Today, Dora gets a much needed bath. Our Pieces of Eight are all doing well. I’m continuing to look in on them two or three times a night. I feel like a Border Collie as I round them up into a tidy group. This makes sure that no one misses a feeding and falls behind in weight gain. The big news is that Dora’s milk has come in. You might ask, what have the puppies been living on for the last three days? Answer: Colostrum or “first milk.”
Colostrum is one of nature’s true miracle. It isn’t like regular milk, being higher in protein, thick, stickier, and much more work for the puppies to get from mom; I think it might be comparable to trying to use a straw with a very thick cold milkshake but the puppies don’t have the option of using a spoon!
Why a miracle? Well, the some of the protein consists of complete antibodies to diseases to which Dora is immune. These are in the form of long complex chains of protein. Dora will only produce them for the first 48 to 72 hours, then it becomes just normal nutritional milk. The puppies’ immune systems are very undeveloped and if they were attacked by a disease they would probably just die.
Here is the miracle: These large chains of proteins are much too large to pass though the walls of the digestive tract. BUT, just for a short time, say, 48-72 hours after birth, the puppies have large “pores” or openings in their digestive tracts that will allow these chain to enter whole and entire to protect them from any disease from which Dora is immune. It’s like a semi-truck parking where a Volkswagen would normally fit. If they do not get any colostrum, they probably would get sick. If you give a puppy colostrum when it’s too late, say, 4-5 days old, they won’t be able to absorb it.
So now the puppies have an easier time of nursing and get full tummies more quickly. They are protected by the passive (acquired) immunity until 8 or 10 weeks old. They can sleep more and they grow when they sleep! You can almost see them growing. What’s in that milk now? Almost 10% fat, 7.5% protein, almost 4% lactose. Everything a baby canine needs to grow big and strong. Think about that as you drink your fat free milk!