If your dog just gave birth to pups, you’re probably craving the warm, happy feeling of holding those little fur-balls in your arms. After all, how can one resist the temptation when it comes to adorable, cuddly newborn puppies? You might also have other reasons to want to do this. You may be concerned about their well-being and wish to check if they are okay. Or sometimes, you may notice they are not opening their eyes- making you feel worried if everything is okay.
Well, before you cave in to your hearts’ desires, we suggest you stop and read this guideline on handling new-born puppies as well as what really happens if you touch them. We will also be answering the commonly asked question regarding when puppies open their eyes and how to ensure their safety.
When Can You Touch a Newborn Puppy?
By any means, it is not considered completely bad to touch a ‘just born’ puppy. In fact, most mother dogs won’t react in a hostile manner either. However, there is no solid answer to this. Rather, you should keep some factors in mind before you decide to do so. Just remember that when puppies are born, they are very fragile and get easily hurt even when it’s not intended.
A mother dog is generally a very good caretaker of her little canine species in the first few weeks. You might think you know your dog’s temperament but it is not possible to predict it after she gives birth. And even the friendliest ones might get defensive or aggressive when trying to protect their pups. Thus, it is better to resist the temptation to interfere during this time. After the puppies cross 2 weeks of age, they can start moving around on their own. So if you really want to touch, caress, and interact with the pups, the best time to do so is when they are about three weeks old.
It is often said that the mothers start to reject their newborns if humans intervene and start touching them in the starting weeks of life. Actually, this is not true, even in the case of puppies. Generally, if the mother is a family dog, she won’t really mind humans touching her babies. However, this still does not mean you should go all in. Many veterinary and dog experts, still argue that there is a right time and situation to do so. Hence, you should ideally resist touching till they are at least three weeks of age.
Some other situations also make it an exception to touch the baby pups. For instance, you might notice that the puppy looks very sick. There are some cases where the mother actually abandons her puppies. And obviously, if the puppies are orphans, that is also a situation where touching and caring for them becomes necessary.
Handling Newborn Puppies
Be very careful when you touch newborn puppies and make sure you do not harm them in any way. Just like human babies, these little cuties are extremely delicate.
Firstly, cold hands are a big no-no. Be sure that your bare hands are clean and at least at body temperature when you touch the puppies. While picking the pupper up, keep your thumbs on one side, placing them between the front and hind legs. You can keep the other fingers on the opposite end.
When you’re holding the puppy, it’s best to keep one or two fingers between its’ front legs for cradling, while running your hand under its’ belly. This is also the best way to cradle and feed pups that don’t have a mother.
What happens if you open a puppy’s eyes?
There are some facts related to when puppies will open their eyes that all dog owners should be aware of. After they are born, the puppies and their central nervous system are still developing in a number of ways-their optical nerves being one of them. During this phase, the sense organs of touch and smell are working though.
Puppies are born with their eyelids closed. This is because their optical nerves and visionary senses as well as the eye itself, are still forming. In fact, a special membrane called the ‘Tapetum Lucidum’ that helps dogs see in the dark- also starts to form after the eye is fully developed. Hence, their eyelids are fused shut for several weeks.
Generally, puppies open their eyes on their own after one or two weeks. This process is supposed to unfold naturally in most cases. They are born with their eyes shut for a proper reason. You must never try to open a puppies closed eyes on your own under any circumstances. This will put their health and life at risk. Newborn puppies are not ready to be exposed to bright light in the first two weeks at least, which is why mother nature keeps them naturally closed. In general, puppies eyes open after 10 to 20 days of their birth. Even after they open, it is best to keep the babies in dim light conditions at least until they are older and able to run around.
For those who even considered deliberately opening the puppies eyes, you must know that the cornea and retina are not formed or functional in this early stage. Plus, even their tear ducts are not fully developed yet.
By forcefully opening the eyes, you are not just going against nature, and causing harm to the animal-you will also harm their eyesight. By doing this, the puppy’s eyes could dry out or the retina might get damaged due to premature exposure to bright light. More serious complications could include permanent damage like blindness or severe trauma. It is also easy to tear the skin if you even attempt to do this. Hence, it is a complete no-no.
However, if the whole litter of puppies does not open their eyes even after 3-4 weeks, you might want to consult a veterinarian. In case there is an issue with puppies eyes development, they are likely to show the following symptoms:
- Swollen or bulging skin below eyelids, before eyes open
- Gunk, discharge, or pus coming out of the eyes is also an indication of an infection
- Eyes closed for longer than three to four weeks may indicate development issues
If you notice any of the above signs in the infant pups, you must make an appointment with a veterinarian.
Can a puppy leave its mother at 6 weeks old?
Now comes the very important question regarding the bond between a mother and littermates, as well as when it’s okay to take the puppy from her. After all, it is only human to take the mother dogs’ instinct and comfort into consideration before you take any such step.
First of all, if you notice the mother being extra protective, aggressive, or defensive when you try to approach the litter-this is a clear signal to stay away. She might start growling or would even try to hide her puppies. These are signs that the puppies need their momma and she needs them. They are also dependant on their mother’s milk after they open their eyes until a few weeks of age.
They find their feet and start moving around properly when they reach four weeks of age. They also start to eat solid foods. But remember that puppies are too young at this stage as they are still drinking from their momma too.
What about six weeks? Many dog breeders admit to separating puppies at this age and many pet owners have also done so with ease. At this age, puppies have generally matured enough to leave their mother and siblings. But is it really the ideal time to part ways? Well, the weeks before the 8th one generally have a huge role to play in their social and psychological development. They start playing with their brothers and sisters and learn most of their doggo manners from their mom, too. In fact, they even learn not to bite too hard when they get rougher during playtime with their littermates.
Most dog experts suggest that it’s okay to take the puppy home at around eight weeks. However, some professionals recommend giving them even more time together. They think the best time to release the little ones from their litter is when they are 12 weeks old. At this point, they can move around, groom, and feed themselves adequately enough on their own.
We’ve all heard how much effort it is to take care of a pet and make sure all of its’ needs are met. But prospective owners must remember that the first few weeks of any animal, whether its’ a dog, cat, or any other species- are the most crucial. Just like humans, baby animals are extremely sensitive and fragile and require the utmost care when handling.
We encourage all potential pet-owners to show compassion towards the bond between a mother and a pup, so that when you take your little fur-ball home- it feels safe, secure, and happy with its new caretaker.