[BLOG] Shaken puppy/kitten syndrom: how it can be prevented


I recently took part in a discussion on a social-media forum concerning neonatal resuscitation in puppies and kittens. The initial question was “what is the best technique to free the airways of the newborns after birth?” In my opinion that was a very good question: in neonatology (whichever species you focus on), airways must always be considered (BTW, that’s what the “R” in APGAR scores used in humans obstetrics stand for: Respiration). But when I looked at the first comments, I started to worry a little bit: there was a complete description on how to “properly swing the puppies/kittens in order to remove the extra-fluids”. Mmmm, apparently these people haven’t had the same bad experience I had back in the days. Let me tell you about it.

When I started as a young vet, we had an old vet tech working with us. She’d been there for more than 40 years and that’s how she was taught, back in the days, to resuscitate newborns kittens and puppies. So when we were doing a C-section and she was in charge of neonatal resuscitation, she was swinging the newborns to remove the fluids that could have accumulated in the airways. It’s true that by doing so, you’ll remove these extra-fluids, no doubt about this. But she always put a lot of energy in her swinging… Certainly too much I think. And once I observed some puppies nose-bleeding… We followed them and fortunately, they all turned out well. But at this time there were lots of discussions on the “shaken baby syndrome” in humans: we simply decided to banish this technique from our surgical block.  And we never went back to it.

Few years later this paper was published, clearly describing the consequences of what became the “shaken puppy/kitten syndrome”:

Ok… But what are the alternatives? Fortunately there are plenty, here is the one we were recommending and performing:

–          Vigorous massage of the thorax of the puppy/kitten using for instance paper towels

–          + Aspirating the content of the oral and nasal cavity with a suction

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