Development of Puppies and Kittens

In the first few weeks of life, both puppies and kittens should be nursing at least four to six times a day. Weak nursing or infrequent nursing can indicate chilling, congenital problems and illness and should always be attended to right away by a vet or breeder. There are two primary activities that all newborn puppies and kittens do – sleeping and eating. Between days ten and sixteen, the eyes of puppies and kittens begin to open and they can start to see. Between days 15 and 17 the ears begin to function. The normal body temperature for puppies is about 94 to 97 degrees during the first two weeks of life. Kittens have a body temperature of about 95 degrees. By weeks 4 and 5, the body temperatures reach their adult temperature of about 101.5 degrees.

Puppies and kittens do not have a shivering reflex for their first six days and because of this, an external heat source is necessary. After six days, puppies and kittens begin to shiver, but they still are at risk of chilling. You should always keep the environment warm and free from drafts as much as possible during the first few weeks. You should keep the temperature about 70 degrees.

Newborn puppies and kittens should be weighed during the first two weeks and again every three to four days until weaning. Puppies should gain about 25 to 50 grams a day and kittens should gain between 50 and 100 grams per week. There is not a lot of information available about milk intake and nursing for puppies and kittens, it depends on the breed and the size of the cat or dog that usually determines how much milk is produced for them. It also makes a difference how big the litter is what kinds of supplemental food are provided, when the food is provided and the age at weaning. In most healthy puppies and kittens, the milk supports normal growth until about four weeks old.

Supplemental food can and should be introduced by that time to make sure that the puppies and kittens are able to eat on their own and can survive the move to a new home and family without the need of being with their mothers and nursing. There are also nursing bottles and formulas that are available that you can use if your puppy or kitten was weaned to early and still needs the nutrition of the milk.

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