Saturday May 18, 2013
SimplyCats March 2011 Mewsletter:
If you have problems viewing the images on this Mewsletter, please click on the above link 'View it in your browser'
Hello and welcome to our March 2011 Mewsletter!
By producing this Mewsletter we can reach and help so many more people to understand and care for their cats. This will go out to our cat loving clients at SimplyCats Veterinary Clinic and also to our clients who have signed up on our Cat Behavior Web Site. We apologise for the American spelling but 80% of the clients on this site are from overseas.
We hope to mail all SimplyCats subscribers monthly. Remember this mailing is totally free and you can un-subscribe at any time, using the link on the top of the page or at the end of this Mewsletter..
Please feel free to browse our website where you will be able to view our special offers. www.simplycats.net
The idea is to select a number of articles each month that we think our subscribers will be interested in and have a direct link to how your cat thinks and his / her wellbeing. We sincerely believe the most important aspect of living in harmony with your cat is understanding how he or she thinks. You have to get inside your cats mind. This was the real passion behind creating our Cat Behaviour Guide and SimplyCats.
"The cat who frightens the mice away is as good as the cat who eats them"
- German proverb
* * * * * * * * * * *
Being cat vets, feline behavior and cat medicine is an area of continuous interest to both of us and has a massive influence on the well being of cats and the humans owned by cats ;-). This is even more important when your beloved cat is ill or sick.
Knowing about cat behavior has been the centre point of the design of our cat only veterinary practice for example CAT ONLY, NO DOGS, all kept quiet and calm with places to hide in most of the hospitalisation cages. Also very careful use and selection of disinfectants etc. so as not to disturb the cats incredible sense of smell. Remember all these facts when you are trying to make your home cat friendly, though, do remember cats can get on fine with dogs once carefully introduced.
Your cat could feature in the next mewsletter...
We are looking for pictures to support our future mewsletter articles - cute - playing - sleeping - any pictures of your cat would be great for us to include - send your pics ( in ' jpeg' format - preferred ) to email@example.com
A BLOOD TRANSFUSION can be a life-saving procedure. The first documented human-to-human blood transfusion was done as early as 1818, but transfusion medicine really took off in the 1920s and 1930s when anti-coagulants were introduced, allowing blood storage and the development of blood banks. Human transfusion medicine has developed into a very advanced science and blood transfusions are common — in the UK alone the National Blood Service now collects more than two million units of blood every year.
In veterinary medicine, transfusions are undertaken less often, but nonetheless they can have a vital role in both emergency and critical care situations.
When is a blood transfusion useful?
A blood transfusion provides an immediate supply of red blood cells, which are essential for carrying oxygen around the body. A blood transfusion can therefore be life-saving in severe anaemia, especially where there has been a rapid loss of red blood cells, with no time for the body tissues to accommodate to the sudden reduction in oxygen supply. However blood contains many other elements which may also be useful. When blood is transfused the three major elements that can be provided are:
Red blood cells: it is not possible to generalise, but common recommendations are that a blood transfusion may be indicated if:
Anaemia is severe enough to be causing clinical signs, eg, weakness, dyspnoea, ataxia
The PCV (packed cell volume) has dropped acutely to
less than 15%
The PCV has dropped slowly but has fallen below 10%
Plasma: this is the fluid in which the red cells are floating and it contains many proteins with essential functions, for example
Albumin; the protein which holds fluid in the circulation. When blood albumin falls too low fluid leaks from the vessels and builds up within the tissues (oedema) or within the chest or abdominal cavities (thoracic and abdominal effusions)
Clotting factors; proteins that cause blood to clot when a blood vessel is damaged
Inflammatory mediators; some of which help the body to fight infections, but others of which are essential in winding down the inflammatory reaction once the threat has passed
Platelets: the cells in the blood which work with the clotting factors to allow blood to clot and prevent prolonged bleeding after a minor injury
A single unit of blood can potentially be divided into these three components, so where appropriate they can then be used separately, getting maximum use from each donated unit of blood, and reducing the risk of adverse reactions in the recipient by only giving the elements that are needed. This is now commonplace in human medicine and starting to be available in canine medicine — but currently remains rare in feline medicine.
Blood groups and blood compatibility
The very earliest blood transfusions in people — carried out as early as the 17th century —met with little success, largely because they involved giving sheep blood to humans! Of course we now know that blood must not only be collected from a member of the same species as the intended recipient, but that the two must have compatible blood groups to prevent development of a transfusion reaction.
BLOOD COMPATIBILITY IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT IN FELINE MEDICINE, BECAUSE GIVING EVEN A TINY VOLUME OF THE 'WRONG' BLOOD TO A CAT CAN CAUSE AN IMMEDIATE AND POSSIBLY FATAL TRANSFUSION REACTION IN THE RECIPIENT
Blood Groups A, B and AB
For many years we have known that there are three major blood groups in cats — A, B and AB. Group A is the most common, B is quite common in some breeds (see Table 1) but is rare in others, and group AB currently appears to be rare in all breeds.
If a type B cat is given type A blood, antibodies in its blood will stick to the foreign type A red cells causing their immediate destruction. This haemolytic crisis can be very severe and is often rapidly fatal.
If a type A cat is given type B blood it may only suffer a milder form of immediate reaction which it will hopefully survive, but it will start to form antibodies against the 'foreign' type B red cells, causing more rapid destruction of the transfused cells. At best this means the benefit of the transfusion will be short-lived (a few days only), and at worst it sensitises the cat to future transfusions, which may then trigger an immediate and fatal transfusion reaction if it needs a second transfusion at a later date.
Type AB cats are rare. They can receive blood from either A or B cats, but cannot be used as donor cats.
This same incompatibility of blood types can be a problem if a type B queen produces a type A kitten - which can happen because the gene for type A blood is dominant to the gene for type B blood. The type B queen has antibodies against type A blood, which she passes on to her kitten through her colostrum. The type A kitten therefore absorbs antibodies which attack its own red blood cells, causing jaundice, anaemia and often death.
The Mik antigen
More recently a second blood group has been identified involving the Mik red cell antigen4, and incompatibility here can also cause significant transfusion reactions, even in cats whose A/B blood groups are compatible.
White blood cells, platelets and proteins
While the most severe transfusion reactions occur because of immunological incompatibility of red blood cells, milder reactions can also occur against white blood, cells, platelets and plasma proteins in the transfused blood. These reactions will not be identified by in-house cross- matching; they typically occur within the first hour, and are usually manageable if they are identified early and thetransfusion is stopped. A fatal anaphylactic reaction is possible, but fortunately appears to be very rare. Use of blood components rather than whole blood reduces the risk of these reactions.
Hopefully the most severe immunological adverse reactions described above can be avoided by performing a cross-match test to assess the compatibility of the donor blood before it is collected. However, even compatible cross-matched blood can trigger adverse reactions in some circumstances, especially if stored blood is used. Problems can arise if the blood is too cold, has been given too quickly, contains damaged red cells due to prolonged storage, improper handling or over-warming, or if the blood has been contaminated during collection, (eg, due to poor aseptic technique).
Ensuring success for the recipient
If a cat is suffering from severe anaemia, or from a disease which has caused loss of platelets (thrombocytopenia) allowing uncontrolled bleeding, a blood transfusion may save its life. However, great care is required to ensure that the transfusion does not do more harm than good:
Steps must be taken to ensure, as far as possible, that the donor cat's blood is compatible with the recipient. At the very least, both cats' A/B/AB blood group must be checked, and ideally further cross- matching should always be done to identify Mik antigen and other incompatibilities.
The donor cat must be screened for blood-borne infections such as FeLV and FIV, and would ideally also be screened for Mycoplasma haemofelis (the cause of feline infectious anaemia — see www.fabcats.org for more information on FIA) and other less common infections which can be transmitted via the blood.
When transfusing the blood, great care is required to avoid overloading the recipient cat's circulation, as this can lead to congestive heart failure.
Close monitoring for an unexpected transfusion reaction is essential. The first few millilitres of blood should be given very slowly (1 ml/kg/hr for the first 30 minutes) so that any adverse reaction can be identified and the transfusion stopped before large volumes of blood have been given.
Consideration of all these risks is important, and owners must be aware of them too. In the ESFM survey 91 % of vets who had performed a transfusion in a cat had discussed the attendant risks for the recipient with its owner, but this tells us that 9 % of vets had not.
When considering the risks versus benefits of a blood transfusion it is also important to ensure that the volume of blood that will be given will be sufficient to alleviate the recipient's disease. For anaemic cats this can be calculated from formulae involving the donor cat's body size, the severity of the anaemia, the red cell count of the donor blood and the volume to be given.
Ensuring the safety of the blood donor
It is not only the recipient that must receive care and consideration. Collection of blood from a healthy donor cat must be undertaken with enormous care to ensure that health risks to the donor cat are kept to an absolute minimum.
Current recommendations are that the donor cats must be:
A clinically healthy, fully vaccinated cat, which ideally lives wholly indoors
Less than 8 years old
Over 4.5 kg lean bodyweight
PCV must be over 30% and ideally over 35%
Free of FeLV/FIV/Mycoplasma haemofelis
Of compatible blood type and cross-matched to the recipient
Of suitable temperament not to be overstressed by the visit to the veterinary practice, and fasted to allow safe sedation for stress-free collection of the blood.
Before collecting any blood it is also essential to assess the donor cat's red cell levels (PCV) and to calculate the effect that removing the planned amount of blood will have. The cat's small body size and small circulating blood volume mean that if this is not done it is very easy to induce anaemia in the donor cat!
Even when all these criteria are taken into account, collection of a significant volume of blood is not without its risks.
Low blood pressure (hypotension) is common if large volumes of blood are collected, especially if sedation is required to allow pain free collection of the planned volume of blood. In the ESFM survey around 12% of the vets had encountered hypotension as a consequence of blood collection.
20 % of the circulating volume is the maximum amount of blood that can safely be collected, and then only if the donor's PCV is over 35 %. If more than 10 % of the donor's blood volume is required the volume must be replaced by giving i/v fluids.
Some cats with significant heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) show no signs of ill health and have no heart murmur - the problem can only be identified on an ultrasound scan of the heart (echocardiography). Collection of blood from these cats can be fatal; in one study this occurred in one out of 137 apparently healthy donor cats.
Blood transfusions can be life-saving and are a valuable addition to the treatment armoury, especially for cats with severe acute anaemia or thrombocytopenia. As long as they are undertaken with care, and with a good understanding of feline transfusion medicine, they can be a safe and effective treatment option. However, there are very real practical issues associated with the collection of the blood, and with the safe-guarding of the health and safety of the donor cat, which will often limit the availability of a transfusion in an emergency scenario. Nevertheless due attention to these factors is essential before undertaking a feline blood transfusion.
Cat Breeds: - The American Wirehair
The coat of the American Wirehair - which, as its name suggests, is its most distinguishing feature - is by no means fully rexed, but is far more crimped, crinkled and bouncy than that of most cats. The origins of the breed go back to a barn in Upper New York State in 1966. A red and white curly-coated male occurred as a spontaneous mutation in an American Shorthair litter. By 1969, a pure breeding colony had been established, and the breed was given official recognition by the Cat Fancier's Association in 1978. The breed remains more or less exclusively in the United States, but there was a class for American Wirehairs at a Brussels show in 1996.
It is a medium to large cat with a round head, prominent cheekbones and a well-developed muzzle. It comes in all colours and patterns except the colourpointed (Himalayan) series.
Grooming requirements are minimal with an occasional soft brushing.
This cat has a very positive temprament and spend a lot of time purring. It is also very inquisitive.
We now have an online shop
You can now purchase food and toys from our online shop.
An excerpt from our Cat First Aid book
ORDER OF IMPORTANCE (Triage)
The following are emergencies listed in order of priority for action – all must be seen by a veterinary surgeon:
1. No pulse, no breathing
2. Pulse but not breathing
5. Breathing difficulties
6. Chest puncture
7. Severe bleeding
8. Abdominal puncture
9. Hyperthermia (extreme hot) or hypothermia (extreme cold)
We are now on Facebook and Twitter
Click here to view our Facebook
page and click here to view our Twitter page.
Please feel free to contribute photos and comments to either page.
Weightwatchers - dubby's diet (and more) - continued !
Caroline, one of the receptionists at SimplyCats has three cats. Two are an ideal weight but one called Sandy - nicknamed Dubby - (that's the word chubby in disguise) weighed in on the 6th May 2009 an (un)impressive 8.85kg (19.4 pounds).
Caroline reports: "Dubby was taken to the clinic for a weigh-in (he had managed to wiggle his way out of his last appointment by going AWOL when the cat carrier was brought down from the loft!). It was a really good job that I did manage to catch him as we both got more than we bargained for........a closer mouth examination revealed a small tumour which needed to be removed.
The recommendation of a general health profile blood screen prior to his anaesthetic revealed a higher level of glucose (blood sugar) than normal. Along with an urine analysis we finally had a diagnosis for some strange signs he has been showing recently...DIABETES! His last lab tests not so long ago for cushings disease and diabetes proved negative so it was a big surprise!
Insulin injections twice daily have commenced, so what started out to be a diet blog will be a diabetes / diet blog in future editions! I'll keep you posted with any developments, and with the results from his tumour removal "
If anyone reading this has any diabetic success stories they wish to share, please email:
Hand rearing kittens
Raising an orphaned kitten can be a rewarding experience. However, kittens are very fragile, and raising them can be difficult, time consuming, and not always successful.
Which kittens need to be hand reared?
Normally kittens have their environmental and nutritional requirements met by their mother. However, a number of different situations may lead to kittens requiring extra care, eg, death of the queen (female cat), rejection of the kittens by the queen, ill health in the queen, or the production of too large a litter for the queen to care for.
When the queen is only temporarily ill, the kittens may only need to be hand fed for a few days, while in other situations the kittens may need to be fed by hand until they are weaned. In the case of a very large litter, where the kittens are gaining some milk from their mother, they will only need supplemental feeding.
Should any kittens not be hand reared?
In some circumstances the breeder may be faced with a decision to have kittens euthanased at birth. Apart from agonising decisions over sheer numbers, or where the queen is unwell or unwilling to look after the kittens, there are some cases where a kitten needs to be euthanased to prevent a crippled existence. No list can be exhaustive, but as soon as possible a check should be made with the following defects in mind:-
Severe hydrocephalus as shown by enlargement of the skull.
Anasarca or generalised oedema (water-logging of the tissues).
Cleft palate. If severe this will lead to the inability to suck and dribbling of milk down the nose.
Imperforate anus. This may be obvious with the entire absence of an exit for the bowel, or occult (when the exit leads into a blind sac within the body). An affected kitten may live some weeks but will fail to thrive and will never be seen to pass a motion. In the occult case, the true condition can only be found on close examination by a veterinary surgeon.
Hernia or incomplete development of the body wall. A small ringed umbilical hernia is a slight defect, but some kittens have virtually no abdominal musculature and should not be kept.
Spina bifida or incomplete development of the back.
Gross deformity or absence of limbs.
Many serious inherited abnormalities are not obvious at birth, and abnormalities of sight and hearing fall into this category. Suspected abnormalities of joints and limbs should be viewed with caution unless utterly self-evident, such as severe shortening of a limb. Joints at birth are very incomplete structures and most apparent double-jointedness or rotation of limbs right themselves by the time the kitten is really mobile.
The most difficult decision usually concerns the kitten persistently rejected by its mother, despite its apparent normality to the human eye. The choice in this case lies between hand rearing, fostering or euthanasia. The decision can only be made by the breeder after full consideration of the circumstances. An additional consideration is that the rejected kitten may well be a defective kitten (mother may know best) in which case hand rearing may not be successful.
Do hand reared kittens develop normally?
A kitten reared in total isolation from other cats is at risk of developing psychological abnormalities, including nervousness, aggression and a reduced ability to cope with strange surroundings, people or animals. Kittens hand reared in the presence of other cats are less likely to be affected, since they can develop by watching the other cats. Because completely hand-reared animals are at a behavioural disadvantage they should not be used for breeding. It may also be more difficult to find them suitable homes.
What are the basic considerations when hand rearing kittens?
There are several basic functions to be addressed when hand rearing kittens. These include the provision of a suitable clean, warm environment, a suitable feeding regimen, attention to urination and defecation (emptying of the bowels), and attention to general health. The major problems encountered when trying to hand rear kittens are chilling, dehydration and starvation (resulting in hypoglycaemia - low blood sugar levels). These three conditions are interrelated and close observation is necessary if they are to be noticed, and if occurring, for prompt action to be taken in time. Kittens are very fragile, hence they can become ill and die very quickly.
Total dedication and commitment is required by the carer at all times.
New-born kittens need up to 10 feeds in each 24 hour period.
Carer's life-style will need to be flexible. Kittens like babies need to be with you at all times, wherever you may be.
Carers should not exceed the allotted interval between feeding times.
Kittens when hungry, will move about in search of milk. If left they will soon get tired and fall asleep again. This is undesirable and certainly not to be recommended. It is important they are fed on time.
Where should I keep the kittens?
If the kittens are being fed by their mother then they should be kept with her. If no mother is around then for the first three weeks of life it is useful to use a small cat-carrying basket with lots of cosy Vetbed plus a soft toy to snuggle up to. As they grow and become mobile, use a kitten pen or convert a baby's travel cot/play-pen. Use a velcro safety net to stop young kittens climbing and falling out.
How should I keep the kittens warm?
Warmth is a primary essential for the new-born. A kitten cannot react to cold by shivering and cannot control its own body temperature. In nature, warmth is obtained by direct body contact with the mother and conserved by the enclosed kittening bed. A new-born wet kitten loses heat very rapidly, hence it is important that they are dried quickly. Kittens can be kept warm by lying them in contact with a warm, well-covered hot water bottle, an electric vinyl heat pad or a microwave heat pad. Heat can be conserved by covering them with a blanket. Great care must be taken not to inflict contact burns by having the bottle too hot.
Acceptable alternatives are veterinary heating pads, and infra-red lamps. The disadvantages of the lamps are that many cats dislike the open bed required for their use, and they may overheat the kittens.
The rectal temperature of new-born kittens ranges from 95-99 °F (35-37.2 °C) in the first week, to 97-100 °F (36.1-37.7 °C) in the second and third weeks, and reaches normal adult levels of 100-102 °F (37.7-38.9 °C) by the fourth week. If the rectal temperature drops below 94 °F the kitten is likely to die. It is important to warm up kittens slowly, since too rapid warming can be fatal.
The temperature in the kitten box (with no queen) should initially be maintained at 85-90 °F (29.4-32.2 °C), but the box should be large enough for the kittens to move away from the heat if they become too hot. If the litter is large, the temperature can be reduced since by huddling together the kittens generate extra heat. The temperature can be gradually reduced to 80 °F (26.7 °C) by 7-10 days and to 72 °F (22.2 °C) by the end of the first month.
Try to maintain room ambient temperature of 75 °F. Kittens' bodies should be relaxed whilst asleep and feel pleasantly warm to the human touch. You should notice gentle body jerks as they rest. Keep control by using a maximum/minimum thermometer in the kitten(s) nest. Remember adjustments must be constantly considered throughout the day as nest temperature is directly affected by the room's ambient temperature.
Does humidity affect the kittens?
When a low environmental humidity is combined with a lack of regular liquid intake the kittens are at risk of dehydration. An environmental humidity of 55-65 % will prevent the kittens' skin from drying out. Signs of dehydration include loss of skin elasticity and sticky mucous membranes (gums).
What makes a good nest for the kittens?
The easiest way to provide a clean, safe and warm nest is to take a cardboard box, line it with Vetbed, use either hot water bottles or a heating pad for warmth, and placing it away from draughts. Vetbed can be easily cleaned, is warm and comfortable. If this is not available terry nappies or old towels can be used. Some people use plastic plant propagators as incubators; however, care should be taken to ensure the temperature within them is adequate.
I have heard that kittens cannot urinate or pass motions without assistance, is this true?
It is necessary to stimulate kittens of less than two weeks old to urinate and defecate. The voiding reflex is normally initiated by the queen licking the kitten's ano-genital region (the area under the tail). Where the queen is not available, urination and defecation must be maintained by the carer for approximately four weeks or until the kitten is independent. It is quite normal for a distressed cry to be heard prior to defecation; on evacuation the cry should cease. It may be useful to use fragrance-free wet wipes for new-born babies and soft tissue. Stimulate the ano-genital area gently both pre- and post-feeding, as they feed better with empty bladder/bowels.
From three weeks of age the reflex should begin to be triggered while the kitten is placed on the litter tray. Leaving a small amount of soiled litter within the tray will serve as a reminder to the kittens of where to perform.
What signs might indicate that the kittens are unwell?
Normal kittens should eat or sleep for 90% of the time for the first 2 weeks of their lives. If they cry excessively, or fail to suck, they are usually ill or receiving insufficient milk. Since kittens can die very quickly, they (and their mother, if still present) should be examined by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible to ensure nothing serious is going wrong.
What should I be feeding?
Do not use cow/goats milk as protein and fat levels are too low. Only use a replacement queen's milk formula, eg, Cimicat, Royal Canin 'Babycat ' milk or similar, available from veterinary surgeries or pet shops.
How much milk replacement should I be feeding the kittens?
When the milk supply is inadequate, supplemental feeding is recommended. Where the kittens have been orphaned or the queen is unable to feed them, they will need total replacement feeding. There are several commercial formulae available which are designed specifically for kittens. Make up milk replacement solution as directed using a level measure, not heaped. They should be made up and used as per instructions, but a reduced volume is needed if the kittens are still gaining some milk from their mother (give perhaps 1/2 to 1/3 the volume). The amount on the label is usually given as 'per 24 hours'. The quantities should therefore be divided into a number of feeds. Kittens less than 2 weeks of age should be fed every 3-4 hours, while kittens of 2-4 weeks of age can usually be fed every 6-8 hours. The milk should be warmed to 95-100 °F (35-37.8 °C) before feeding
(about the same temperature as the skin of the human forearm).
Check the warmth of the milk on back of your hand. It takes just a few seconds to warm milk to blood heat.
How do I get the milk into the kittens?
Baby bottles can be bought which are specially designed for kittens. The size of the hole in the nipple is critical. If when the bottle is turned upside down the milk drips from the nipple, the hole is too large, and you risk drowning the kitten. If when the bottle is turned upside down the milk only comes out after considerable squeezing of the bottle, the hole is too small, and its use may result in the kitten becoming discouraged and refusing to nurse. The correct size hole allows the milk to drip from the nipple with minimal squeezing of the bottle. As nipples are used the holes tend to enlarge, so new ones must be introduced. Kittens tend to become fixated upon one particular nipple, so when changing from an old one to a new one they may show reluctance to feed. As the kittens grow the size of the hole in the nipple can be gradually
Spoon feeding and dropper feeding
Spoon feeding is slow and requires great practice. Each spoonful must be gently poured into the kitten's mouth. The kitten's head must not be elevated since new-born kittens do not have a well developed gag reflex, and the lungs can easily be filled with milk.
Dropper feeding is similar to spoon feeding, but a little quicker and cleaner.
Syringe feeding may be considered but must be done properly and with care as it can be potentially lethal. The problem arises when the plunger sticks and then gives way suddenly, squirting a large volume of milk into the kitten's mouth, risking drowning.
If using a syringe, practise first using water - you need to feel confident at dispensing milk into a kitten's mouth. Fill a 10 ml syringe, place the index and middle finger each side of barrel wings and the plunger head into the palm of your hand. Gently depress the plunger with the palm to give drip-by-drip. This allows the kitten time to swallow and breathe. It is good practice always to check the smooth running of a syringe this way.
Placement of the syringe is important! The hub of the barrel should be uppermost and inserted into the roof of the kitten's mouth. This allows the kitten's tongue to 'wrap' around the hub. This emulates the sucking of a nipple. This way the kitten does not take in unwanted air.
With the other hand hold the kitten over the back and raise the kitten under the fore-limbs at an angle of approximately 45°. This is comfortable and secure for the kitten and is a good natural angle for it to take the milk from a bottle/syringe.
Each kitten will naturally cease sucking when full and will pull away from the teat/syringe. Do not force a kitten to take extra milk: it would be at risk of lung inhalation resulting in drowning. Remember consumption guidelines are a guide only. Often kittens will consume more; like us they all are individuals, and will let you know when they are full.
Tube feeding is perhaps the cleanest and most efficient method of hand feeding. However, it requires proper equipment and technical skill. It is a particularly useful technique when a kitten's 'suck reflex' is poor, or when kittens fail to suck properly. Some breeders tube feed kittens routinely but there are several dangers in this. Firstly, as the kittens have no control over how much they are fed, they can easily be given too much or too little. Secondly, kittens with a strong suck reflex, if deprived of nursing, may suck on each other, and this can lead to the development of large sore areas of skin.
Stomach tubes must be soft, flexible, blunt-ended and not more than 2-3 mm wide. A premature human infant feeding tube is ideal, but short, soft canine urinary catheters can also be used. The tube must be measured to the correct length (from the kitten's nose to just behind the point of the elbow), and a mark made on the tube at this point. The tube should be lubricated with K-Y jelly before use.
To place the tube the kitten's mouth must be opened by pressing gently at the corners, and, keeping the head flexed downwards, the tube is slid along the roof of the mouth and down the back of the kitten's throat into the oesophagus. The tube is passed down until the mark on the tube is level with the nose. The other end of the tube will then be in the stomach. A syringe containing pre-warmed milk can then be attached, and the milk can be delivered slowly to the stomach.
If the kitten's head is kept flexed forward, it is quite difficult to miss the oesophagus and so pass the tube into the airway by mistake. Many kittens mew loudly throughout the whole procedure, and it is useful to note that they cannot do this if the tube is in the airway. However, anyone unsure of the technique should ask their veterinary surgeon to demonstrate it for them.
O-2 weeks: 10 feeds in 24 hours at 2 - 2.5 hour intervals.
2-4 weeks: 7 feeds in 24 hours at 2.5 - 3.5 hour intervals
4-5 weeks: 5 feeds in 24 hours at 3.5 -5 hour intervals.
What hygiene precautions do I need to take with the utensils?
Hygiene is of the utmost importance, both in terms of all the kittens' feeding and measuring equipment and the carer's personal hygiene in preparing feeds and toileting kittens. Orphaned kittens are very prone to infections so they must always be kept clean, and utensils used for preparing or administering the milk must be sterile.
Should kittens be weighed regularly?
It is advisable to monitor the kittens' growth rates by weighing them regularly. It is best to weigh the kittens daily at the same time, as in all cases daily increments will vary from kitten to kitten. It is good practice to keep daily records. They should double their birth weight in the first 7 to 10 days, then continue to gain weight steadily.
What are the signs of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)?
Hypoglycaemia results from inadequate or infrequent feeding. It can cause severe depression, muscle twitching and occasionally lead to convulsions. If a kitten ever refuses to feed, do not delay; prompt action and veterinary care is required. Kittens have no reserves and will go downhill rapidly. Quick response can save a kitten's life. Use your intuition: an hour could mean life or death!
If a kitten is showing signs of hypoglycaemia, a few drops of glucose syrup placed on the tongue can be life saving. This should then be followed by feeding a small amount of glucose solution, and increasing either the amount and/or frequency of routine feeding.
When should the kittens be weaned onto solid food?
Weaning should begin at three to four weeks of age. Initially the kittens should be offered milk replacer diluted 1:1 with water, in a flat shallow dish. At three weeks introduce either moistened dry growth diet or tinned growth diet mixed with a small amount of milk solution. Again holding the kitten, use a very small spoon and introduce the semi-solid food to the kitten, using the spoon tip only. Gradually lower the spoon to encourage and tempt the kitten to eat from a shallow dish. Only try a few very small mouthfuls at first until the kitten gets established on its own. This is continued until the kittens are taking just solid food. They can be fed either wet or dry diets, but it is best to feed only diets designed especially for kittens. Dog food and human baby foods should not be fed since they are deficient in nutrients essential for cats.
What do I do if a kitten becomes constipated?
Constipation is a very common problem in hand reared kittens, due to the difficulty in stimulating defecation sufficiently frequently. Normal faeces have the consistency of toothpaste. If the faeces become very hard, making the kitten strain excessively, or if a kitten does not pass any motions for 2-3 days, small doses of liquid paraffin or 'Katalax' should be given (about 0.5 ml per feed for 2-3 days should have the desired effect). Severe cases require veterinary attention.
What do I do if a kitten gets diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is a serious condition. It may be caused by overfeeding, giving too concentrated a solution of milk replacer, or result from infection (usually caused by poor hygiene). Treatment must be swift as dehydration can then develop very rapidly, followed by collapse and death soon afterwards.
Mild cases respond well to dilution of the milk 1:1 with boiled water, which should be given until the diarrhoea stops. Severe cases should be given no milk at all. Instead they should be given 5-10% glucose, glucose-saline, or isotonic electrolyte solution (eg, 'Lectade'; Pfizer), all of which can be obtained from a veterinary surgeon. These solutions should be given until the diarrhoea stops; milk diluted 1:1 with water, and finally full strength milk can be resumed 12-24 hours later.
If kittens become collapsed and dehydrated they need immediate veterinary attention if they are to survive. Kittens in a collapsed state become chilled very rapidly. They will usually be given subcutaneous fluids by the veterinary surgeon.
Once they have been warmed up and given fluid therapy they must be allowed to recover quietly. Feeding can only be begun once the kitten is warm and able to suck. Stomach tubing is not helpful here, since when a kitten is cold and collapsed its intestines stop functioning, so stomach contents can be easily regurgitated, and then aspirated into the lungs.
As soon as the kitten is able to suck, it should be given isotonic glucose or Lectade solution (at about 1ml per 100g body weight), given every 15 minutes until the kitten is rehydrated and can urinate when massaged. If all goes well, diluted milk can then be introduced after 24 hours, and full strength milk 24 hours after that.
Should kittens be given antibiotics to keep them well?
Unless a bacterial infection is known to be present, and antibiotics have been prescribed by the veterinary surgeon, they should not be given. Antibiotics severely disrupt the process of normal colonisation of the gut by harmless bacteria, and can, because of this, produce diarrhoea. Antibiotics cannot be used as a substitute for colostrum. If hygiene standards are good, antibiotics are simply not needed.
For further information on any behavioural problems please see our e-book 'Purrfect Cat Behavior'.
Paul and Sarah MRCVS
It is very difficult to know how much to put into a newsletter but for the next edition we will discuss the subject of diabetes, show you more from our new book on Cat First Aid and discuss more aspects of feline behaviour.
Be creative, live long, be happy and follow your own path.
...And the emperor said "Let the party begin!"
Paul and Sarah M's RCVS
If you like this Mewsletter and would like to Forward it to a friend just use the link below:
Forward this email to a friend