real deboned chicken. This lean protein source provides over 30% Crude Protein for both your dog and her nursing pups. And, it offers nutrients like glucosamine and L-carnitine for muscle growth and healthy joints.

Chicken fat, flaxseeds, and fish oil contain omega fatty acids that are essential for strong and supple joints. But they also provide DHA and ARA, which are important for heart health and brain function, and growth. 

This recipe is made without grains, corn, wheat, soy, and meat by-products. It’s free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. 

Dog parents say this kibble may be too small for larger breeds. But, they love the ingredients and how it gives their dog’s coat extra shine. 


CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult Small Breed Dry Dog Food

CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult Grain-Free Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Lentils, Tapioca
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 525 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-calorie and high-fat dry dog food with probiotics for better digestion 

Small dogs already need more concentrated nutrition and calories per pound than their larger counterparts. But this is especially true after giving birth and during nursing.

Lack of proper nutrition for a nursing mom can cause weight loss, hypoglycemia, and more. So, high-calorie and high-fat with calcium in dog food is essential. 

CANIDAE PURE Petite Adult dry dog food is just what a small breed needs. This grain-free formula has eight ingredients, contains easy-to-digest proteins and carbohydrates, and is smaller for tiny jaws. 

This recipe starts with whole chicken, chicken meal, and freeze-dried chicken. Chicken is a lean protein source that aids in lean muscles. And, freeze-dried chicken boosts flavor to entice even the pickiest eater. 

Garbanzo beans and lentils offer highly digestible carb sources while providing prebiotic fiber for gut health and a healthy immune system. And garbanzo beans are high in vitamins like potassium for bone health. 

Last but not least, CANIDAE PURE supplements probiotics for easier digestion and stool regularity. 

This formula doesn’t include corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. 

Dog owners with small breeds say the kibble size is perfect, and even their pickiest eater gobbles up the food.


ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Wild Boar, Goat, Lamb, Lamb Liver
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 38% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 463 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: High-protein and high-calorie dog food for medium breeds

Medium breeds are hard to buy food for. They need more calories per cup of food than large breeds but don’t need as high a concentration of vitamins as small breeds. And, many medium breeds are on the svelte side, so they don’t need to pack on a lot of weight. 

Because of this, feeding a nursing dog that’s medium in build may seem difficult too. But ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free dry dog food offers the perfect solution. 

The first five ingredients in this formula are whole-prey animal ingredients — including ranch-raised beef, wild boar, and grass-fed lamb — just to name a few. These nutrient-dense proteins are rich in iron for energy and selenium for immune system function. 

Pork liver, beef fat, and pollock oil provide both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for brain health and joint support. And pollock oil contains a natural source of DHA for nursing pups too. 

Like many of the other foods on this list, ORIJEN Regional Red also includes probiotics. These live cultures help fight inflammation and protect your new dog mama from harmful bacteria that can make her sick. 

Many dog lovers say this food is top-quality. They believe it aids in recovery for their new dog moms, and even note that it aids in a healthier coat. 


Solid Gold Wolf King Bison & Brown Rice Recipe Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

Solid Gold Wolf King Bison & Brown Rice Large Breed
  • First 5 Ingredients: Bison, Ocean Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Pearled Barley
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 22% Crude Protein, 9% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 340 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Dry dog food with novel proteins and probiotics for large breeds

Many large breeds need lower-calorie foods with less fat to avoid weight gain and health issues later on. But, a nursing dog still needs plenty of vitamins and minerals and healthy fats to help her feed her pups properly.

Solid Gold meets both of those needs with their Wolf King Bison Large Breed dog food. 

First, this is the only food on this list that’s not considered high-fat or high-calorie. But, the formula is packed with salmon oil and chicken fat for omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and ARA. So your new dog mom won’t have any trouble nourishing her pups and their growing bodies. 

Bison meat is the first ingredient, followed by ocean fish meal. These novel proteins are great for sensitive dogs that may have digestion problems, and most likely won’t cause any allergic reactions for them or their pups. And, bison contains potassium — aiding in bone strength. 

It’s important to note that this isn’t a grain-free formula. Instead, brown rice and pearled barley are easy-to-digest grains with prebiotic fiber and vitamin A for gut and eye health. 

After the cooking process, Solid Gold sprinkles 90 million live probiotics over the food to promote healthy gut bacteria and boost your dog’s immunity. 

Pet owners admit that this food can make their dog’s breath stinky. But, they say their gut health has never been better! 


Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy Classic Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy Classic Chicken Entree Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Liver, Water, Meat By-Products, Salmon
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 10% Crude Protein, 7% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 76% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 493 kcal/can
  • Key Feature: High-protein, high-calorie, and high-fat dog food for lactating dogs who are picky eaters

It’s almost impossible to find a canned dog food that is high-protein, high in calories, and provides enough fat for a nursing dog. So why not switch over to food for puppies?

Purina Pro Plan Development Puppy wet dog food provides vitamins and minerals for your dog and her new pups while offering flavor. 

It starts with real deboned chicken and chicken liver. These offer a whopping 40% Crude Protein level when measured as dry food. And, with salmon added, your dog is sure to get plenty of omega fatty acids and DHA for healthy development in growing pups.

This canned food doesn’t contain any carbohydrates at all. The only ingredients are animal proteins and water. So it’s important to discuss with your vet about this grain-free food and if it will work for your nursing dog. 

However, many dog owners noted that their vets recommended the food and to mix it with root vegetables (like potatoes) or oats for dogs who needed them.

Dog moms and dads say this is the perfect food if you don’t want your dog to lose weight. They also say it’s great if you’re looking to give them as much protein and fat as you can due to life cycles like pregnancy and nursing. 


Dr. Gary’s Best Breed Holistic Field Dry Dog Food

Dr. Gary's Best Breed Holistic Field
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Crude Protein, 13% Crude Fat, 3% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 466 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-calorie and budget-friendly dog food with glucosamine and DHA for nursing dogs 

Feeding a new mom and her pups can be exhausting, time-consuming, and expensive. But, you don’t have to sacrifice quality ingredients and nutrients when you’re on a budget. Instead, try Dr. Gary’s Best Breed Holistic Field dry dog food. 

This nutritionally dense diet is perfect for active dogs and those nursing future active dogs. The recipe starts with a high-quality chicken meal. This animal protein is easy to digest and contains glucosamine for supple joints. 

Chicken fat and menhaden fish oil promote mobility and proper joint health for nursing moms and their pups. And, menhaden fish meal is a great source of DHA to support lactation and puppy brain growth. 

Brown rice and oatmeal help bulk up the food with extra calories to keep mom’s energy up. And, they also offer fiber and prebiotics for digestion support. 

This formula is free of corn, wheat, gluten meal, artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors. 

Canine owners say this food is perfect for field breeds that have pups. And, many feed all of their dogs, including weaned puppies, this kibble. 


The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dehydrated Dog Food

The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dehydrated Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Dehydrated Chicken, Organic Barley, Dehydrated Potatoes, Organic Flaxseed, Organic Oats
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24.5% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 8% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 485 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: High-protein and human-grade dehydrated dog food with EPA and DHA

Looking to offer your dog some premium dog food made with human-grade and organic ingredients? If you want to spoil your precious dog, The Honest Kitchen is one of the best ways to do so. 

This is dehydrated dog food, so once rehydrated, it resembles a mash of real ingredients. You can actually see the chunks of vegetables, oats, and chicken. This is great if you have a picky dog that likes eating human food, or a dog that can’t eat dry kibble. 

While The Honest Kitchen has many different formulas, its Whole Grain Chicken option is the most popular. It starts with free-range and farm-raised chicken, along with supplemented taurine. These aid in muscle strength and heart health.

Organic barley, organic oats, and dehydrated potatoes provide gentle and nourishing fiber for digestion. And, oats are full of selenium and manganese, which can aid in thyroid and bone support. 

This formula is made without by-products, preservatives, fillers, or GMO ingredients. It’s also free of corn, wheat, and soy. To serve the food, mix a serving with warm water and wait three minutes before delighting your pooch. 

Pet owners admit that this food is premium, but they love that it’s full of organic ingredients and is easy for their dog to eat. 


Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Instinct LID Grain Free Real Lamb
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Lamb, Tapioca, Peas, Canola Oil
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein, 21.5% Crude Fat, 3.5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 447 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and limited ingredient diet with novel proteins for nursing dogs with allergies

If your dog had food allergies before they gave birth, this isn’t likely to change once they’ve had their puppies. So you’ll still want to stick to a limited ingredient diet that avoids proteins and grains that can cause allergic reactions.

However, be sure to make the change cautiously so you don’t ruin their digestion. 

A great option for the new mom is Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free dry dog food. This formula is high in calories, has plenty of protein, and is high-fat for nursing moms that need adequate nutrition. And, it is a mono-protein food and has just 11 ingredients. 

This whole-prey recipe starts with lamb meal, real deboned raw lamb, freeze-dried lamb liver, and freeze-dried lamb kidney. Lamb provides gentle protein to maintain lean muscles, as well as B vitamins and omega fatty acids for an energy boost and healthy joints. 

This formula also includes just one vegetable — peas. These provide easy-to-digest carbohydrates without triggering your dog’s immune system. 

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free dog food doesn’t include grains, dairy, eggs, chicken, beef, corn, wheat, or soy. It’s also free of artificial colors and preservatives. 

Pet parents love how this food keeps their dogs alert and healthy. Many note that it also smells better and doesn’t give their dogs stinky breath. 


Ollie Beef Recipe Dog Food

Ollie beef
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Peas, Sweet Potato, Potato, Carrot
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 9% Crude Protein,7% Crude Fat, 2% Crude Fiber, 70% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 192.50 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: Human-grade and easy to customize fresh dog food 
Get 50% OFF your first Ollie order!

If you’re looking for a specific diet for your dog, why not customize your own with Ollie? They provide human-grade and freshly cooked dog food that is tailor-made to your dog’s nutritional needs. 

You’ll start with Ollie by taking their 5-minute online quiz. You’ll answer questions about your dog’s weight, height, and even if they’re nursing. From there, Ollie will calculate a balanced diet with your canine’s protein, fat, carbohydrate, and calorie needs. 

Then, you can choose between four recipes — including beef, lamb, chicken, and turkey. Their beef recipe starts with real USDA beef, fresh peas, sweet potatoes, and potatoes

You can choose one recipe or a combination of different recipes. The beef option is the highest in calories and protein, but any of the formulas could work once they are customized to your dog’s nutritional needs. 

Once you’ve chosen a formula, Ollie will ship the food within 24 hours of making it every two to four weeks. 

Dog owners love that they can tailor this food to their dog’s needs, especially during life changes like pregnancy, nursing, and weaning.


nursing mother dog

How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Your Nursing Dog

Not sure of what to buy for your nursing dog? Here’s what to look for. 

Why Is It Important to Change the Diet?

Just like nursing mothers have to change their diet to meet their needs and their baby’s needs at the same time, dog mothers have to do the same. And, many of them have to meet the needs of two to six pups at one time! 

If you aren’t meeting those needs with her food, she or her pups could suffer from nutritional deficiencies, thus potentially causing health issues now or later in life.

High-energy food that meets their dietary needs can help the pups grow strong and steady, and keep mom in prime shape. 

Why Do Vets Recommend Switching a Nursing Bitch to Puppy Food?

Food for pups usually has the highest and healthiest sources of fat, protein, and calories. And, since a nursing dog needs all of those vitamins and minerals, plus more energy, this can be the easiest switch.  

How Do a Dog’s Nutritional Requirements Change When She Begins Lactating?

When your dog lactates, her body will need more nutrients to replace those that she feeds her pups. Here is what you need to look for in dog food. 

More Calories

First, your pooch will need significantly more calories. While your vet will be able to give you a better calorie limit for your dog to meet their needs, most nursing breeds do well to add 10-15 extra calories per pound. 

In other words, large breeds usually need around 25 calories per pound that they weigh. A nursing large breed would need 35-40 calories per pound. Small breeds need slightly more calories per pound at 30 but will need 30-45 while nursing. 

Higher Fat Level

Your furry friend will also need food with higher fat content. Dogs need fat to sustain their energy levels. And since your dog will be eating for themselves and their pups, they need to pass on those nutrients as well. 

Look for foods with at least 12% Crude Fat. This will give your dog the vigor they need and give their newborn puppies essential fatty acids too. 

More Protein

Just like your dog’s food will need more fat, it will need more protein too. This is because protein aids your dog’s muscles, cartilage, and metabolism. Since your canine will be feeding multiple little ones, they’ll need all the strength they can get. 

You’ll want dog food with at least 22% Crude Protein. But preferably, you should find foods with around 25%-30%.  

High Digestibility

Since your pooch just gave birth, their stomach and digestive tract may be out of whack (along with their energy levels). So a highly digestible dog food is vital during those first few weeks of nursing. 

Foods with easier-to-digest lean proteins and grains, as well as those filled with healthy fats and probiotics, can aid in digestion. And, they’ll keep your dog from feeling more uncomfortable while supporting their regularity.  

Calcium and Phosphorus

Calcium and phosphorus are essential for growing puppies. And, since these pups get most of their nutrition from their mother for at least a few months, your lactating dog will need a diet high in these nutrients. 

Calcium and phosphorus aid in bone growth and strength, so don’t skimp on the food quality that offers these components. And, be sure that the food follows a ratio of 3:1 of calcium and phosphorus, the ideal ratio for dogs. 

DHA

DHA is a crucial element for growing pups. Not only does it aid in cognitive function, but it also helps with muscle recovery and protecting joints. 

While DHA is more popular in puppy formulas because of a pup’s need for it, many adult dog foods have also started offering it. This is great if you choose to feed your dog adult dog food versus puppy food. 

Our Verdict

It’s essential to feed your lactating dog high-quality dog food that meets her needs and improves milk production. 

In our opinion, that food is Holistic Select Adult & Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

It includes DHA for the growing pups and plenty of energy to keep mom going through the day. 

No matter which food you prefer on this list, all of them can meet your dog’s dietary needs and her new and growing puppies. 

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AUTHOR
Kim Studdard is a freelance writer for many websites in the pet universe. When she isn't spending time with her family and pets, or saying "Look a dog" everytime she sees one, you'll find her reading a book or traveling the U.S.

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