|Our eyes are beginning to open!|
“500 Miles Away from Home”
The day began like any other. The morning dew burned off with the hot caress of the sun’s rays. It was very still, apart from the occasional fluttering of a mama robin’s wings as she hurried off in search of food for her young. Yet something felt out of place. A trip to the bedroom where the whelping box resides revealed the answer. There were only ten puppies on hand. A scan of the room revealed nothing. And then…..a tiny muffled voice; but from where? The search was escalated to the highest priority. Finally, Mr. Smoke, the little rascal was retrieved from way under our king-sized bed. The distance travelled was no small feat for such a little creature who hasn’t even learned to walk yet. We can only conjecture how he managed to escape over the barrier – either he crawled over the back of a sibling or he was still enjoying breakfast attached to his mom when she left the box to have a little break. What suction!
It’s always exciting for us when the puppies’ eyes open at around the 10-day mark. Many of the puppies’ critical organs including their brain are not fully formed and they will spend several weeks developing rapidly. Since the gestation period in dogs is short (63 days), the tradeoff is that puppies are quite helpless at birth. Biologists refer to species that produce immature dependent offspring as altricial, which means “to nurse, to rear or to nourish”. It refers to the need for the young of these species to be fed and taken care of for a long period of time. Puppies are born with their eyelids tightly shut because the eye itself is still developing and is extremely fragile. The closed eyelids serve as a barrier to protect the eyes from potential damage. Now that their eyes are open, it will take a few weeks before their eyes mature and their eyesight begins to approach normal. The puppies are also born functionally deaf since their ear canals are closed. While their ear canals begin to open at around the same time, the ears are much more fully formed than the eyes and their hearing will be quite acute within a week or so.
At first glance, it may appear that the puppies spend all of their time sleeping, but they spend a good deal of time exercising. As but as they lay there asleep, they are constantly twitching. These involuntary actions, referred to as “activated sleep”, help strengthens their leg muscles and begin to build muscle mass. This allows them to plod around on all fours when they’re in search of their mom for a snack. Of course, in the case of Mr. Smoke, it gave him the stamina to go on his long-range expedition across the bedroom floor.
That’s it for now, but be sure to join us next week for another riveting installment of “Puppy Tales”.