Brahma and Imara certainly have their paws full now! With 10 (6 males, 4 females) little mouths to feed, the new parents are extremely busy. At a little over 6 weeks old and around 3 kilograms each, they have become little eating machines. When they reach 28 weeks, the pups will be able to consume as much as 12 pounds of meat a day (each)!
They are still nursing, although not as frequently, maybe 4-5 times a day. Now that the puppies are much larger than at birth, you can hardly see Imara nursing underneath the giant puppy pile. At around 4 weeks of age, puppies will start showing interest in the adult diet. In the last couple of weeks, they have been trying out the Nebraska. Nebraska is a nutritionally complete meat source that is the main staple of Brahma and Imara’s diet. In order to make it more appetizing, keepers have been mixing some of the meat with a milk replacer for domestic puppies. Normally Painted Dogs wean at around 10 weeks of age, but with 10 teeth-filled mouths to feed, making the meat more palatable takes some of the burden off of Imara.
Brahma continues to regurgitate to them and the puppies are loving it. In the wild, adult Painted Dogs can fill their stomachs with 20 lbs each of food from a kill. They then will regurgitate some of this meat back at the den for the adults that are guarding it and the puppies they protect. Brahma and Imara’s puppies have also starting investigating some of the other diet items that they receive. A few of the little ones were observed helping Imara eat a neck bone and on another day were seen playing tug of war with a small chunk of rabbit. These food items are encouraging lots of natural behaviors like how to cooperatively feed and even play. Some of them have also gotten brave enough to take small treats from their keepers at the mesh barrier.
The puppies are continuing to venture out of the nest box for longer periods of time, but if Brahma or Imara vocalize a certain way or a stranger comes into the building, they quickly race back to the box. As each day passes, they seem to get more comfortable with their care givers and building relationships with them is extremely rewarding. In a couple of weeks, the puppies will receive their first official exams and their first set of vaccines. As they continue to grow, we will keep you all up to date on what is happening and how things are changing for our new pack of painted dogs.