Preparing to have puppies enter into the world is an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming as well! Caring for your pregnant bitch is of the utmost importance, and nutrition is a big part of this. There is some controversy over what to feed her during this crucial time, and a question often asked is, are eggs good to add to your pregnant dog’s diet?
As a general rule, eggs are safe to feed dogs! But, there are some things you need to consider before adding them to your dog’s daily diet, especially if your dog is pregnant. While eggs should not be the mainstay of your dog’s food (not more than 10% of her diet), occasionally adding them into her weekly diet may offer some benefits.
Veterinarians, breeders, owners, and “so-called experts” seem to have differing views on the benefits of eggs as well as how to feed them to your dog. Let’s take a look at some of those possible benefits as well as the risks associated with them.
What nutritional benefits do eggs offer to dogs?
There is no doubt that eggs are an excellent source of protein. A medium-sized egg has between 5.5 and 6.0 grams of protein. That makes them one of the most complete sources of amino acids. They are also a source of vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. Each egg has approximately 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, with no carbohydrates or sugar. An egg has between 24.6 mg and 30 mg of calcium and 87.7 mg phosphorus. Most dogs find eggs tasty and readily accept them either added into their regular meal or served as a treat.
Are eggs necessary as a supplement for your pregnant dog?
The answer to this depends on the food you are currently feeding her. You must keep your bitch in excellent condition; from before her pregnancy until the time the puppies are weaned. Veterinarians all seem to agree that putting her on a quality, high-calorie food is necessary during pregnancy. If you do that, the food should already be providing her with the proper nutrition, therefore supplementing with eggs would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, not everyone can feed their dogs high-quality kibble. If the food you are feeding your bitch contains less than 22-29% protein and 1600kCal per pound of kibble, adding an egg can help increase the nutrients to the recommended levels.
An egg could also raise the palatability of their food. So if you have a picky eater and need to increase her calories and protein, adding eggs may help. Eggs are known to help with diarrhea by providing an easily digested protein source. However, they should be cooked first and fed in moderation, or they may end up actually causing diarrhea in some dogs.
If you choose to feed your pregnant dog a raw or homecooked diet, eggs are an excellent addition to this! Please be sure you have done your research and spoken in detail with your vet before opting to do this. In one of the recommended ratios for raw feeding of 5:1:1 (that is five portions of raw meat, one portion fresh organ meat, and one portion veggies), eggs would fall into the raw meat category.
For the first five weeks of pregnancy, you should not change your bitch’s diet (other than switching to a high-calorie quality kibble if you were feeding something else). She does not need any additional calories until approximately week six. During that week, you should increase her food by about 10% and then gradually continue to increase it throughout the remainder of the pregnancy until she is consuming about 25% more food than she was at the beginning of the pregnancy. Eggs can help reach this additional calorie requirement, so long as they are only part of the extra food.
After the pups are born, it is recommended to feed your bitch 2 to 4 times her regular food. Many times, offering her free access to food is the easiest way to accomplish this. Again, while certainly not required, adding in the occasional egg and even eggshell can help her reach the required intake of nutrients while nursing her puppies.
Is it okay for my pregnant dog to eat eggshells?
The short answer to this is no. Eggshells are incredibly high in calcium. Each gram of eggshell contains approximately 381-401 mg of calcium – which means a whole eggshell could have as much as 2000mg calcium! You should NOT increase your dog’s calcium during pregnancy as it can increase post-birth complications such as eclampsia (a life-threatening condition that involves a deficiency of blood calcium after giving birth).
A pregnant bitch should only be getting approximately 100mg/lb (50mg/kg), so adding eggshells to her diet would put her way over that amount.
However, after the pups are born, an increase in calcium for your bitch can be a good thing. You should check with your vet to find out the amount of calcium she should be getting, as this varies from dog to dog. Eggshells or eggshell powder are okay for her at this time, so long as you do not exceed the recommended amount.
Should I cook the eggs or feed them raw?
The controversy surrounding eggs for dogs seems to be mostly around cooking versus raw. Most veterinarians agree that cooked eggs are much safer for your dog than raw eggs are. However, the main concern with raw eggs is the increased chance of them containing salmonella (a bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract). Although only about 1 in 20,000 eggs contain salmonella, it is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transferred to humans.
While most dogs are not affected by salmonella as much as humans are, they can still carry the disease even if they do not exhibit clinical signs. Although rare, some dogs may exhibit symptoms of salmonella such as diarrhea, lethargy, fever, and vomiting. Pregnant dogs (as well as young puppies, senior dogs, and dogs on antibiotics) are more susceptible to the bacteria, and one of the additional side-effects of the disease is abortion.
If you still want to feed your pregnant dog raw eggs, there are a few ways you can reduce the chance of salmonella. Only feeding pasteurized eggs diminishes the likelihood of the egg containing salmonella. Keeping the eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) and discarding any dirty or cracked eggs will also help with this.
Salmonella is not the only concern with feeding raw eggs to your dog. Uncooked egg whites contain a glycoprotein called avidin that binds to biotin in the body and makes the biotin biologically unavailable. Although it would require a diet incredibly high in raw egg whites to cause a biotin deficiency in your dog, cooking the egg eradicates this chance. Egg yolks are also very high in biotin, so as long as you feed the entire egg, it is unlikely to cause a problem.
Although the risks associated with feeding your pregnant bitch raw eggs are minimal, they do still exist. If you want to avoid these risks entirely, cooking the eggs first would be the safest thing to do. An added benefit to cooking the eggs is that it makes the protein in the more digestible for your dog. However, cooking eggs for too long can reduce the nutrients in the yolks. It is recommended to cook the whites thoroughly, while not overcooking the yolks.
What is the best method to cook eggs for my dog?
Any method of cooking the eggs is okay for your dog! Scrambled or hard-boiled are the most common ways people fix eggs for their dogs, but soft-boiled, poached, and even fried are fine as well. However, you do need to be cautious of the oil you use if you scramble or fry the egg (it is best to use as little as possible). Regardless of your cooking method, do not be tempted to add in any seasonings – just serve the eggs plain.
So, ARE eggs GOOD for pregnant dogs?
Perhaps “good” is too strong of a term here, and “fine” would be more appropriate. While everyone seems to agree that eggs are not typically harmful to dogs, and they do most certainly have healthy properties to them, they are not necessary to add to your pregnant dog’s diet if you are feeding her the proper kibble. However, if she needs additional calories or protein, adding eggs to her diet could be beneficial. Or, if you would like to add in some variety to her food every few days, she would probably enjoy that!