The lactation period and its subsequent weaning are very critical stages at the nutritional level. They will undoubtedly mark the subsequent development of the animal. This first period begins, always, with colostrum for dogs and cats.
This substance can only be created by the mother and there is no synthetic substitute. However, the subsequent feeding based on breast milk can be substituted or limited in certain cases, such as when the mother dies, the litter is very numerous or the parent does not produce enough food.
Be that as it may, it is essential that dogs and cats take colostrum. This will depend on their survival and health status in the short and medium term.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk secretion that female mammals produce right after birth. It is composed mainly of globulins. These molecules are large proteins that are found in a concentration twice as high as in subsequent breast milk. Therefore, colostrum is twice as protein as milk.
Even so, The most important thing about colostrum for dogs and cats is its high proportion of immunoglobulins, which are antibodies. Colostrum will suppose between 90 and 95% of the passive immunity that puppies will receive. The remaining percentage was received while they were in the placenta.
All this means that, before starting with the vaccination plan, the only protection puppies and kittens have against viral and bacterial pathogens is the colostrum they took after birth.
Colostrum differences for dogs and cats
Colostrum for dogs and cats is different from one species to another, just as it is different for the rest of mammal species. However, there are similarities between colostrum within primates or within the group of ungulates.
Then, with respect to mature milk, there are also differences, especially if we compare the milk of cats or dogs with that of cows. The milk of the latter is lower in protein and fat, and is higher in sugars. Therefore, it is not good for puppies or kittens.
If we are faced with the situation of having to bottle-feed a cat or dog, we should use infant formula. This is much more similar to their mothers’ milk. Do not forget that we talk about mature milk, never of colostrum, since it has no substitute.
The following table shows the amount of the main nutrients per 100 grams of colostrum or mature milk in dogs and cats. It has been extracted from Langer’s article (2009):
|Colostrum (100 g)||Protein (g)||Fat (g)||Sugars (g)|
|Mature milk (100 g)||Protein (g)||Fat (g)||Sugars (g)|
Properties of colostrum for dogs and cats
As we said, colostrum is the first food that cats and dogs should take, just like other mammals. This substance will only be produced until 12 or 16 hours after delivery. Therefore, the time that the young have to take it is very limited.
Colostrum for dogs and cats has more concentration in proteins and fats than sugars. This makes the animal take a good supply of energy as soon as it is born. The difference in nutrients between one species and another depends on the growth rate of the young.
On the other hand, Colostrum is loaded with immune proteins that will be the protection of the animal until the moment of vaccination. The fact that the animal takes colostrum as soon as it is born is fundamental because, later, its digestive system will be more mature and will degrade these proteins. Therefore, they would not have an immune value.
These immune proteins or immunoglobulins remain in the brood’s bloodstream until 16 weeks of age. This is the reason why the cat and dog vaccination plan must end before 16 weeks. If not, the animal would be exposed
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