Are You Losing Your Kittens
As cat breeders, we want to do everything possible to assure the birthing of healthy litters of kittens. Not only is this desirable from an economical stand point, but in most of the cases we have planned each litter carefully, with the idea that from this breeding hopefully will come that great cat. The cat that will put us in the winner’s circle. A cat that will stamp his mark on the breed, perhaps a national winner.
We study genetics and avidly read all pieces of literature to aid us in not only producing an outstanding litter, but in raising all of the kittens to saleable age. We’ve all read literature that recommends penicillin or some type of antibiotic be administered to the mother cat immediately following the birth of the last kitten, to guard against uterus infections that sometimes occur after birthing. I have even read that we should give this initial antibiotic several times during the first week.
When the kittens are born, most “seasoned” breeders call on their veterinarians only in case of an emergency, having become more or less experts in delivering the kittens. I know many breeders, some of whom have been in the game many years and other who are complete novices, who administer any shots they feel are necessary. These breeders are the ones who will purchase a supply of penicillin and store it in their refrigerator to have on hand. When the last kitten arrives they happily inject the mother cat and sit back confident there won’t be a chance for her to get any type of infection!
But then something begins to happen. Sometimes within only 72 hours a kitten will begin acting full, sleepy, showing no interest in nursing and laying off to the side alone. Later the kitten’s stomach seems distended and it gives that pitiful kitten cry as death approaches. “Oh, well, you’re bound to lose one kitten” the breeder reasons. As usually it was the best looking kitten and fearful the mother cat might have gotten an infection that could be passed on to the kittens, he either gives another shot or starts the female on oral doses of antibiotics as a safeguard. Then others begin acting the same way the first kitten did and the breeder stands by helplessly and watches the entire litter die, although his female is extremely healthy. What this breeder has experienced is the loss of his kittens to what is called “fading kitten syndrome.”
Before I write this I will knock on wood three times—I’m not superstitious, you understand. I was fortunate in all my breedings and I have bred cats for more than 10 years and never experienced “fading kitten syndrome” in any of my litters. Of course, in the earlier days we did not have penicillin or any other miracle drugs available to use for our cats. Penicillin was available only if prescribed by a veterinarian. Of course, since then scientists have come up with more varieties of antibiotics. Today they are manufacturing them in large quantities and the price is within almost everyone’s pocketbook and they are more readily available to breeders.
As a breeder, I am no different from anyone else with the exception that, possibly along with others of you, I can be a bit squeamish when it comes to sticking the needle in, so I normally take my female and kittens to my veterinarian within 24 hours after they are born so he can check them to see if everything is all right.
In recent years, it has seemed more and more breeders have been losing their kittens from some type of infection. A breeder that I know lost 15 kittens from four females, managing to save only one kitten that was stunted in growth and never grew to proper size. All the kittens were lost within a space of a few months.
After learning of this, I decided when my next litter arrived I was being foolish not to take advantage of the availability of antibiotics that could prevent my female from having any disease she could pass on to her kittens. Following my usual procedure, I took her and her newborn kittens to my veterinarian the following day. When he had finished examining her and the kittens, he pronounced them in excellent condition. I asked him if he didn’t think it would be wise to give the female some type of antibiotic he said, “No, ma’am, I don’t see any reason for it.”
Of course, I respect my veterinarian and his knowledge, so l didn’t argue with him. The five healthy kittens grew rapidly and strong with no problems at all. The following litter, I asked the same question and again received the same reply. In the preceding months I had known breeders who had lost either all or most of their kittens and I will admit I fretted silently when my veterinarian refused to administer an antibiotic that I felt could prevent any trouble cropping up. I was fortunate again, however, not to have any problems and my kittens thrived and grew up healthy.
Several of these breeders who were losing their kittens to this terrible “fading kitten syndrome” were friends of mine. I listened sympathetically to them as they tried to figure a reason for the loss of their kittens. Ironically, as you will see later, they decided that some bacteria was getting into the kittens’ stomachs. So they placed the blame on themselves, feeling they had not been quite as antiseptic with the birthing quarters as perhaps they could be.
The next time, I watched them scrub everything as diligently as they would have if it was a hospital baby delivery room and then a few days before the anticipated birthing and again when it was apparent the female was going to deliver, they scrubbed her stomach with antiseptic soap and water and thoroughly rinsed it. They took precautions to see the scissors to be used for severing the navel cords were sterilized, in the event infection was setting in through the navel. For added protection, they gave their female the antibiotic shot after she had given birth and followed this with the same in pill form. In spite of all this precaution, they continued to lose kittens. In fact, some have become so discouraged they are ready to quit breeding cats.
Apparently, from what I have learned, this has mystified most veterinarians “fading kitten syndrome.” No doubt usually they are consulted after the kittens are in the final stages and so near death nothing much could be done to save them even had there been time to attempt a diagnosis. Also, most of our veterinarians have a very busy practice and they cannot waste time on dead kittens when there are so many live animals that need their care.
One day, however, I was reading and I ran across an article that attracted my attention immediately. It was about fading kitten syndrome. A breeder went the entire route under competent veterinary advice trying to save his kittens including tube feeding, subcutaneous dextrose and saline, and antibiotics administered both by injection and orally into the digestive tract without success.
Autopsies were done on the dead kittens trying to diagnose the disease causing the death of his kittens. He said the autopsies failed to reveal any bacterial infection. However, there was one significant finding – there were no bacteria of any description found in the kittens! When he received this report, he began to wonder if perhaps his “fading kitten syndrome” was not being caused by the antibiotic being transmitted in the females milk to the kittens and sterilizing their digestive tracts.
Every living thing has a normal intestinal bacteria known as LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS that is vital to the well being of the living creature. If it is destroyed at any time and is not replaced in the digestive tract then serious complications will occur. He stated that when the next litter arrived, he suspended the antibiotic therapy to the female to stop the transmission of the antibiotic through the milk to the kittens . . . and then, he administered the live Lactobacillus Acidophilus bacteria to the female and the kittens. This female, by the way, was one that had lost her previous litters to the disease. He said he also gave the female a milk supplement containing an enormous dose of vitamin B-1 because he knew that normal intestinal bacteria need certain food substances to grow on and vitamin B-l is one of them. The entire litter survived. After reading this article, I immediately called my veterinarian and asked him if he thought the injection of an antibiotic into a female could kill the necessary bacteria in the kittens that they needed in their digestive tracts for survival.
His reply was, “Yes, ma’am, it surely could. That is why I don’t believe in giving antibiotics indiscriminately.”
Thinking back over the many litters I had seen die and remembering the words of the breeders: “I gave my female antibiotics and still the kittens came down with this disease” I began to see the light. Although this article was a report on only one litter, still it did make sense this could be the cause for the “fading kitten syndrome”, or at least one of the causes. No doubt our veterinarians are possibly unaware of the free dispensary of antibiotics some breeders engage in and because of this they have been unable to understand why the kittens die.
I decided to pass this information onto other cat breeders. I immediately received a letter from a breeder.. Her letter brought out some interesting points and I would like to pass them on.
She wrote she was familiar with post birthing infections since one of her females invariably retains an afterbirth and she gives ergot to keep her open and draining, plus antibiotics . . but she emphasized, never penicillin. This breeder said personally she would not consider birthing a litter of kittens without Lactonoc in her refrigerator. Lactonoc is Norden Laboratories trade name for LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS. She explained she removed the brown covering on the capsules and dumped the contents in cold sterile water and since dissolving it is difficult, she administered it with a medicine dropper. “Once on the tongue, nature will take over,” she said. Using the 300 milligram capsules, she recommended giving one-half of a capsule to each kitten as soon as birthing is over and a second one—half of a capsule in 12 hours. Don’t worry, you can’t over dose or cause harm with LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS. With the female, who invariably gets an infection that requires antibiotics, she said the kittens continued to nurse and the antibiotics being given the female do not damage them in any way.
She informed me that in an emergency and if a veterinarian is unavailable, the ACIDOPHILUS can be obtained from a druggist under the brand name of Lactinex.
I continued my medical sleuthing and wrote Norden Laboratories. They sent me literature on the research carried out by medical doctors regarding LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS therapy. I found it very interesting to learn, in reading this material, dating back to 1951, about the time our so called “miracle drugs” came into being, people began suffering from a high incidence of diarrhea and other complications after being administered these antibiotics. It was discovered the antibiotics were suppressing the normal bacterial flora in the intestines. At this time, the article reported, renewed interest was stimulated in LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS therapy which had a long history of successful use in the past in the management of functional intestinal disorders.
A decade of antibiotic therapy had shown that while exerting a powerful therapeutic effect upon certain infection producing organisms, the normal friendly microbial inhabitants of the intestinal tract are also destroyed. In 1956, they reported that a disturbing number of cases continued to appear on the medical literature on superinfection by resistant organisms such as staph with a resultant clinical syndrome resembling enteritis.
In a clinical study on 66 patients whom they gave antibiotics for various infections, half received also a LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS preparation, while the other half did not. Bacteriological examination showed an increase in staph at the beginning of antibiotic treatment in all patients. In the patients on the antibiotic alone, the staph count continued to increase but the group receiving LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS along with the antibiotic, showed a pronounced drop in staph. In the literature, it also pointed out a deficiency of vitamin B complex often results from destruction of normal intestinal bacteria by antibiotics and it was recommended an intensive dosage of vitamin B – be administered. Another breeder had six kittens that did not fare so well. When she began losing the kittens, she took the remaining ones to her veterinarian but was reluctant to tell him she had been administering antibiotics on her own. He, not knowing, this had been done, and seeing the mother cat did have an infection, unfortunately prescribed antibiotics for the kittens and the mother. But, he did not give them the LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS and despondent, she continued to lose the kittens one by one. I went over and immediately recognized the symptoms of “fading kitten syndrome.”
I told her to ask her veterinarian for the bacteria. When I explained this would be live bacteria she was horrified at the thought and refused to even consider it until she was down to three kittens, two of which were so weak they could not move or nurse. At this state, I asked her if she didn’t think the kittens were going to die and she agreed they were. I then asked her if she wouldn’t give the LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS a chance. Deciding she had nothing to lose, she agreed to try it but it was Sunday and her veterinarian could not be located. She went to her pharmacist and he sold her some Lactinex, which is for humans. She administered small doses to the dying kittens with fear and trepidations—all 3 kittens are living and extremely healthy!
Breeders should discontinue the practice of preventative antibiotic therapy on their females because without realizing it they no doubt are actually killing their kittens.
There is some evidence perhaps we should do as the breeder wrote, we should administer LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS to our kittens for the first two days even though there is no problem. I say this because I’ve learned pig farmers are being advised to give newborn pigs this bacteria therapy because it has been found to create a natural biological barrier against the E. Coli bacteria causing enteritis. Since pork is a valuable food for humans, they naturally carry out more research on them than on cats in an effort to help the farmers raise more healthy pigs. A report by Dr. Robert Doster of Buckeye, Arizona gave case histories of the use of LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS on young pigs from the time they are born and where the mortality rate was 50% among newborn pigs, this loss was reduced dramatically. For instance, administering Lactonoc to 200 young pigs resulted in all being raised and he reported they actually appeared to be out performing others who were not given this bacteria.
If farm animals can be saved by this method, then why not take advantage of the knowledge gained by the researchers and save our baby kittens too? Perhaps you might like to discuss this with your veterinarian the next time you expect a litter.
A friend of mine has used this LACTOBACILLUS ACIDOPHILUS preparation with two litters, one was completely hand raised, the kittens didn’t even get any of the mothers colostrum-with good success, and I personally know of other breed people that wouldn’t plan a litter without this on hand.
A wonderful food that is high in LACTOBACILLUS is yogurt. Here is an easy, inexpensive recipe for making your own kitten formula. 1. 1 can of evaporated milk 2. ½ can of water 3. 1 small container of plain yogurt, make sure it’s an active culture and use only plain yogurt. 4. 2 egg yokes (not the whites) 5. 1 small jar of strained baby food chicken meat.
Blend this all and refrigerate. Mix up a batch as all the cats like it, it lasts about a week in the refrigerator. This is very good for nursing mothers and young kittens.
By Penny Porter