At this time of the year, the “kitten season” (as it is referred to in shelters) has already begun.Orphaned kittens (or puppies, even if it becomes rare) might arrive anytime at your facility then. Here are 5 tips your staff members need to know in order to better deal with these neonates:
1/ Canine and feline neonates are unable to regulate their internal temperature during the first 3 weeks of life: if they are cold, they cannot increase their body temperature by themselves! If body temperature drops below 34⁰C, all digestive mechanisms will come to an end! The nest’s recommended temperature: 30⁰C during the 1stweek, 28⁰C the 2nd week and 25⁰C the 3rd week.
2/Immature kidneys, immature skin barrier… They are also predisposed to dehydration and therefore needs to suckle the mother frequently during the day. In the case of orphaned individuals, meal frequency and quantities fed are key: after birth, 8 meals/day are required during their 1st week, 6/day the 2nd week and 4/day the 3rd week).
3/ They are predisposed to hypoglycaemia (especially toy dogs) since they have very few reserves at birth. Again quantities fed and meal frequency will be key here! A dedicated canine/feline milk replacer should be fed, since the carnivores’ milk is more energetic than ruminants’ milk (≈1800kcal/L for dog’s milk vs ≈640kcal/L for goat’s milk).
4/ Their immune system is immature at birth and is acquired through consumption of the mother’s first milk, the colostrum. Newborns are only able to absorb this immunity during the first 12-24h of life! In the case of orphaned kittens and puppies, different strategies exist like using frozen colostrum if available or going for serum therapy! 3-5mL/100g of kitten/puppy should be given orally as soon as possible when arriving at the facility!
5/Their digestive function is immature. Again a dedicated canine/feline milk replacer is required since these newborns cannot process starch. Urination and defecation are reflexes that should be stimulated after each meal. One last thing: don’t overfeed, fatal neonatal diarrhea may result!