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Three-week old kittens lethargic, eat less and less

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,

 

A couple of weeks ago my girlfriend brought home four kittens whom she had found abandoned on the street in a shoebox. They were cold and scared, barely 7-10 days old, as their eyes had only partially opened. 

 

We took them in and fed them baby kitten formula bought from the store. (we don't have KMR here, I bought a brand called Vitakraft) They appeared to be okay mostly, with the exception of the smallest kitten who was constipated, cold and refused to eat - but I took her to the vet who fed her some glucose sub-q, after which she made a full recovery. 

 

I thought everything was okay till last week when I noticed all of them eating less than the previous day. I monitor all of their weights and the amount they eat each time; sure enough they've been eating less and less for the past 4 days, and stagnating in weight. They're also more feeble and lethargic than before, one of them in particular, who now looks quite bad. Whereas before he was the most active one, he's refusing to eat anything and just sits alone, away from the others.

 

I took him to the vet today. He gave the kitten three shots (glucose, vitamins and an antibiotic) but he was pessimistic about the prognosis. In fact, he said that most hand-reared kittens don't make it because they eat formula instead of their mother's milk, making their immune systems very weak. 

 

I'm worried that the four of them might have caught something and that they might all die. I'm thinking of taking them all to see the vet tonight, but short of giving them the same shots it seems like he can't do much. I'm not sure there's any way to diagnose whatever it is they may have - either that, or this vet has no idea what he's doing.

 

What should I do?

 

Thanks in advance for any answers and sorry for making my first post here so gloomy.

post #2 of 10

Diagnozing small kittens isnt easy, and few vets are really good at it.  Experienced rescuers of small kittens know usually much more...  Here on our forum is  Catwoman707 one of the most experienced.  Hissy is another one. (seek out their threads if you wish, in many posts a wealth of knowledge on rescuing and helping dying kittens to recover).

 

There are a serie of common advices, like keeping them warm, esp if they are visibly sick or "down under the weather".   Perking up them with glucose (honey if you dont have glucose) on their gum if they are  weak/uninterested etc (oftne because of blood sugars going down), keep them well hydrated, if necessary with home made pedialyte...

Your problem is all four have began going down more or less simultaneously.

its true rescue kittens often dont manage it, many check points to do and to be unsuccesfull with, but saying they seldom make  is to exaggerate.   Kmr is useful.

Goat milk works btw too. Esp raw milk is good - contains some natural antibodies.

 

 

 

Sorry I dont have more good answers now.... Hope my response gave you some help.

 

Good luck!

post #3 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by StefanZ View Post

 

There are a serie of common advices, like keeping them warm, esp if they are visibly sick or "down under the weather".   Perking up them with glucose (honey if you dont have glucose) on their gum if they are  weak/uninterested etc (oftne because of blood sugars going down), keep them well hydrated, if necessary with home made pedialyte...

Your problem is all four have began going down more or less simultaneously.

its true rescue kittens often dont manage it, many check points to do and to be unsuccesfull with, but saying they seldom make  is to exaggerate.   Kmr is useful.

Goat milk works btw too. Esp raw milk is good - contains some natural antibodies.

 

 

 

Sorry I dont have more good answers now.... Hope my response gave you some help.

 

Good luck!

This, with my own special emphasis on the bolded part.  Kittens in fact OFTEN make it after having been raised on formula- my own old and healthy residents included.  Now, sometimes they don't make it, but don't let the vet's defeatist thinking get you down.  It simply isn't so.  I am not as knowledgeable as the other people Stefan Z cited to (I have fostered many litters and tiny kittens but 75% + have been with mom).

 

That said:

 

1. Make sure they are warm.  This is number one.

 

2.  It is definitely time to start syringe feeding them.  You are going to have to do this often to be successful, and it is a pain. Nonetheless, I think it is necessary to give these kittens the best chance of making it.  Make sure you are getting the formula into their cheeks, not down their throats.  You'll need to be doing this as often as you can since there are 4 of them and it won't be possible to get them to take much food at once this way.

 

3.  Make sure you are feeding them in the correct position- not as you'd feed a human baby, but upright on all fours like if mom were there.

 

4. Glucose as recommended by Stefan Z is great. If you have none plain white sugar can work too.

 

5.  They should still be gaining each day.  It is a definite problem that they have stagnated (but you already know this).

 

Unfortunately, around 3 weeks things seem to reach a bad stage a lot of the time.  You can bring these kittens back around though.

 

Hopefully this is some help till someone more knowledgeable chimes in.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the quick answers! I'll definitely read more of the forum today. I've already found something interesting in this thread where the OP says her 2,5 week old kitten wouldn't eat formula anymore, but that she's eating canned food, no problem. From what I'd read so far, I thought kittens should be fed exclusively formula or mother's milk till they're at least a month old. 

 

My kittens are a bit older than 3 weeks, maybe I should start giving them canned food instead of (or in addition to) formula? Speaking of which, I bought another brand of formula last night and they seem to be eating more of that than the one I gave them before, which is encouraging. If they continue to eat 10-12cc of formula each feeding like they did this morning, they should start gaining weight again.

 

Last night when I got home, I took the lethargic one to the vet again (another vet this time) who told me pretty much the same thing as the first one. She wasn't as pessimistic but she still had no idea how to diagnose the kitten. She just said to take him home and make sure that he's warm and take him in again today for his glucose shot. (he still won't eat which is not surprising since he's very weak; I force-fed him a few cc this morning by lightly squeezing the feeding bottle)

 

Regarding warmth: the room temp is 25C, the space where the kittens are is half on top of the radiator, averaging about 30C (27-32) I have a heating mat as well but can't use that when I'm not at home because it has a safety switch off after 90 minutes.

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radone View Post
 

Thanks for the quick answers! I'll definitely read more of the forum today. I've already found something interesting in this thread where the OP says her 2,5 week old kitten wouldn't eat formula anymore, but that she's eating canned food, no problem. From what I'd read so far, I thought kittens should be fed exclusively formula or mother's milk till they're at least a month old. 

 

My kittens are a bit older than 3 weeks, maybe I should start giving them canned food instead of (or in addition to) formula? Speaking of which, I bought another brand of formula last night and they seem to be eating more of that than the one I gave them before, which is encouraging. If they continue to eat 10-12cc of formula each feeding like they did this morning, they should start gaining weight again.

 

Last night when I got home, I took the lethargic one to the vet again (another vet this time) who told me pretty much the same thing as the first one. She wasn't as pessimistic but she still had no idea how to diagnose the kitten. She just said to take him home and make sure that he's warm and take him in again today for his glucose shot. (he still won't eat which is not surprising since he's very weak; I force-fed him a few cc this morning by lightly squeezing the feeding bottle)

 

Regarding warmth: the room temp is 25C, the space where the kittens are is half on top of the radiator, averaging about 30C (27-32) I have a heating mat as well but can't use that when I'm not at home because it has a safety switch off after 90 minutes.

 

Most important: You have to be force feeding the kitten who wan't eat if you want him to survive.  I am sorry for being so blunt but I don't think you took the importance of this from my first post.  You can get some droppers (vet should be able to give them to you) and just drop formula into their cheeks (gin, not just into the mouth/down the throat) or you can get a syringe and force feed as you would n older cat (again, into the cheeks).  

 

It is generally NOT a good idea to feed kittens anything but KMR this young.  I do NOT recommend this regardless of the other thread- I'd wait another week till they are a month. You also have to be prepared for them not taking to the solid food or understanding it right away.  It can be a real battle.

post #6 of 10

I want to add, the glucose to perk them up, you can smear a little on their gum!  They dont need to eat it, or take shots...  Glucose goes  from the gum and its thin skin, directly into the blood vessels there.

The commerical name of glucose is often Dextrose.  Here in Sweden we buy it in the bakery shelves at our Supermarket. I suppose it is used in baking...  Sport shops do surely has it too.  Use as pure glucose/dextrose you can find, no fancy blends.

If you cant find glucose, honey or white caro syrup are useful, as both contain much glucose.

Even common white sugar as Tulosai mentioned, is useful, although it takes longer time.

 

Re early using wet cat food instead of kmr.   If enough desperate, it can be tried.  But kmr or goat milk is of course much better and safer.  You write you found another kmr brand which seems to work for your kittens?  Good!.

Sometimes you got to try out another brand yes.

 

A fire sure way to give the weak ones food is by a tube into the stomach.  Experienced rescuers do it often and usually succesfuly, not seldom its the trick with the premature.  The problem is it is difficult AND highly dangerous for a newbe.  You must be personally shown by someone knowleable.  It seems even many vets dont know how to do it.   That is why I generally dont even mention it.

But using a dropper or a syringe is usually enough, it is vey seldom it itsnt enough.

 

Good luck!

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

I definitely won't risk tube feeding them nor even having a vet do it, after what he did to one of the kittens: I mentioned before he gave him three shots, one under the skin and the other two in the leg. Now he has perked up (though he still won't eat much) but the leg is completely disabled and he's just dragging it along. It's more painful to watch than it is for the kitten (he doesn't seem to feel any pain from the disabled leg) but even if he recovers fully it will be much harder for us to find him a home :(

 

I'm so mad at that vet, how hard can it be to give a proper shot when that's your job and you (presumably) do it every day?

 

Anyway, I've started force-feeding the kitten with a syringe, but even so, he barely eats 5-6cc per meal. Then he starts to choke, becomes soft and I'm afraid to push him anymore. Do you think it's possible to hurt him if I continue to force feed him past that point?

 

The other kittens are eating fine now, the new formula seems to be working for them, in fact this morning I had to stop them from having too much. 

 

I'm now keeping the afflicted kitten in "quarantine" in a different place, as the new vet said he might have caught a virus and I'm worried he might spread it to the other kittens. He cries a lot when he's alone, but I'm trying to do what's best for the others as well.

 

Anyway thanks very much for your advice. I will keep posting updates, maybe this thread will also be useful to others in the future.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radone View Post
 

I definitely won't risk tube feeding them nor even having a vet do it, after what he did to one of the kittens: I mentioned before he gave him three shots, one under the skin and the other two in the leg. Now he has perked up (though he still won't eat much) but the leg is completely disabled and he's just dragging it along. It's more painful to watch than it is for the kitten (he doesn't seem to feel any pain from the disabled leg) but even if he recovers fully it will be much harder for us to find him a home :(

 

I'm so mad at that vet, how hard can it be to give a proper shot when that's your job and you (presumably) do it every day?

 

Anyway, I've started force-feeding the kitten with a syringe, but even so, he barely eats 5-6cc per meal. Then he starts to choke, becomes soft and I'm afraid to push him anymore. Do you think it's possible to hurt him if I continue to force feed him past that point?

 

The other kittens are eating fine now, the new formula seems to be working for them, in fact this morning I had to stop them from having too much. 

 

I'm now keeping the afflicted kitten in "quarantine" in a different place, as the new vet said he might have caught a virus and I'm worried he might spread it to the other kittens. He cries a lot when he's alone, but I'm trying to do what's best for the others as well.

 

Anyway thanks very much for your advice. I will keep posting updates, maybe this thread will also be useful to others in the future.

 

1.  The leg might recover or he might have hurt it a different way.  Kittens are very resilient I wouldn't be surprised if the leg makes a full recovery. 

 

2.  It is hard to feed a lot when force feeding, which means it's important to do it as often as you can.  His only eating 5-6cc is normal, but to make up for this you have to be feeding him every 2 hours if you can.  I know it is a pain.

 

Very happy to hear the other kittens have perked up!

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radone View Post

 

Anyway, I've started force-feeding the kitten with a syringe, but even so, he barely eats 5-6cc per meal. Then he starts to choke, becomes soft and I'm afraid to push him anymore. Do you think it's possible to hurt him if I continue to force feed him past that point?

 

Its very dangerous here!  You dont want to risk they get the fluid nor any reflux, into lungs.

 

 

So if unsure, better little but often.

5-6 cc isnt so bad, by the way.

 

Good luck!   *vibes!*

 

 

ps.  You have right this thread will be useful for others too.  Quite a few are perhaps not active members, but they apparently read the threads.  We do see every moment there are more guests than members (some of guests are of course members on lend computers).

Quite a few find us by googling - they google on their problem and find even several years old threads.

So it is always a good done to report the afterwards too, and the learnings done...

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

So here is an update :) All four kittens are now eating well. They are now 4 weeks old, so I bought some solid food for baby cats which I mixed with formula. All of them ate some of it except for the one with the busted leg.

 

He's the only one I'm still worried about at this point. He's eating okay now and he has gained weight and perked up, but still is not as active as the other ones. (and still eats less, about 10ml per meal, but doesn't need to be force-fed any more) His leg is fine from the "knee" joint up, but he still can't control the bottom half of his leg, which he just drags along. Three of the pads on that paw have turned purple, which I guess means bad blood flow in them. The vet said that it's because of the way he drags the leg, but this (at least to me) doesn't explain why only three pads are purple, while the fourth pad and the metacarpal pad look just fine. Moreover, the vet he gave me some menthol rubbing lotion and told me to massage his leg, which I've been doing, but it doesn't seem  to help. I've also been feeding him some Vitamin B complex syrup, also recommended by the vet.

 

The other three kittens are fine and have started playing, and all around being more active. I'm thinking of how to improvise a larger area for them in the house, as they're still confined to a smallish laundry box. I take them out when I'm home but I don't want to leave them wandering around when I'm not there, as they may get stuck behind furniture or hurt themselves some other way. 

 

Also, seems like they're always trying to suckle on each other's genitals, which is funny at first, but it makes them chafe and possibly also develop other health problems. Any ideas how to prevent this, short of separating them? 

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