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Shipping Puppies or Kittens

When shipping puppies and kittens, we all want to give them something last minute to get them to their destination with ease. Companies market to this instant mentality, but that product does not exist. Getting puppies or kittens ready for shipping starts at weaning and goes through the first week at the new owner’s home. We don’t have to please the owners – they already like the baby we shipped. We have to impress the veterinarian that examines the puppies or kittens after shipment. Managed correctly, you will have a clean fecal exam and no disease. The vet will find you to be a responsible breeder if you are able to get that done.

Your home is not stressful to a puppy or kitten; it’s the change in what they know. They have brothers and sisters around, plus you pet them, feed them and keep them on a consistent schedule. It is stressful for a baby to leave home; some child may think they are a toy, and they may have to ride in a purse, baby buggy or backpack – all difficult for a baby to accept. You see our issue? No matter how you explain puppy care, you must get kittens and puppies ready for the abnormal. They will manage the stress just fine with protection.


Weaning and eating solid food is #1 in shipping puppies or kittens. They have to know the food texture and be eating before shipping. If they are not good eaters, keep them another week.


Diet is difficult to control, but with tiny kittens or puppies, it is critical. Stomachs are small, so tiny puppies should have the opportunity to eat six times a day. Kittens should always have food available. We like to go over diet with the owners and ask them to not to make changes during the first two weeks. After that time frame, it is important to slowly incorporate changes. It is very likely that owners will feed off the table. The puppy/kitten pack sent home with new babies should say “Do not feed more than 10% of diet in table food, and be sure there is plenty of time to get in multiple meals a day.”

For small breeds and kittens, we ask new owners to give Doc Roy's® Forti-Cal Gel for the first month. During the first week, administer three times a day; twice a day for the second week, and then once a day until over 4 pounds. Yes, this is a high-calorie approach, but the vitamins tend to keep kittens and puppies on food. The key to shipping babies is get them on food and keep them eating. Consistent growth will keep them healthy.


Parasites start with mom (Read Managing Parasites in Dogs and Cats) and follow through the first week in a new home. We must control Giardia and Coccidia. Both are big issues.

For years, veterinarians have recommended giving Ponazuril (Marquis®) just before shipping. Marquis will prevent Coccidia for 14 days, during their most stressful time. Giardia is controlled at six weeks, and we ask the next owner to deworm with Fenbendazole (Panacur® or Safeguard®) after arrival. Many catteries give Safeguard three days before shipping rather than trust the new owners to accomplish that task. That controls the Giardia during stress. Your goal is to make sure the veterinarian at the other end cannot find parasites.

Vaccines are insurance against disease at their new home. Be sure you have one Distemper vaccine, two Parvo vaccines, and a Kennel Cough vaccine in at least one week before shipping.

Kittens get no vaccine until seven weeks (Panleukopenia issues), a booster at nine weeks, then ship at 10 weeks. We can ship with one FvRCP 3-way in, but we do not like to. All should be completed at least one week before they leave to give the kitten/puppy time to respond and allow their protection to build up. The veterinarian at the other end is going to vaccinate the baby so ask them to in the puppy/kitten pack and plan for it in your series.


When the shipping date is known, put electrolytes in the water 3 days before and during shipping. Re-Sorb is easy to use and is also easy to clean out of the water bottle or bowl. Use one packet per gallon of water as the only water source. Puppies and kittens will drink it over the fresh water if given the option. Re-Sorb comes in a double pouch – one smaller with electrolytes and a larger with Dextrose. Take an 8 oz water bottle, put 1 tsp of electrolytes and 2 tsp of the larger dextrose in, and send with owners to mix 50/50 with water until gone. That will help with car shipping. It is also beneficial to send Re-Sorb packets in the puppy pack and tell new owners to mix in one gallon of water for puppy Gatorade – and to use in water bowl until gone.


Sending medication home with the puppy/kitten is never a good idea. The law has said you are admitting guilt that you have the disease when you ship with meds (New York case). Many use Albon for this. It is dangerous and gives a negative, “I have an infected kennel” message to the veterinarian. We have had owners give us medications sent with puppies and ask us why they are necessary. It is difficult to explain to them without saying the kennel or cattery has a problem they are trying to control. This is not accepted well by owners so do not do it. Most new owners do not give them the medication so if they need it, keep them another week and re-evaluate for shipment.

Probiotic is difficult to quantify when used on a healthy puppy. We know the probiotic bacteria we are feeding are replaced within three days with normal gut bacteria. With cases of diarrhea, this is good as probiotic bacteria will take up space occupied by bad bacteria, until normal flora can take over. After shipping stress, it is helpful to give a probiotic to counter tummy upset. With kittens or puppies, three days on Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics, Probios® powder on the food, or giving GI Synbiotics gel directly will reset the gut and stop common shipping diarrhea. GI Synbiotics or Probios powder, along with Re-Sorb electrolytes after shipping, will help with diarrhea prevention. The goal is to keep them on food.


Trust your program and your judgment. You are the puppy/kitten expert. You have been getting this baby ready for his new home since before he was born. If you feel they are not ready to go, wait a week. If they are ready to go, send accurate information and move them on. Mothering is what all babies want and with your guidance, the new owner will make your baby thrive.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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