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How to care for dumped puppies and kittens
Dear Dr. Spiegel, I work at one of the major area shelters and we're rapidly approaching the time of year when boxes of newborn kittens and puppies get dumped on our doorstep. We cannot turn our backs on these precious new lives, but raising them is very labor intensive, and we seldom have enough hands around to do all that we want to and need to do. We would like to be able to do what's best in providing for the orphaned animals in our care, and would appreciate any suggestions you can offer. Name Withheld at request.
Step one is educating the public. All dogs and cats which people have no intention of breeding should be spayed/neutered. If this were done with greater consistency, there wouldn't be as many homeless furry lives for the shelters to be left to care for. Since this is something that all shelters aim to do tirelessly...(i.e., "Have your pet spayed or neutered"), it must still be forever re-emphasized. Next, you need a network of dedicated emergency foster care givers. This is not a job/role that requires any experience. But all volunteers would need to be put through a simple orientation program to teach them how to care for orphaned puppies and kittens. Birth to two weeks, puppies, for instance, are functionally blind and deaf. They sleep most of the time; you have four scheduled feeding times spaced six hours apart. Wakefulness, restlessness and crying dictate the need for additional feedings. They are fed with a nipple- bottle w/an appropriate sized hole to regulate flow, or they can be tube-fed (there are different nutrient formulations that can be given... Commercially available formulas are Esbilac for puppies and KMR for kittens... These manufacturers could be contacted for donations so that feeding materials could be provided to foster care givers free of charge). If at all possible, the mother should be located or a foster queen(cats)/dam(dogs) should be found. A milk replacer will invariably lack components such as immunostimulants which pass in a mother's milk. Newborn pups/kits have to be kept warm and draft-free (e.g., Incubators or homemade version), and the air should be moist. They must be stimulated to urinate/defecate by stroking their anogenital region with a warm moist towel/cottonball. Body stimulation (stroking) helps improve circulation. A good supply of clean soft towels will be needed for easily replaceable bedding. A scale can be helpful to monitor food intake and weight gain. And a record book should be kept to track this and other pertinent info. From week 2-3, when they open their eyes, are up on their feet and walking around and chewing, they are ready to be introduced gradually to self-feeding. Prior to one or two of their bottle feedings each day, they should be encouraged to lap milk from a shallow bowl. It can be helpful to allow them to suckle @ your finger as you lead their mouth to the bowl. Once they start lapping with little or no encouragement, they can take their full feedings by bowl... Which should not be left in the pen for more than an hour and should be well cleaned between feedings [Cleanliness is essential with all feeding materials]. After a few days of milk feedings, their meals can be slowly, progressively thickened. Any feeding changes should be made slowly. When solid food is added, water should be provided as well. With an educated support team in place, once pups/kits are on solid food (from 3-5 weeks), care for them can be transferred into the shelter environment where proper socialization can be initiated by educated staff members. I would be happy to educate shelter staff in socialization efforts if such programs were desired. Neonatal care rooms could easily be established at shelters, where all of this orphan care/raising could be coordinated and managed in one central location. Establishing a well-organized nursery for orphaned kittens/puppies in an area shelter would be an ideal long term project to help care for those newborn lives that have been neglected by others. Do you have time and a love of baby animals? If so, please contact me. An orientation program can then be set up to benefit those area shelters wishing to participate. Also, anyone wishing to donate supplies and/or funds to support this effort can contact me as well @ (302)478- 6925. Detailed copies of specific feeding/care instructions are available upon request at this same number.