New puppies and kitties

I have been asked lately about caring for newborn animals.

Animals have very strong instincts when it comes to caring for their newborn offspring.

However, both mother and babies need nurturing environment in order to thrive. Unfortunately, in some cases, the mother either rejects the babies or dies, so the burden of caring for the newborns falls entirely on the owner.

Here is a very brief overview of the basic care for puppies and kittens.  

The most common reasons for newborn puppies/kittens loss are low body temperature and lack of energy.

Newborns can't regulate their body temperature. It is important to make sure the house temperature is warm enough, and that the area that the mother and litter are placed in is well padded, without exposure to the bare floor.

Most mothers do all the work of taking care of their offspring themselves. Sometimes, although rarely, the mother might ignore one or more of her offspring.

I find that this situation may arise from a cesarean section, in which the dog is put under anesthesia and wakes up to a new reality of being a mother. Not going through the process of delivery may delay bonding between the mother and her babies.  

In those cases, you may notice that one or more of the babies are not being fed properly.

First, encourage the baby to feed from the mother by placing it close to the nipple. If for any reason natural nursing is impossible or not sufficient for the baby’s demands, you can supplement the nutrition by special puppies and kittens milk replacement formulas carried in veterinarian clinics. 

A special bottle designed for puppies/kittens is also available and it it the best method to feed the babies efficiently (versus a syringe).

  • It is important to tip the bottle at an angle that will prevent air gulping.
  • When you feed, let the baby suck the milk from the bottle on its own.
  • Do not squeeze the milk into its mouth, which might lead to milk aspiration into the lungs.
  • Puppies and kittens eat frequently; newborns should be fed approximately every two hours.

Puppies and kittens are dependent on their mother for urination and defecation. The mother licks the back area, which stimulates urination and defecation.

  • In the absence of the mother, you should use a cotton ball, wet it with lukewarm water and rub the baby’s back area to mimic the mother’s action.
  • When the baby reaches three weeks of age, they normally able to function on their own.

When the babies are older and are able to control the elimination on their own, it's time for “house training."

Cats are easy; all you need is a litter box. You should place the kitten in the litter box and hold its front paws while mimicking the motion of digging in the litter. Usually once is enough and the kitten will know where to go when it's time to go.

With dogs, the situation is more complicated; dogs should be “house trained."

House training a dog can be challenging. I strongly recommend consulting an animal trainer about how to  train your dog to obey and follow basic orders, including house training if needed.

Other things owners should know:

  • Puppies and kittens are ready to be weaned and separated from their mother at eight weeks.
  • Puppies are recommended to receive a series of three vaccines, three to four weeks apart. The optimal timing for the first vaccine is eight weeks of age.
  • Kittens receive a series of two vaccines, four weeks apart. Like puppies, the optimal timing for the first vaccine is eight weeks of age.
  • Rabies vaccine can be given to puppies and kittens older than 12 weeks of age.
  • Puppies and kittens are prone to intestinal worm infestation, hence they should be dewormed more often than adults pets should. Deworming protocols differ, depending on the products used. Your veterinarian will tell you what protocol is recommended for your pet.

Similarly to raising human babies, raising puppies and kittens is very intense and might get confusing and stressful.

Please seek more information about this important topic with your regular veterinarian to ensure the optimal growth and thriving of these youngsters.


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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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