Ingredients of good monitoring: weight checking

Cheese is a great example of a kitten case that was important to monitor really carefully.  Now that he’s well on his way to recovery, let’s switch over to another recipe for success with a little bit of a case study about a litter of foster puppies we raised.  We’ll come back for more “Cheese” later.

The Weigh-In: one life saving ingredient of foster care

Here’s Dave the pup, weighing in on one of the best practices for care of youngsters, especially neonatal animals.

Daily weight checks can help you pick up on problems long before you would ever be able to really notice them with your eyes.  A simple kitchen scale is perfect for small pups and kittens.  You may need to get something more like a baby scale if you’re going to be working with larger pups.

Pups and kittens should always gain weight.  If they are losing, there is a problem.  If you know the birth weight, you can use it as a nice guide for growth because animals should gain about 5-10% of their birth weight every day. (If you don’t know, you can use an estimate as your basis.)

If growth is not meeting expectations, an investigation, and probably a vet check, is in order.  Weight loss can be associated with a lot of things ranging from dehydration (often secondary to diarrhea) to malabsorbtion of food or even internal parasites.  This is a RED FLAG item.

So here’s our story:  Wiffy, the mama, came to our house after being removed from a horrible situation of cruelty and neglect.  (The rescue was an amazing team effort by the ASPCA, HSUS, and the Dane County Humane Society that ended in a conviction.  (Click to READ MORE about the rescue.)

Wiffy was about as pregnant as a girl can be and thin as a rail (where she wasn’t bulging).  The District Attorney allowed her to come to our house since I’m a veterinarian.

Wiffy Mama, neglected and about to burst, when we first met her.
She is sleeping the only way she could get comfortable!

After delivery (YIKES! …but we will discuss that in another post), the pups were doing great and everything was rolling along in a dreamy way.  We had a horde of small children who would stop by daily to admire the new family.

Day 4:  Happy, healthy family

Here’s a graph of the puppies’ weight for the first 10 days.  They were turning into really substantial little bruisers.  (Check back in a few days.  We’ll post an Excel sheet for you, with graphing just like this, so you can track a spiffy graph for your foster animals too. )

Around day 10 is when I really started to appreciate how closely I was tracking everything.  By looking at the growth rates I could see that things were turning in the wrong direction.

To build a little suspense (and give you a chance to think it through a little bit)…  I’ll tell you the rest of the story in the next post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas about what’s going on here.  Bubbles (the only girl) is the one who tipped us off first.

We’ll talk about Wiffy Mama and her kids today during the first ASPCAPro webinar on foster care at 3 pm est: “Foster Vacation Planning”.  We’ll be doing a three-part series this month.  There’s still time to register if you want to try to cheat and get the answer.  Click HERE to check out the webinars now!


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