I spend a lot of time in my online universe these days, but when I come back to the « real world » to deliver a talk on one of the topic I feel most passionate about, well, it simply feels great! Lately, I delivered several times our « Young & Hungry : our 2016 shelter guide on neonatology. » lecture.This one was created to discuss with shelter staff & foster families how to properly handle newborn kittens & puppies. Because one thing I can tell you: many mistakes that are done in this field could, for sure, have been prevented. Let me give you an example.
Always have a thermometer on hand
First you need to know that this presentation is meant to be an interactive discussion around a virtual story starring a character named Lucy. You can read the full adventure here but to give you a very quick summary: she volunteers in an animal shelter, she has very little experience and is asked to handle orphaned newborn kittens. No doubt: right from the beginning for somebody like her, it is going to be quite a challenge.
The first step I will always recommend to take in those situations: take the newborns’ temperature. Indeed, since you have no idea what they had to face before reaching your structure, you absolutely want to make sure they are not hypothermic.
However, in Lucy’s case, this is what she found :
A very frequent mistake
Her immediate reaction when she sees the reading on the thermometer ?
NB: This is a typical French reaction. If you wonder what this means, well it just tells you that our friend Lucy is freaking out here.
Now that we clarified the reaction, let’s be honest: this is how anybody would react if they don’t know the basis in canine/feline neonatology. This is how I myself would have reacted many years ago when I was just starting out as a young veterinarian. Why ? Because we always assume that newborns are « smaller » adults. And normal body temperature in adult dogs & cats : usually 38-39degC (100-102 F).
In newborns however, this is what it is supposed to be:
With newborns, knowledge is power
In this interactive adventure I created, those kittens were not hypothermic. However, if we don’t know what the right temperature is supposed to be, we might take wrong decisions here. Decisions that could potentially impact those newborns’ well-being.