Caring and feeding orphaned puppies and kittens (Proceedings) - Veterinary Healthcare
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Caring and feeding orphaned puppies and kittens (Proceedings)


CVC IN BALTIMORE PROCEEDINGS


The goal of orphan puppy and kitten care is to maximize the health, well being, and socialization of the puppy or kitten until they can be adopted.

The neonatal development can be divide into specific time periods; the neonatal period (birth - 2 weeks); the transitional period (2-4 weeks); the socialization period (4 -12 weeks), and the juvenile period (12 weeks - puberty). During the late socialization period and juvenile period, most puppies and kittens are growing versions of the adult. The first few weeks of life are the most perilous. Most deaths occurring during this critical period are a result of a failure to meet the physiological needs of the neonate.

Thermoregulation is problematic especially in the neonate. Until about 8 weeks old, chilling is always a major threat to the survival of the puppy or kitten. In the neonate, the shivering reflex and peripheral vasoconstriction response are not fully developed until at least 1 week. Their relatively large surface area, plus the lack of insulating fat, promotes rapid heat loss by conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. The vulnerable young must relay on warmth of the dam and litter and environment to maintain an adequate body temperature. Hypothermia is a common cause of death in the newborn and is part of a viscous down spiraling cascade of events. As the rectal temperature reaches below 94° F the neonate suckling becomes weak and ineffectual. The intestines become hypomotile and the heart rate increases. Below 85° F there is gastrointestinal stasis with bacterium, a decrease in heart rate and hypoglycemia. Once below 70° F, the neonate is motionless and appears appear dead. An occasional chest wall movement may be seen, but the heart rate is 40-60 b/min and is non-palpable. Environmental temperature can be critical as a healthy newborn can only maintain a body temperature 12°F > than that of the surrounding environment. Therefore the "nesting box" temperature must be maintained at a specific temperature based on the age of the youngster.

Normal body temperature...........................Recommended temperature
of the new born..........................................of the nesting box
week 1: 96°- 98°............................................................85-90°
week 2: 99°....................................................................80°
week 3: 100.5°...............................................................80°
week 4: normal stable temperature..................................80°
week 5: normal stable temperature..................................70°

Monitoring weight gain is a good indicator of health status. Reported criteria for adequate weight gain have been reported during the neonatal period include; nursing puppies should double their weight in 10 days; the puppies should gain 5-10% / day; and puppies should gain 2 Gms/Kg of the expected adult weight/day. Nursing kittens should also double their weight in 10 days; normal kittens gain 10 - 15 Gms / day; and the kittens should weigh 1 pound/month for the first 4 months. Formula fed neonates grow at significantly slower rate despite the identical caloric intake doubling their weight in 14 days.

Successful hand-raising of orphans requires knowledge of when to intervene; milk replacement choices; meeting caloric needs; feeding methods; plus dedication/stamina. To assure the adequate growth of healthy pups, a commercial replacement formula best meets the pups / kitten's nutritional requirements. Some "home-made" formula is amino acid deficient and can result in nuclear cataract formation. Fortunately this change is usually reversible.

The selected formula should be species specific not the uni-species variety. While most formulas are available in both a canned and powder forms, I prefer the powdered formula for both economy and shelf-life. Place an opened can of powdered formula in the freezer for long-term storage. Canned formula should be stored in glass containers to decrease the gummy formations and kept no longer than 72 hours. The labeled instructions on volume should be followed exactly to avoid potential problems. directions on the For very short-term applications, the following "emergency" formula will be adequate for both species; 4 oz. whole cows milk, 4 oz. water, 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp. vegetable oil, and 2 Tums©. Both the emergency and most commercial puppy or kitten replacement formulas contain approximately 1.2 kcal/ml, the same caloric density as most commercial formulas. Using this figure, the following are "rules of thumb" feeding volume calculations:


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