Welcome to the wonderful world of puppy care! As a new puppy parent, it's important to understand the normal behaviors of both puppies and moms to provide the best care for your furry little bundle of joy. In the early weeks of a pup's life, its growth and survival depend heavily on the bond with its mother. So, it's important to make sure mom is well-fed with puppy chow during her pregnancy and to intervene only when necessary.
During the first few weeks of your puppy's life, they are as helpless as a human baby at birth. They rely on their mom for warmth and guidance to suckle immediately so they can receive colostrum, which is the mother's milk in the first 24-48 hours after birth and is highly concentrated with antibodies needed to build the pup's immune system. As they grow, their eyes and ears begin to open, their sense of smell develops, and they begin to move around more. Deworming is important as they can contract internal parasites from mom's milk and the environment - a common schedule is to begin at 2 weeks old and continue every 2 weeks until they are at least 12 weeks of age.
As your puppy reaches 4-8 weeks old, their vision and hearing improve, they start to take an interest in their mother's food, and weaning begins. They also start to lap water and interact with their littermates and humans. This is also the time to schedule vaccination visits, which should start at 6-8 weeks of age and continue every 2-3 weeks for a total of 4 doses. Your veterinarian will guide you regarding the best schedule based on the brand of vaccines used and the risk factors unique to your pup. By 8 weeks old weaning is usually complete, and as they make their way to their first birthday, their puppy coat is replaced by an adult coat, and their baby/milk teeth are replaced by adult teeth.
0 - 3 weeks
Eyes begin to open at 10-14 days (vision weak)
Ears begin to open at 21 days (hearing weak)
Sense of smell quickly develops
Suckling milk from mommy's nipples (aided by smell)
Nursing should be frequent (>3 times daily)
Baby/milk teeth begin to grow
Dependent but learn to move around
Passage of urine and feces stimulated by the mother
Sleep sleep and more sleep
4 - 8 weeks
Vision and hearing improve
Begins to take interest in their mother's food
Begins to lap water
Three to four times daily feedings
Able to pass urine and feces on their own
Interacts with littermates and humans
8 weeks - 1 year
Transition to twice-daily feedings
Puppy coat replaced by the adult coat
Baby/milk teeth replaced by adult teeth
1st heat at 6-12 months old (females - breed dependent)
Age of maturity is breed specific
It's important to note that early puppy care also involves veterinary care beyond vaccinations and deworming. Each breed has an expected lifespan, genetic challenges and may also have time-related health conditions that you should be aware of. For example, German Shepherds are prone to developing Hip Dysplasia in their old age (8+ years). This is something you can prepare for by learning how to identify the signs and preventative measures to put in place. As your dog grows, nutrition, exercise, socialization, and healthcare are important in developing your healthy companion. Deworming and annual booster vaccinations should continue throughout life and the frequency will be determined by your veterinarian based on the risk factors for your dog.
Remember, a visit soon after birth is in their best interest to inspect mom and pups, and annual veterinary visits are recommended to ensure your dog is growing big and strong at an acceptable rate, with any health concerns being addressed as soon as possible.
Thank you for reading this blog post. I hope you found it informative and helpful. As always, I'm here to support you and your furry friends. Look out for the next blog post in a few weeks. Until then, take care!
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