Size Up The Difference
The puppies more than doubled their birth weight in one week. They have been gaining approximately 10% of body weight each day, for an exponential growth. Let it sink in. Calculate 10% of your body weight and imagine gaining that much overnight. This rapid growth is where all the effort is going towards right now. Other than growing, the puppies conserve their energy and sleep most of the time. They wake up only when hungry and only for long enough to find their mother and attach to a teat. During that very short period of time between waking up and falling back asleep while nursing an epic battle for the best nipple takes place. Every time.
Typically, a puppy already attached and nursing gets bumped from underneath by his brother with a force that can send him flying off if his suction is not good enough. If it is strong, a puppy’s body can be completely lifted, while still suckling, for a summersault of sorts. I don’t get to appreciate this competition for food in a few days old litter too often, as average litter sizes in Norwich terriers are really small. The litter of four is considered a very nice size, and the last time I enjoyed a litter of four was more than 10 years ago. I raised a number of singletons, and majority of 2-puppy litters. Their dynamic is different, which makes me realize how truly individualized the experience of every litter is even within one breed. I am always amazed at the vast breed-specific difference but it goes further. What works for one breeder might not work universally within the same breed, and then even within the same breed and the same breeder the experience of each litter is unique.
Had Beanie required a C-section, for example, her recovery would have been different. Had puppies been born just a couple days early, their needs could have been those of preemies requiring a lot of intervention. It truly is a different experience every time.
The puppies twitch. For those who have not experienced the canine newborns’ twitching, imagine a very low electric shock coursing through a puppy’s body every few seconds. That is exactly what is happening. With the amount of sleep and growth going on, the muscles are kept from atrophying by low electric impulses. This twitching is termed activated sleep.
Only with this miraculously efficient system of so much sleep can the boys gain so much in size. The fact that puppy muscles get the workout even as they sleep should cause everyone to look at their pooches differently. They are geniuses in so many ways we are just beginning to understand.
There is another weight gaining factor, the most important one: Beanie’s milk. For the first few hours after birth the puppies were receiving colostrum, the “first milk”. As you probably know, colostrum is better than liquid gold. It is liquid life – protection from all diseases the mother has antibodies for. This miraculous toast to health brings more protection than all the vaccinations the puppies will ever get in their lifetime. Before you get any ideas about curing any diseases with colostrum, know this, it only works for a newborn. The colostrum is full of antibodies, all of them large proteins. Those proteins, if ingested by even a 2-day old puppy, or any mammal for that matter, would not make it into its blood stream. Newborns have porous stomach walls precisely to allow large proteins of antibodies to pass right through them and directly into the blood stream. For puppies, the window of time when the stomach allows the passing of the mother’s antibodies is often only up to 6 hours after birth, and never longer than 24 hours in any mammal.
Once high-protein, vitamin-rich colostrum is no longer able to bring its disease fighting message into the puppy’s body, the mother starts producing fatty milk. Puppy got immunized, now all the attention is on growth. Newborns often do not gain weight their first day of life, and it is not uncommon to even lose a little body mass. The reason is not so much the effect of the stress of birth, (not to minimize it!) but it has mostly to do with the fact that colostrum that the puppy receives is pretty dietary, high-protein, low-fat drink. Once the fatty stuff starts flowing, the puppies start gaining.
The boys have gained from yesterday to today the combined 5.6 oz, which constitutes roughly 2.5% of Beanie’s weight. She needs to eat for herself and a little army of gremlins, and it will only get worse. They will need more and more milk each day. Beanie is gobbling up four meals a day and drinking buckets of Mother’s Pudding. I check her breasts twice a day for any signs of compacted ducts, but please don’t tell her. She thinks she is receiving her usual belly rubs.
At this point in the boys’ lives, the emphasis is on physical development. While I perform the Early Neurological Stimulation exercises every day, and handle puppies, some of their senses are still very economically not engaged. They are deaf and blind still but I can tell that their feeling of touch is getting more awaken. I like introducing at this stage what one might describe as soft and lumpy environment. Their box is lined with washable Sherpa blankets and I scrunch the top layer to form little hills and valleys.
I am aware that the most common lining for a whelping box is something flat and easy to clean. However, I would rather have my washing machine get a good workout this week and offer puppies what I believe is stimulating to their sense of touch (one of the very few engaged right now), what also aids in easier breathing and engages feet more when crawling. Let me explain.
“Lumpy” bedding allows the puppies to find sleeping positions with their heads raised. It is how puppy naturally positions itself when nursing. Whenever given a chance, every puppy likes to have a head slightly raised.
When the bottom of their box is smooth puppies tend to put their heads on one another, and someone ends up on the bottom. When they are offered a scrunched blanket, they sleep for longer intervals, because the blanket does not move as much as the pillow, that is a brother.
The bedding I use also engages both front and rear feet better when navigating its lumpy topography. I do not know if it could prevent a swimmer puppy, a condition where the young puppy splays all its legs while crawling, but it just might. One aspect of the physical therapy for the swimmer puppy syndrome is to engage the legs on an uneven surface, like a blanket over an egg crate. Before any potential problem, I like to make sure those little feet are engaged when crawling.