The first days have been a blur for me. Every time I hear them I run back to check. I should wear a pedometer! Fortunately, it’s a small house. To save wear and tear on my feet, I sometimes just sit with them for an hour at a time…longer when I can.
I noted on Tuesday 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 Tempe 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 Tempe through a sterilizer.
So, if the antibody cells are too large to pass how does it help the puppies? Big finish….just for 24 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 25 hours, that ability disappears and they are eating just for nourishment, not for immunity.
This graph represents the level of antibodies against parvovirus present in two unvaccinated puppies after birth. Puppy 1 (blue line) received a lot of colostrum from the mother, puppy 2 (red line) did not receive as much. The dotted line shows the level at which the puppy becomes vulnerable to infection from the environment. In puppy 2, this occurs at 7 weeks of age, in puppy 1, this does not occur until 10 weeks of age. Credit: http://www.shawvetcentre.co.uk/
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 becomes 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 no fat reserves to draw upon for energy.
Happy news! Soon, Tempe’s “milk will come in” meaning that she switches over from colostrum to producing the more freely flowing whiter milk. I can’t wait until I see the puppies settling down and growing fatter, fuller stomachs while nursing more easily.
Isn’t nature amazing!?!
The heat lamp is off since last night; I think it is costing the puppies more in dehydration then helping in warmth. I’m still checking on them at 10 pm, 1 am, and 4 am…plus all day long. They appear comfortable and I saw weight gains this Wednesday morning.
I eventually will get caught up on my sleep. It’s just not the priority at the moment!