The first two days have been a blur for me. Every time I hear them it results in my running back to check. I should wear a pedometer! Fortunately, it’s a small house. Here’s the whole family, taken within 24 hours of the last birth:
On Thursday night, I checked on them too many times to count. At 3 am, I had Fancy go outside for a quick potty break as it had been over 7 hours since her last. Sometimes she just sits outside the door waiting for me to let her go back to her puppies. It’s just like the three year old child who says he doesn’t have to go. Sure enough, I let her back in and I lie down, but fifteen minutes later she’s nudging her gate and wanting to go back out. I let her out with a sleepy wisecrack, “Forgot something, did we?” While she was out, I changed a few soiled newspapers and took the second photo below….entitled: Sleeping Puppy Landscape, 3:15 am
I would have loved to see MC Escher do a drawing of intertwined puppies!
I noted on Friday morning most of the puppies had lost up to an ounce from their birth weight. Some of this is the normal drying and elimination of fluids from birth. But part of this is that Fancy is producing colostrum, a thick sticky yellow milk that provides whole antibody cells to the puppies for immunization.
These cells are huge on the cellular landscape and far larger that what can pass through the walls of the digestion tract. It would be like attempting to pull a semi-truck into your garage! Yet this is vitally important to the puppies’ survival as their immune system is not yet functional and cannot protect them from the bacteria that exist on every surface, even on their mother’s coat. And, NO, I cannot run Fancy through a sterilizer.
So, if the antibody cells are too large to pass how does it help the puppies? Big finish….just for 36 hours after birth, the walls of the puppies’ intestines are able to pass these large semi-truck deliveries whole, thereby passing the immunity directly into the bloodstream and protecting them until 8-10 weeks old. Old enough for their own immune systems to take over and manufacture active immunity from their vaccinations and exposure to the environment. After 36 hours, that ability disappears and they are eating just for nourishment, not for immunity.
The colostrum is so thick the puppies work and work to nurse and get only small amounts for their efforts, resulting in weight loss the first 24 hours. You can see why I micro-manage to be sure all are doing the best that they can. This is a critical period when a newborn may not get enough to maintain the energy to nurse. As the newborn become hypoglycemic, in effect, starving to death, they descend into sleep, conserving their remaining energy but losing out on more opportunities to nurse.
It’s a vicious cycle that can spiral down into death. A hypoglycemic sleeping puppy looks much like a contented sleeping puppy, therefore, routinely I stir them up and put them back to nursing. Remember, as newborns they have little fat reserves to draw upon for energy.
Happy news! By Friday afternoon, Fancy’s “milk had come in” meaning that she switched over from colostrum to the more freely flowing whiter milk. I immediately noticed the puppies settling down and growing fatter, fuller stomachs while nursing more easily.
Isn’t nature amazing!?!
On Friday night, I only needed to check on everyone two or three times and just a cursory glance to see all was well. I finally caught up on my sleep.