To familiarize practitioners with normal and abnormal clinical findings in neonates.
To review diagnostic and treatment modalities of canine and feline neonate.
To promote early recognition of the signs of illness and disease in the neonate.
General Key Points
• The first 3 months of life (Neonatal stage – birth to 2 weeks, infant state – 2 to 6 weeks of age and pediatric stage –
6 to 12 weeks) may be considered the pediatric period in dogs and cats. The neonatal stage is sometimes extended from birth
to weaning. It is generally accepted that after 12 weeks of age puppies and kittens become more like adults in the diagnosis
and management of most disease processes.
• A complete physical examination of the neonate can be accomplished by following any of a number of routine protocols. Practitioners
should establish a procedure for themselves that ensures examination of all the pertinent areas.
• Sick neonates present with a similar pattern of clinical signs, though suffering from a variety of different disease processes.
Therefore initial treatment should be directed toward those diseases with a fair to good prognosis, until a specific diagnosis
can be ascertained. In general environmental problems, poor mothering or husbandry and bacterial infections carry a more favorable
prognosis than viral infections or genetic defects. The old rule "Treat the Treatable" definitely applies.
• Birth weight may be the most accurate predictor of a neonate's chance for survival. Poor weight gain is an early and reliable
indicator of illness.
• Neonates have poor thermoregulatory capability.
• Hepatic and renal functions are decreased in the first few weeks of life.
• Immune function relies on passive transfer of colostral antibodies.
• Nervous system at birth is poorly developed and slow to mature.
• Eyelids and ear canals are not open at birth (generally open at 10-14 days).
• Examination of neonates should be in a quiet clean environment on a warm table or towel.
• The dam or queen should always be examined, as should any littermates. Most mothers may remain in the examination room during
the handling of their offspring unless they are aggressive or exceedingly anxious.
• A pediatric stethoscope, rectal thermometer and an accurate scale are basic necessities. Postal or food scales are excellent
tools for weighing neonates and monitoring weight gain.
• Records of birth weight and weight gain are essential.
o Weight should be recorded twice daily for the first week of life.
o Absence of gain or lagging weight gain is indication for immediate examination.
o Some normal pups may not gain or even lose a slight amount (<10%BW) in first 12-24 hours. Loss of greater than 10% is an
indicator of severe problem.
• Low birth weights may be due to endocrinopathies, poor maternal nutrition, overcrowding in the uterine environment, congenital
abnormalities or infectious disease.
• Puppies or kittens should be individually identified. (By coat color, sex and markings, colored "collars", etc) to assist
in accurate record keeping.
• Puppies should double their birth weight in the first 7-10 days.
• Kittens birth weights average 100±10 grams and should double by 2 weeks of age.
• The complete history should include clinical signs and their onset and duration, any treatment administered by the owner
and a history of any littermates affected or deceased. Do not overlook the history of the dam's previous litters and the maternal
preventive health care. The dam's environment, nutrition during pregnancy and any evidence of dystocia encountered at deliveries
should be ascertained. The history of neonatal losses in closely related animals and the kennel or cattery's general health
and survival statistics may also be important.