Although uncommon, cats and dogs are at risk for several diseases during the two months of their pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia occurs if the mothers cannot keep up with the demand for calcium to produce bones and milk. Gestational diabetes can occur due to high concentrations of hormones and result in increased drinking, urination, inappropriate weight loss and lethargy. Mastitis is a bacterial infection of one or more mammary glands that is contracted either through the blood (sepsis) or from the external environment from unsanitary conditions and/or injury from babies’ teeth or nails. Retained placentas can occur and will result in lethargy, pyrexia and abnormal vulvar discharge. Be aware of the signs, symptoms and management for all four conditions.
Pyometra is defined as an infection in the uterus. Pyometra is considered a serious and life threatening condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively. Pyometra may occur in any sexually intact young to middle-aged cat; however, it is most common in older cats. Typically, the cat has been in heat within the previous 4 weeks.
Most cats care for their kittens with little need for human intervention; however, if they do not, then their caregivers will need to step in. Maintaining a warm environment and ensuring they are receiving enough milk is critical to survival. Weights should be checked daily in the first 2 weeks and any prolonged crying should be investigated thoroughly. Feeding can be supplemented with commercial milk replacer if needed and all kittens can start the weaning process around 4 weeks of age by offering gruel-like kitten food mixed with milk replacer. Rarely milk fever or eclampsia can affect the mother causing spasms and panting around the weaning time and must be addressed by a veterinarian immediately. Kitten diets that have been trialed for growth are recommended. Kittens normally receive temporary immunity through the placenta while in utero and by ingesting their mother’s milk in their first day of life. This immunity starts to fade around 6 weeks of age and vaccination is recommended at that time. Worms are a common affliction in kittens and regular deworming is recommended starting at 2 weeks old. Contact your veterinarian for specific instructions. Commercial over the counter dewormers can be harmful to young kittens.