Newborn Puppy and Kitten Care: The First 72 HoursLast updated: August 02, 2016
Giving birth to a healthy puppy or kitten is truly a miracle. There is much going on during this process and many limitations to our intervention, but we can help. Knowing what the normal process is will help dictate what you will change or support for better health in the future.
BirthBirthing is a traumatic process. Babies are pushed, squeezed and expelled from a warm, comfortable, floating environment into a new environment with all unknowns. Consider the fact they have never breathed air, plus they have no gag reflex to keep them from aspirating. You see the potential for issues. The importance of getting them on the ground efficiently and breathing without aspiration cannot be overstated. Once birthing has started, the high-risk baby is the one still in the uterus. This is where you can help. To ensure all goes well during the birthing process, give mom Oral Cal Plus™ when labor starts. This fast-absorbing calcium supports effective, normal contractions.
Keep Newborns WarmLetting babies get chilled when mom is birthing the next baby is a common mistake. Babies come out of mom at 101.5º F. In order to prevent newborns from getting chilled, make sure the whelping box is warm and give care while the next baby is coming. During week one, the whelping box temperature should be 86° to 90° F. The experienced mom will get the baby breathing and nursing, and then concentrate on the next birth. New moms often ignore the babies until the litter is on the ground. Help the new mom remove membranes and get the baby breathing. If a newborn is chilled, always warm before feeding!
ImmunityFirst milk or colostrum is full of antibodies borrowed from mom. Newborns can absorb colostrum antibodies well during the first 12 to 24 hours. Colostrum is highly nutritious and provides disease protection to newborns during the nursing period. Newborns that don't get colostrum from mom or are smaller than the rest of the litter can be given Nurture Mate gel colostrum replacer. Give daily for the first three weeks to prevent disease from attacking the baby during this critical, no-colostrum period. It is not as good as mom's colostrum, but Nurture Mate will help you save the "runt" of the litter.
DigestionNewborns are born with sterile guts until exposed to the world. Bacteria is needed for normal gut digestion of milk and mom seeds good bacteria into the newborn by day three when cleaning them, but she will also seed them with bad bacteria. (You can see the need to prevent dental disease!) Giving GI Synbiotics gel proactively on the second and third day after birth will seed healthy gut bacteria needed for digestion and immune support. Babies have no gag reflex and aspirate easily, so it is best to stick with gels to avoid aspiration issues.
Umbilical Cord CareBecause babies are born sterile, care is needed to prevent bacteria from getting into their bodies. The umbilical cord contains an artery and vein with direct access to the bloodstream. Once the umbilical is infected, the bacteria can travel up the vessels. Umbilical cord infection is one of the big causes of septicemia. Septicemia, or bad bacteria everywhere in body, is often called "Blue Belly." Most septic babies' tummies are brick red or dark red, but near death it can be blue. If a newborn is able to fend off the infection, the bacteria is often filtered out through small vessels, resulting in blocked arteries. Blocked blood vessels can cause the very end of tails, ears or toes to die and drop off.
Prevention is easy and should be done on every baby! Use an Umbilical Cord Clamp to prevent bacteria from entering the body and to prevent mom from chewing too much while cleaning. The clamp falls off after several days. Treat the umbilical with disinfectant (Iodine, Triodine 7 or Chlorhexidine) and repeat on day three when you remove dewclaws.
Disinfectants and CleanersUse caution when using cleaning products in the whelping or queening area. Chemical residue from cleaning products and disinfectants is the number one cause of fading puppy and kitten syndrome. To keep newborns from accidentally inhaling or absorbing unwanted chemicals through their thin skin, avoid pine oils and phenols (Lysol®) as well as chlorine bleach or quaternary ammonium in the whelping nest or anywhere near babies. Use gentle cleaners with little odor and remove all residue before contact with the neonates. Chlorhexidine Solution is safe to use, even to wipe them off or disinfect an umbilical.
It is difficult to treat a newborn! Making sure mom is as healthy as possible results in babies on the ground fighting to live and aggressive to nurse. That makes babies a joy to raise!
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
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.