Wednesday, 24 September 2008


During the first few weeks of life, puppies and kittens should nurse at least four to six times per day. Infrequent or weak nursing often signifies chilling, illness, or congenital problems and should be attended to immediately by a knowledgeable breeder or veterinarian. The two primary activities of all newborns are eating and sleeping. The eyes of puppies and kittens open between DEVELOPMENT OF PUPPIES10 and 16 days and their ears begin to function between 15 and 17 days after birth. Normal body temperature for puppies is 94 degrees Fahrenheit to 97 degrees Fahrenheit for the first two weeks of life. Normal kitten temperature during this time is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. By 4 to 5 weeks of age, body temperatures have reached the normal adult temperature in both species (approximately 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Because puppies and kittens have no shivering reflex for the first 6 days of life, an external heat source is necessary. The dam is the best source for this warmth. After 6 days, the puppies and kittens are able to shiver, but they are still very susceptible to chilling. Keeping the environment warm and free from drafts is of utmost importance during the first few weeks of life to prevent hypothermia. It is recommended that the environmental temperature be kept at 70 degrees Fahrenheit during this period, assuming the dam is providing an adequate amount of warmth and protection to the newborns.

Newborns should be weighed daily during the first 2 weeks and then every 3 to 4 days until weaning. A helpful guideline is for puppies to gain between 1 and 2 grams (g) per day for every pound of anticipated adult weight for the first 3 to 4 weeks of life. For example, if the anticipated adult weight of a dog is 25 pounds (lbs), the puppy should be gaining between 25 and 50 g/day (0.9 to 1.8 oz). Kittens usually weigh between 90 to 110 g at birth and should gain between 50 and 100 g (1.8 to 3.5 oz) per week until they are 5 to 6 months of age.

Although there is limited information available concerning milk intake in nursing puppies and kittens, one study reported that Beagle puppies consume between 160 and 175 g of milk per day. Naturally, puppies of larger breeds are expected to consume a greater volume of milk, with smaller breeds and kittens consuming less volume. Similarly, the volume of milk that a bitch produces varies with her size. German Shepherds produce about 900 g of milk per day in early lactation, with increases to a level of up to 1700 g/day during peak lactation. In contrast, a much smaller breed, the Dachshund, produces between 100 and 180 g/day in early lactation.

Other influences upon the volume of milk produced are litter size, age at which supplemental food is introduced, and age of weaning. In healthy puppies and kittens, the dam's milk supports normal growth until puppies and kittens are approximately 4 weeks old. Supplemental feeding with commercial milk replacer should only be necessary with unusually large litters. After 4 weeks, milk alone no longer provides adequate calories or nutrients for continued normal development. At approximately the same time, puppies and kittens become increasingly interested in their environment and begin to spend more time awake and playing with each other. The time at which the dam's milk is no longer solely able to meet the nutrient needs of the offspring corresponds to the time at which the young are becoming more interested in trying new foods.

Rich Masters: Source: Virtual Veterinary

No comments: