“Let Me be Clear…”
Many of the puppies’ critical organs including their brains are not fully formed at birth and they will spend several weeks developing rapidly. Since the gestation period in dogs is a scant 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 their central nervous system is still developing including the eye and optical nerves. These are extremely fragile at this stage. The closed eyelids serve as a barrier to protect the eyes from potential damage allowing the eye to develop in safety without the risk of any foreign objects (like dirt or dust) causing an infection or other developmental issues. Of course, the exciting news is that the puppies’ eyes have all opened at around the 10-day mark, however 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. There’s really no excuse for a dog not to come when you call it!
While the pups spend a great deal of time eating and sleeping, they are also engaged in an intensive training programme. While they lay there asleep – something they do a lot of, the puppies are constantly twitching. These involuntary actions, referred to as “activated sleep,” help strengthen their leg muscles and begin to build muscle mass. The need to climb over a sibling also supports this initiative and their drive for food has them plodding around on all fours in search of their mom for a snack. Fortunately, Olivia’s a good sport and keeps the milk bar open around the clock.
That’s it for now but be sure to join us next week for another riveting installment of “Puppy Tales”.