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Vet: ‘Any change in appetite or temperament while your dog is in heat is perfectly normal’

Female dogs typically begin their cycle between 18-24 months, and to help owners caring for female pets or working dogs, Webbox have pulled together ways you can ensure a healthy diet.

When a female dog is ready to breed she is said to be in heat. During this time, you may notice some behavioural changes alongside bleeding and other physical signs.

One of the biggest worries many dog owners encounter at this time is in relation to their dog’s diet.

It is not unusual for your dog’s appetite to change while she is in heat. Some dogs may eat more, while others will want to eat less.

This is normal and is a result of hormonal changes and stress, but you may need to alter your dog’s meals to help encourage a healthy diet during this time.

Here, the pet food experts from Webbox share their tips for maintaining a healthy diet while your dog is in heat.

What foods should your dog eat?

While it is always important to feed your dog a healthy and nutritious diet, this is even more crucial while she is in heat, when her hormones are fluctuating.

In most cases, you should keep your dog on the same diet as usual, as changing their meals too much at once may cause stomach issues.

Choosing a food that is specially crafted to meet your dog’s nutritional needs will encourage healthy energy levels and heart health. Whether your pooch prefers wet or dry food, look for one that’s full of protein, carbohydrates, and fibre.

A 100% natural dog food is often a good choice. This should be a general rule for your dog’s diet as a whole, but it’s even more important while they are in heat, when their usual energy levels may increase or decrease.

You may find that your dog needs to use the toilet more while she’s in heat as well, so it is important to keep her hydrated by making sure she has a constant supply of fresh water.

How to encourage your dog to eat
If your dog’s appetite decreases while she is in heat, there are a few steps you can take to encourage her to eat more. The first option is to make her food more appetising to her.

Meaty dishes, particularly those made with organ meat, will be hard for her to turn down, even when her appetite is lower.

Adding food toppers or mixing in our ham and cheese or chicken and peanut butter Dog-e-Lix to her food will make her meals more enticing too.

Taking her food bowl away when she is finished eating can also help encourage her to eat more at mealtimes when she has the chance.

Setting mealtimes can also be helpful for this, as dogs tend to thrive on routine.

How to avoid overeating during heat

If your dog’s appetite increases during heat, it is important not to encourage overeating.

While you may want to offer them a couple of extra comforting treats at this time, prioritising mealtimes over treats will ensure they are getting the right nutrients. This will also stop your dog from filling up on treats and ignoring their meals.

Giving your dog extra little snacks throughout the day can help satisfy their increased appetite but be sure to choose healthy snacks.

Small pieces of boiled chicken are a good option, as well as veggies like carrots, broccoli, and spinach.

Adding these to their meals is a healthy way to bulk out their food and keep them fuller for longer too.

Can puzzle feeders help?
Many dogs will become irritable while they’re in heat. Again, this is completely normal, but you may want to keep her occupied to help her relax.

Puzzle feeders are great for this. These are food bowls that require your pet to solve a ‘puzzle’ to release their food.

They can be a fantastic challenge for your dog during mealtimes and, as they encourage your dog to eat slowly, they can promote healthy digestion — which may be particularly important if your dog’s appetite is insatiable during this time.

Comfort and pampering 

Michael Haigh remarked:

“It is natural to worry when your precious pooch is behaving a little differently to normal, but any change in appetite or temperament while your dog is in heat is perfectly normal.”

“Keeping them on their usual healthy diet at this time is vital for their health and wellbeing, so ensure they are getting the right nutrients — and enough of it.”

“Your dog may need a bit more comfort and pampering while she is in heat too, so a little extra treat here and there and plenty of cuddles should be on the menu.”

“The important thing to remember is to not change your dog’s diet too much. Instead, you can supplement her usual diet with extra tasty foods like boiled chicken or healthy dog treats to either satisfy their hunger or encourage them to eat.”

Vet’s remarks

Chyrle Bonk, DVM, vet at Petkeen.com said:

“I would emphasise for pet owners to not give in to their dogs that want to eat more while they are in heat.”

“Another way they can help decrease begging is to divide their dog’s daily food amount between 3-4 smaller meals and feed them more frequently.”

“That will help their pup to feel full without adding a lot of extra snacks,” he concluded.

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