We talked about colostrum in a recent blog and mentioned how important it was for newborn puppies & kittens to drink it right after birth. However, when you breed dogs and cats, I am sure you are aware that sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Sometimes we indeed have bitches and queens that will deliver a healthy litter… but will not lactate right away. As timing is so critical for colostrum, are there alternatives that can be used then ? Oral serum is often mentioned.


Serum is he component of the blood that does not contain white or red blood cells, and contain the antibodies. Serum from adults (the mother, or any other healthy/compatible adult from the kennel / cattery) could therefore technically be used as a source of antibodies, and be given those colostrum-less puppies & kittens. Technically again, it would make sense. But how is it in reality ? 


Recent published data gives us a better understanding on what to expect in those cases. 


What to expect in puppies ? 


There are two studies of interest on this matter : 


- Poffenbarger et al, 1991 (Abstract here) :

In this study some puppies were allowed to drink the colostrum from their mother right after birth while others were not and received adult serum, orally or sub-cutaneously. The puppies that had been allowed to drink the colostrum from their mother had significantly more antibodies than the two other groups.


- Mila et al, 2014 (Abstract here)  :

They did a similar kind of studies and the conclusions they reached were interesting : «  The oral supplementation with hyper-immunized canine plasma neither decreased risk of mortality, nor improved IgG [antibody] concentration at 2 days of age in puppies ». 


To sum it up : adult serum brings no real benefit for newborn puppies that were not able to drink the colostrum.


What to expect in kittens ? 


Things are different in kittens. The following graph comes from a study performed in 2001 that showed that in this species on the contrary, oral serum could eventually be an alternative. 

Use of serum as a colostrum substitute in newborn kittens.Abstract here

However, keep in mind that to make this possible, kittens were given 5mL of serum every 8 hours during 24 hours. That is a lot of blood to collect. From a technical standpoint, there could be some technical limitations then.


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