Our latest puppies are now three weeks old and growing fast. They’ve all just opened their eyes and they’re starting to play with each other. Two of them are bigger than the third, but they’re all growing at a rapid pace, probably because it’s such a small litter and there is plenty of nutrition available from mummy.
One of the things we take great care to do is monitor each puppy’s growth in their first eight weeks. In their first week we weigh them twice a day, and make notes about any special observations or issues we find. We also have a strict schedule of things we have to make sure happens to ensure they are growing healthily.
However, our records start way before birth. We begin when Mum comes into season, and we have to record each and every mating, recording who the mating partner was, how they mated, for how long, and what day of the season we think it was. Keeping this information helps us roughly predict when Mum will go into labour, as it’s usually stressful and we need to ensure we are available if any complications arise. Around day 58 of Mum’s season, a few days before labour typically starts, we start measuring Mum’s temperature regularly, as a drop in body temperature tells us that labour is on the way within 24 hours.
The day of birth is especially difficult: we have to ensure the puppies start nursing from their mummy as soon as possible to ensure they get the essential nutrients that kick-starts their immune systems. Puppies should have doubled their weight in the first seven days, and they all must be treated for parasitic worms at 2 and 5 weeks age.
Any unusual observations are documented as they may become important in later healthcare decisions. Puppies can and do occasionally fall ill and this can easily impact their development, so tracing back the start of an illness is made easier when you have a record of their early growth.
We keep all this information way beyond our puppies have gone to their new home, not only because it might turn out to be useful later in life, but also because doing so helps us learn about the unusual patterns of growth and what to expect. We can compare the growth rates of the current litter with previous ones, and identify how changes in Mum’s diets might affect the puppies.
It’s also just one of the things we do to comply with the strict requirements of being an Assured Kennel Club Breeder.