The goal of orphan puppy and kitten care is to maximize their health, well being, and socialization until they can be placed on a foster mother or adopted. The needs of the healthy young are very simple, water, nutrition and the proper environment. Obviously these husbandry issues are more critical in the newborn and the sick than the healthy 8 week old.
The neonatal period is the first 4 week of life. During this critical period, the puppy or kitten has a different physiology and rate of development and than during the rest of the pediatric period. Once the puppy or kitten is 6- 8 weeks of age, then all of the development is complete and the youngster can be considered a "growing" adult.
Average puppy and kitten deaths during the first 12 weeks of life approach? 11%-34%. Still births or death within the first 24 hours account for 5% of the losses; an additional 5% loss occurs during the neonatal period; and 0%-5% loss in transitional & socialization periods. Infectious diseases are not the most common cause of neonatal or transitional period mortality.
Knowing the common emergencies that occur in neonates and the differences between neonatal and adult physiology can help you manage these delicate patients in a manner that provides the highest possible survival rate.
Puppies and kittens are generally considered to be neonates from birth to two weeks of age although some references consider the neonate period to extend to four weeks of age. Neonates pose special problems in husbandry and health care due to their small size and developing organ systems.
Physical examination of the newborn is important to look for congenital defects and early signs of illness or potential for illness since deterioration of neonates can occur suddenly and progress rapidly. Prematurity as well as labor that is difficult or prolonged contribute to poor vigor of offspring.