It is important that we understand the physiology and behavioural patterns of newborn puppies, so that steps can be taken to provide an environment which is conducive to the flourishing of the pups.
During the neonatal period (birth to three weeks of age) a healthy puppy is the picture of contentment. It sleeps 90 per cent of the time and nurses about 10 per cent. It nurses vigorously and competes for nipples. For the first 48 hours, a puppy sleeps with his head curled under its chest. While sleeping, puppies jerk, kick and sometimes whimper. This is called ‘activated sleep.’ It is normal. It is the newborn puppy’s only means of ‘exercise’ and helps to develop muscles which will be used later
A good mother instinctively keeps her nest and puppies clean. By licking the belly and anal area of each pup, she stimulates the elimination reflex (stooling).
At one day of age puppies have heart rates of 160 beats per minute, breathing rates of 10 to 18 breaths per minute, and temperatures that vary from 92 to 97 degrees F. Between 2 and 21 days, the heart rate increases to 220 beats per minute and the breathing rate from 18 to 36 breaths per minute. The body temperature is 96 to 100 degrees F.
Eyes and ears, which are sealed at birth, start to open at 10 to 16 days. Puppies are genuinely sight and sound oriented at 25 days of age. Usually they will stand at 15 days of age and begin to walk at 21 days. They can control the urge to urinate and defecate at three weeks.
During the first week of life, peripheral blood vessels do not have the capacity to constrict or retain heat – nor can a puppy shiver to generate heat of his own. This means that a newborn cannot sustain a steady body temperature and needs an outside source of heat. This could be a real problem in temperate climates. Fortunately in the tropics, we are not usually confronted with this difficulty. While nestled close to its mother, her body warmth keeps the pup’s temperature between 96 and 100 degrees F. When the dam is away for 30 minutes, in a room at 72 degrees F (well below the recommended level), the pup’s temperature can fall to 94 degrees F or below. The young pup quickly becomes chilled, a condition which could cause grave internal physiological changes.
By week three, the teeth begin to erupt. Puppies can stand up and begin walking. They can defecate and urinate without stimulation. They are developing a sense of smell, therefore puppies will begin to discriminate as to where they will relieve themselves. Soon the pups can lap liquids. Since they can lap milk, you may wish to go the next step and offer them some very mushy food. Of course, they will walk into the bowls and create a mess in the surrounding area. Soon, though, that will stop, and you may wish to feed each pup via a separate bowl.
Since the teeth are getting sharp, they begin to bruise mom’s nipples. She’ll be glad when they are eating on their own and not relying on nursing. Some bitches are such good mothers and are so nurturing of their pups, that they can be found nursing their puppies even when the latter have attained permanent teeth (5-6 months of age).
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.