“The Portable Oven”
Since newborn puppies require a good deal of warmth and aren’t able to regulate their own body temperature until the third week, Mother Nature has made some clever provisions for that. Momma Faith’s mammary glands are very warm; in fact almost hot to the touch. She therefore provides her brood a nice warm brew that not only nourishes and makes them sleepy but also offers a nice warm shelter for them to curl up in. Apparently Faith hasn’t read the memo as she still insists on excavating a tunnel in the snow when she’s outside on her bathroom breaks.
Meanwhile back in the whelping box, Mr. Buttercup has developed a fondness for burrowing under towels while Mr. Periwinkle loves to sleep on his belly with his legs splayed out behind him like a frog. The rest don’t seem to be so particular. This was also the gang’s first spa week. This consisted of some warm facecloth wipe downs to get any spots that mom might have missed and pedicures all around without the nail polish of course.
While the little ones spend a great deal of time eating and sleeping, they are also engaged in an intensive training programme. While they lay there asleep, 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 as they plod around on all fours in search of their mom for a snack. Fortunately Faith’s a good sport and keeps the milk bar open twenty-four hours a day.
One of the most exciting events for us is when the puppies’ eyes open. Many of the puppies’ critical organs including their brains 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 pertains 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 approaches 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.
That’s it for now, but be sure to join us next week for another riveting installment of “Puppy Tales”.