“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up”
At first glance, it may appear that the puppies spend all their time sleeping, but they also do their share of exercising. As they lay there asleep, they are constantly twitching. These involuntary actions, referred to as “activated sleep,” help strengthen their leg muscles and begin to build muscle mass. We’ve also added a rolled-up towel which serves two purposes. It acts as a barrier to place the pups behind when mom is entering or exiting the whelping box. It also creates an obstacle course that the puppies must climb over to help them get their muscles into shape. All was well until one day; we heard a persistent cry for help emanating from the whelping box. Upon further investigation, we discovered Mr. Supernova stuck on his belly atop the roll with all his legs flailing in mid-air. We’re sure his legs will be long enough in another couple of days.
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 prolonged 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 more fully formed than the eyes and their hearing will be quite acute within a week or so.
The pups make their start the size of chipmunks but with a twenty-four-hour milk-bar, they’ve moved way past that to the two-pound mark and beyond. They’ve been a fairly quiet, well-behaved litter and they have the most adorable sleeping positions. They sleep on their fronts, backs, sides, on their mom, on top of each other and on top of that dreaded rolled-up towel!
That’s it for now but be sure to join us next week for another riveting installment of “Puppy Tales”.