Caring and feeding orphaned puppies and kittens (Proceedings)


The goal of orphan puppy and kitten care is to maximize the health, well being, and socialization of the puppy or kitten until they can be adopted.

The goal of orphan puppy and kitten care is to maximize the health, well being, and socialization of the puppy or kitten until they can be adopted.

The neonatal development can be divide into specific time periods; the neonatal period (birth - 2 weeks); the transitional period (2-4 weeks); the socialization period (4 -12 weeks), and the juvenile period (12 weeks - puberty). During the late socialization period and juvenile period, most puppies and kittens are growing versions of the adult. The first few weeks of life are the most perilous. Most deaths occurring during this critical period are a result of a failure to meet the physiological needs of the neonate.

Thermoregulation is problematic especially in the neonate. Until about 8 weeks old, chilling is always a major threat to the survival of the puppy or kitten. In the neonate, the shivering reflex and peripheral vasoconstriction response are not fully developed until at least 1 week. Their relatively large surface area, plus the lack of insulating fat, promotes rapid heat loss by conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. The vulnerable young must relay on warmth of the dam and litter and environment to maintain an adequate body temperature. Hypothermia is a common cause of death in the newborn and is part of a viscous down spiraling cascade of events. As the rectal temperature reaches below 94° F the neonate suckling becomes weak and ineffectual. The intestines become hypomotile and the heart rate increases. Below 85° F there is gastrointestinal stasis with bacterium, a decrease in heart rate and hypoglycemia. Once below 70° F, the neonate is motionless and appears appear dead. An occasional chest wall movement may be seen, but the heart rate is 40-60 b/min and is non-palpable. Environmental temperature can be critical as a healthy newborn can only maintain a body temperature 12°F > than that of the surrounding environment. Therefore the "nesting box" temperature must be maintained at a specific temperature based on the age of the youngster.

Normal body temperature...........................Recommended temperature

of the new born..........................................of the nesting box

week 1: 96°- 98°............................................................85-90°

week 2: 99°....................................................................80°

week 3: 100.5°...............................................................80°

week 4: normal stable temperature..................................80°

week 5: normal stable temperature..................................70°

Monitoring weight gain is a good indicator of health status. Reported criteria for adequate weight gain have been reported during the neonatal period include; nursing puppies should double their weight in 10 days; the puppies should gain 5-10% / day; and puppies should gain 2 Gms/Kg of the expected adult weight/day. Nursing kittens should also double their weight in 10 days; normal kittens gain 10 - 15 Gms / day; and the kittens should weigh 1 pound/month for the first 4 months. Formula fed neonates grow at significantly slower rate despite the identical caloric intake doubling their weight in 14 days.

Successful hand-raising of orphans requires knowledge of when to intervene; milk replacement choices; meeting caloric needs; feeding methods; plus dedication/stamina. To assure the adequate growth of healthy pups, a commercial replacement formula best meets the pups / kitten's nutritional requirements. Some "home-made" formula is amino acid deficient and can result in nuclear cataract formation. Fortunately this change is usually reversible.

The selected formula should be species specific not the uni-species variety. While most formulas are available in both a canned and powder forms, I prefer the powdered formula for both economy and shelf-life. Place an opened can of powdered formula in the freezer for long-term storage. Canned formula should be stored in glass containers to decrease the gummy formations and kept no longer than 72 hours. The labeled instructions on volume should be followed exactly to avoid potential problems. directions on the For very short-term applications, the following "emergency" formula will be adequate for both species; 4 oz. whole cows milk, 4 oz. water, 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp. vegetable oil, and 2 Tums©. Both the emergency and most commercial puppy or kitten replacement formulas contain approximately 1.2 kcal/ml, the same caloric density as most commercial formulas. Using this figure, the following are "rules of thumb" feeding volume calculations:

Week 1 60 mls of formula / pound of body weight

Week 2 70 mls of formula / pound of body weight

Week 3 85 mls of formula / pound of body weight

Week 4 100 mls of formula / pound of body weight

This daily volume is divided into 5 equal feedings for the first week, then 3-4 feedings for weeks 2 through weaning. The premature pups, weak pups, immature, or most toy breeds will require more frequent feedings. It is very important that you recommend diluting the formula by adding 25 – 50% more water for the first 2 days. This adjustment will minimize the diarrhea commonly associated with dietary changes or the client's temptation to overfeed. Symptoms of overfeeding include bloating, colic and/or green to yellow watery stools. If nutritional diarrhea does occur, dilute the formula by adding 25% more water for a few more of days. When feeding formula always follow the manufacture's label directions, mix up only a 48-hour supply, keep it refrigerated in a covered glass container, and keep all feeding equipment scrupulously clean and disinfected. Powered formula will keep in the freezer for 6 months.

The easiest and safest way for clients to feed the formula is with a nipple bottle. Aspiration pneumonia is a fatal consequence of: 1. forcing the sick puppy to nurse (weak or absent suckling or swallowing reflex); 2. feeding with an eyedropper or syringe; 3. squeezing the plastic nipple bottle; 4. improper feeding tube placement; or 5. volume overload.

Tube feeding is a fast and accurate method that can be safely used in sick or healthy pups. However, this technique requires skill to insure the milk is placed in the stomach and not the esophagus or lungs. For tube feeding use a clean soft plastic infant feeding tube. The approximate size selection should be based on the orphan's body weight; <350 GM #8 FR.; 350 GM #10 FR.; > 500 GM #14 FR. The insertion length is determined by measuring from the tip of the nose to the last rib then marking the tube with magic marker. Fill the tube with the fluid to prevent the introduction of air and pass it down the left side of the mouth as the puppy cries top the mark. After delivery of the fluid, pinch the tube prior to withdrawal and withdraw it quickly to prevent leakage and possible aspiration.

When using a nipple bottle nurser, the nipple should be proportionate to the puppies/ kittens size. In addition the hole in the nipple should be of sufficient size that when the bottle is inverted, a drop of milk readily forms on the nipple. If not, enlarge the hole with a red-hot 19-ga needle. Warm the formula to 100° F using warm water, not a microwave. The puppy should be fed while resting on its stomach with the bottle placed at an angle similar to that associated with a nursing mother, or on a rolled-up towel simulating the mother. This method creates a natural nursing posture for the puppy, plus keeps the air at the top of the nursing bottle. Excessive ingestion of air will cause bloat/colic. Following a successful feeding, the puppy should be quiet and the abdomen should be somewhat enlarged but not distended or bloated. The puppy should be burped immediately following each feeding. Burping post-feeding will decrease the discomfort associated with air ingestion. Following each feeding, gently rub the anal and genital areas with a warm, moist, cotton ball. Neonates can not voluntarily urination or defecate. These functions are initially controlled by an anogenital reflex associated with vigorous stimulation of the perineal area with the mothers tongue or a wet swab. Although this reflex is present for up to 28 days in puppies and 40 days in kittens, the stimulation is only requires for the first 18-21days.

Weaning of orphaned pups can begin as early as 4 weeks for most toy breeds and 3 weeks for the others. The weaning formula should be a warm gruel consistency made by mixing dry puppy food mixed 1:3 with water, milk or formula or using canned puppy food mixed 2: 1 with water, milk or formula. By 6 weeks, at least 50% of their nutrition should come from unmixed food. Puppies should be completely weaned to dry or canned food by 7-8 weeks. Potential problems associated with early weaning/separation from the littermates includes malnutrition, stress-related diseases, and behavioral problems.

Weaning of orphaned kittens can begin as early as 4 weeks. The weaning formula should be a warm gruel consistency made by mixing dry kitten food mixed 1:3 with water, milk or formula or using canned kitten food mixed 2: 1 with water, milk or formula. By 6 weeks most kittens should be completely weaned to dry or canned food. Potential problems associated with early weaning/separation from the littermates includes malnutrition, stress-related diseases, and behavioral problems. Slow learning, caution, timidness, and aggression can be associated with early weaning /litter separation.

Once weaned, timed feedings should occur 4 times daily for six months in toy breeds, 3 times daily for nine months in average sized breeds and 3 times daily for twelve + months in large in giant breeds. Once weaned kitten should be either free fed or my preference in timed feedings three times daily for 6 months then twice daily. Based on different growth rates I would also recommend feeding a premium kitten growth food for 9 months in female cats and for 12 months in males. It is alright to feed pasteurized milk (cow or goat) to weaned kittens if it represent <5% of the total calories, does not cause diarrhea, and never instead of water.

Canine Socialization

Socialization is the development and refinement of a puppy's social responses to its environment including other animals, adults and children. Dogs are highly social creatures that rely heavily on interactions with living things to mold and shape their behavior. Early socialization is extremely important and sets the stage for a well-adjusted pet later on. There are several important developmental stages in puppies. During the Neonatal Period (0-2 weeks) gentle daily handling helps to imprint puppies to people via touch and smell. The Transition Period (2-4 weeks) defines functional use of eyes, ears and legs. Daily handling of 1 minute minimum per day per puppy helps bond dogs to humans. The Critical Socialization Period (4-12 weeks) is an ideal time for puppies to learn to play with littermates and interact with and bond to the owners.

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