Over the previous months we have discussed problems associated with pregnancy and whelping. Having now exhausted this topic, and with the pregnancy now ended and puppies/kittens having been born, we can begin a new chapter and turn our attention to ailments that might occur in these newborn puppies/kittens.
Breathing difficulties in the newborn
We had described in a previous column how the mother dog/cat severs the umbilical cord and begins to massage the newborn pups/kittens. We had also said that each pup/kitten is surrounded by (enclosed in) its own “container” (amniotic sac). This sac ruptures as the pup/kitten is born. Sometimes, however, the puppy/kitten is born enveloped in the intact amniotic sac. This means that the pup/kitten will not be able to breathe. The sac has to be removed quickly (within 30 seconds).
Usually, the dam will lick the surrounding membrane with her rough tongue and rupture and remove the sac. It doesn’t matter if she eats the membrane which might contain hormones that will assist in the letdown of her milk.
If the mother fails to remove the sac enveloping the pup/kitten, you have to intervene immediately. This poses a slight problem, because you might remember me telling you that you should not disturb her when she is giving birth. At the same time, however, you should not totally abandon her. You can take a peep every now and then, and stay on nearby (preferably as ‘invisibly’ as possible) to see the pup/kitten delivered when you notice the contractions commencing. This is easier said than done where cats are concerned. They are secretive, and most of the time (even after you have prepared her ‘delivery nest’) mother cats will hide themselves away and give birth to their kittens in some obscure place (under the bed, in the wardrobe, in your neighbour’s yard, etc). However, problems of the sac remaining around the newborn kittens are rare occurrences. So, how do you remove the amniotic sac from around the puppy, if the mother fails to do this by herself? Well, simply you just tear the covering membrane away from the puppy. You start the tear from the mouth end and work your way backwards over the body. You can then suck or wipe off the fluid accumulated around the nostrils/mouth of the pup. A bulb syringe comes in handy in this respect (sucking off of the fluid). Rub the puppy briskly but gently with a soft towel or tissue.
An alternate method of clearing the secretions is to hold the puppy in your hands while supporting his head. Then swing him in a downward arc (centrifugal action), stopping abruptly when his nose is pointing to the floor. This helps to expel liquid from his nostrils. Present the puppy to the mother to lick, sniff and cuddle.
After a difficult delivery, a puppy may be too weak or too flaccid to breathe on his own. Squeeze the chest gently from side to side and then from front to back. If the puppy still will not breathe, place your mouth over his mouth and nostrils and breathe out gently until you see his chest expand. Do not exhale too forcefully as this can rupture his lungs. Then remove your mouth to allow the puppy to exhale. Repeat this several times until the puppy is breathing and crying.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.