Optimizing Growth and Development in Puppies and Kittens: Lessons from Human Medicine

I mention it often in my presentations: neonatology and pediatrics used to be a gray area of veterinary medicine.

For years, we treated puppies and kittens as if they were simply small adults… because, to be fair, we did not know better.

But good news: that is changing, and one example of this progress is the development of growth charts for these kittens and puppies!

Growth charts for puppies and kittens are available!

Growth charts for puppies and kittens are available!

In 2017, growth charts for puppies were published (if you are interested, you can check the paper HERE); and just recently, growth charts for kittens were also released (check the paper HERE… and read also my blog on this topic :)).

These charts are powerful tools that enable us to better understand the growth and development of these young animals (BTW, they are available online for you to download and use HERE).

I wanted to better understand their true potential, so that’s why I decided to look at the human medicine literature where these growth charts were inspired.

I went through 70 of the most recent scientific papers published… and in my research, I came across some very interesting insights that I believe are worth sharing.


Failure to Thrive… AND MENTAL HEALTH?

One of the most striking insights was the importance of early identification and intervention in pediatric populations who are failing to thrive.

Failure to thrive is a term used to describe infants and young children who have significantly lower weight and height measurements compared to their peers.

And when I think of veterinary medicine, the description is actually very similar to what we observe in puppies and kittens.

“A healthy puppy/kitten MUST gain weight on a daily basis”

This is something I keep repeating. Failure to thrive is something we want to identify quickly.

What I found particularly interesting though was the mental health dimension that is discussed in human papers.

Indeed, several papers mentioned that “failure to thrive can also have long-term effects on mental health, including anxiety and depression, which can impact a child’s overall wellbeing and future prospects.”

And this makes we wonder…

Sure, we probably cannot draw a parallel with what we will observe in dogs and cats…

After all, the entire social aspect of the problem cannot be approached the same way in our furry friends…

That being said… are dogs and cats who fail to thrive during the pediatric period more predisposed to stress?

One might argue they may not be bullied like a human child who is smaller than their peers at school…

But if they are part of a group (whether with their littermates or at their forever home), couldn’t they experience similar stressors?

Early Identification & Intervention Required!

Early Identification & Intervention Required!

Obviously there is no scientific evidence for that today in veterinary medicine, at least not to my knowledge…

But this is the first thought that crossed my mind as I was going through all these papers.

Curious to see if this is a dimension that will be explored in the future.

Whatever, this raises an important point: early identification and intervention for failure to thrive are critical to ensure optimal growth and development for these young animals.

Just as in human medicine, it is imperative that we pay attention to these issues in veterinary medicine as well.

I think here we are all on the same page: we all want to see those puppies and kittens thrive and lead happy, healthy lives.

By using the insights from human medicine to inform our veterinary practices, by using them in your kennels and catteries, I think we can make a real difference.

The great news is: we now have access to those growth charts.

So let’s use them!

I have learned many more things as I read all those papers… so stay tuned, because I definitely have more to share 🙂

One of the most common challenge we encounter in breeding kennels is NEONATAL MORTALITY. 

It can be very frustrating… even heart-breaking.

Good news though : you can do something about it ! 

We now have more knowledge than ever in this discipline. 

In recent years, new research brought us a much better understanding of what can be done to optimize the health of newborn puppies.

By taking this course, this is what you will learn indeed ! 

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