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Pet Talk: Caring for newborn pets

Wednesday 19 June 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk

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Pet Talk: Caring for newborn pets
With the right care, your new pets can grow into healthy and thriving animals. Dr Rose Hasegawa/24061802

Bringing a newborn pet into your home or farm is a rewarding experience that comes with its own set of challenges and responsibilities, writes Dr Rose Hasegawa, medical director Te Are Manu Vet Clinic.

Whether you’re welcoming a litter of kittens, puppies, kid goats, calves, or piglets, understanding proper husbandry and basic nutrition for both the mothers and their babies is crucial to ensuring their health and development.

Goats:  Kid goats, or kids, need a warm, dry, and draft-free environment. Colostrum is crucial for newborn goats within the first few hours of life. Colostrum is the milk that is first produced by mothers that is full of essential immunity boosters for the baby. The mother goat should be fed a high-quality diet to support milk production. Fresh water should always be available. Around the third week, kids can start nibbling on grass, but their primary nutrition should still come from their mother’s milk until they are at least eight weeks old.

Cattle: Calves need a clean, warm, and dry environment to reduce the risk of diseases. Like other mammals, colostrum is essential within the first six hours of life. The cow should be provided with ample high-quality food to ensure optimal milk production. Clean, fresh water is also critical. Calves typically nurse for several months, but they can start to be introduced to solid food from the second week onward to promote rumen development. The rumen is one of the four stomachs a cow has, this stomach helps ferment and break down the fibre rich grass they eat.

Pigs: Newborn piglets are particularly vulnerable to cold and need a warm, dry space. Providing shelter can help the survival of piglets and sometimes the use of heat lamps or heated pads can be useful in ensuring they stay warm. Colostrum is imperative within the first few hours of life for immunity. The sow’s (mother pig) diet should be high in energy and nutrients to support her milk production. Fresh water must be available at all times. Piglets can start on solid food by the third week, but their primary nutrition should remain their mother’s milk until they are weaned at around six to eight weeks old.

Cats and dogs: It is important that your dogs and cats are desexed to reduce the number of kittens and puppies on the island – however if you do come across a pregnant cat or dog the following advice can be helpful to ensure healthy young.  For feline and canine mothers, providing a calm and safe environment is the first step. Stress can negatively impact milk production and the mother’s ability to care for her young. Ensure the mother has a quiet, comfortable space to nurse her litter. Nutrition is vital during this period. Pregnant and nursing cats and dogs require high-calorie diets rich in proteins and fats to support milk production. Fresh water should always be accessible. Newborn kittens and puppies are entirely dependent on their mother’s milk for the first few weeks. Their diet should be exclusively milk from their mother until about four weeks old, when you can start introducing solid food gradually. Parasite control is essential – puppies and kittens need worming and flea treatment in the first few weeks of life to prevent illness. They are also best to be desexed once old enough, at three months of age.

General tips for all newborn pets: Regardless of the species, hygiene and good nutrition is paramount. In summary, caring for newborn pets involves a combination of providing a safe and nurturing environment, ensuring proper nutrition, and maintaining good hygiene practices. With the right care, your new pets can grow into healthy and thriving animals.