Guidelines on rearing orphans
On some occasions puppies and kittens may require hand rearing. This term is referred to as orphan rearing. The newborns may have been orphaned due to the mother being unable to cope with feeding, death, or rejection by the mother. Orphan rearing is not an easy task – it is very time consuming but by the same token, extremely rewarding for the person rearing the puppies/kittens.
Environment – The environment must be kept at a warm constant temperature of about 30 – 32°C for the first week of life, this can be done with an electric heating pad covered with towels or hot water bottles and insulation. After the first week of life, 24°C is a suitable temperature, as the puppies/kittens can regulate their temperature more adequately at this stage of life. The environment should also be kept clean and dry to avoid heat loss due to moisture on the skin.
Bedding – Bedding should be well insulated with hay, blankets, shredded paper or a doona. A newspaper quarter is also advisable when the puppies begin to roam away from the nest, this can help with toilet training. A short litter tray is suitable for kittens.
Toiletting – This should be done after each feed and means that the person rearing the orphans needs to stimulate them to urinate and defaecate. By wiping the backside and genital area with a moist cotton ball gently on and around the area urination and defaecation is instigated, it simulates the just as the mother would by licking the area to clean the puppies or kittens.
Handling – Moderate amounts of handling should be instigated after feeding, this promotes good circulation and muscular development.
Feeding – If possible allow the mother to feed as much as she can in the first 3 days of life, as during this period a naturally reared puppy/kitten receives important antibodies from the mother.
Feeding can be via a syringe, dolls bottle, pet nurser bottle or intra-gastric tube (our nurses can demonstrate how to use one of these).
An appropriate commercially formulated milk supplementation like Divetalac, Animalac or Wombaroo should be made fresh daily, according to directions and fed at 4-6 hourly intervals (2-4 hourly in neonates less than 1 week old). The amount to feed will depend on the animal’s weight, so kitchen scales are needed to calculate their required intake of supplementation.
Formula guidelines: (But please follow formula recommendations) Feed: 1ml per 7.5 grams of body weight for the first week. 1ml per 6.0 grams of body weight for the second week. 1ml per 5.0 grams of body weight for the third week. 1ml per 4.5 grams of body weight for the fourth week.
Underfeed slightly for the first few days to avoid digestive problems and then gradually increase concentration of formula to the recommended amount.
At three weeks of age a good quality dry puppy/kitten food can gradually be introduced to their diet ( Advance Puppy Rehydratable or Advance Kitten are suitable). Mix the milk formula with the diet and create a sloppy porridge. Eventually, milk quantity should be decreased and solid food increased. At this stage food should be given as-libitum and hand feeding is usually only required 1-2 times daily. It takes about 2 weeks to wean the pups/kittens onto just dry food and water. Always remember to supply fresh water as you decrease the milk quantity to provide enough fluid intake.
Weaning can be complete by, as young as 4 weeks, but normally 5-6 weeks is required.
|At birth |
|2-3 days after birth |
The umbilical cord drops off
|8-10 days after birth |
|10-14 days after birth |
|14-17 days after birth |
|21 days after birth |
|5-8 weeks after birth |