Kittens And Colostrum

Kittens And Colostrum
Kittens And Colostrum

Video: Kittens And Colostrum

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Unfortunately, cat owners often have misconceptions about the immunity kittens receive from their mother. When a kitten is born, its immune system is not fully developed. Therefore, if he was left completely alone, his body would be susceptible to almost all infections and, for sure, very soon such a kitten would die. Fortunately, Mother Nature has devised a way to protect newborn animals with colostrum, the first milk.

Active immunity. When people or animals encounter pathogenic microbes, their body begins to produce antibodies that recognize foreign organisms and destroy them. In this case, the human or animal body begins to produce a huge amount of such antibodies that help to cope with the disease. When an individual has an immune system that effectively protects him from pathogens, he is said to be immune to the disease. When the animal's own immune system provides this protection, it is called "active immunity".

Kittens suck milk from a mother cat, photo photo of a cat
Kittens suck milk from a mother cat, photo photo of a cat

Passive immunity.When an animal gains protection from another animal (antibodies and / or lymphocytes) instead of developing its own immunity, this is called "passive immunity". Passive immunity is formed, for example, when the fetus receives maternal antibodies through the placenta, or when the newborn receives the mother's antibodies through colostrum, or in the case of a bone marrow transplant. The disadvantage of passive immunity is that the animal's body cannot replenish it (except in the case of bone marrow transplant). Those. if the antibodies received by the animal are destroyed by aging or consumed in the fight against disease, the animal's body cannot replace them. In the case of active immunity, each time the immune system comes into contact with the same disease-causing organism, more and more antibodies are produced.Active immunity is endless, in contrast to passive immunity.

Newborn kittens receive two types of passive immunity from their mother. All antibodies received from a mother through her blood or colostrum (first milk) are called maternal antibodies. It should be noted that the kitten will receive antibodies only against those diseases from which the mother was recently vaccinated or which she had had. For example, a cat, if not vaccinated against panleukopenia, will not have antibodies against this disease, and she will not be able to pass them on to her kittens, as a result of which they will be susceptible to this infection.

In some animal species, antibodies are passed from the mother to her unborn children through the placenta (the organ by which the fetus is associated with the mother). Therefore, in newborns, passive immunity is immediately formed, which is able to protect them from infections until their own immunity is developed. For example, people thus receive passive immunity from their mother.

Cats and dogs, like many other mammals, transmit most of the mother's antibodies to the newborn through colostrum. Colostrum is the mother's first milk that appears immediately after birth and “works” throughout the day, being a highly concentrated mixture of antibodies, vitamins, electrolytes and nutrients.

Kittens absorb these antibodies into their circulatory system through the intestinal wall, which is one of the characteristics of newborns. As the kittens grow up, their digestive systems will be able to make their own antibodies. Usually, a day after birth, kittens lose this ability, so even if the mother continued to produce antibodies, they would be destroyed and would not provide protection for the babies.

So, colostrum with protective antibodies is present only during the first 24 hours after the birth of babies, and kittens must be one day old and younger. It is very important to remember that newborns can receive passive immunity only if they are fed with mother's milk from the very first minute of birth. After that, they do not receive any antibodies from the mother.

Many breeders and ordinary cat owners believe that while the kitten feeds on breast milk, it receives more antibodies. However, as we can see, this opinion is wrong. Others believe that by letting older kittens drink another cat's colostrum, they can provide them with her antibodies. This opinion is also wrong. Remember, newborns cannot absorb antibodies after their digestive system has lost the ability to absorb large protein molecules. The animal receives all passive immunity on the first day of its life. We can increase its protection through vaccination.

Newborn kitten wrapped in a towel, photo photo of a cat
Newborn kitten wrapped in a towel, photo photo of a cat

The level and duration of protection obtained from colostrum.The level of immunoglobulins (antibodies) present in milk is directly proportional to the level of antibodies in the mother's body. We often talk about "titers" as a way to determine the level of antibodies in an animal. For this, blood is taken for analysis and it is believed that the higher the titers, the higher the level of antibodies in the animal. Mothers with high titers transmit a higher concentration of immunoglobulins through the placenta and milk. Newborns who eat milk with more antibodies are able to absorb more antibodies and therefore have higher concentrations in their blood. Since protein molecules in the body of newborns are broken down very slowly, therefore, those with a higher concentration of antibodies have a longer protection against infections. This is why we usually vaccinate the cat before breeding.

The window of susceptibility. The age at which young animals can be effectively immunized is proportional to the amount of protective antibodies they received from their mother. The fact is that a high level of maternal antibodies in the blood of a young animal blocks the effectiveness of the vaccine. When maternal antibodies are reduced to a sufficiently low level, vaccination can be given.

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Maternal antibodies circulate in the newborn's blood for many weeks. There is a time span, ranging from a few days to several weeks, in which the maternal antibody level is too low to provide protection against the disease, but too high to allow the vaccine to work. This period is called the window of susceptibility. At this time, despite being vaccinated, a young animal can catch an infection.

The duration and onset of the susceptibility window differ in each litter, and even between animals in the same litter. Studies in puppies showed that at six weeks of age 25% of them could be immunized, at 9 weeks 40% of puppies could be vaccinated, at 16 weeks - 60%, and at 18 weeks - 95%. Apparently, the data would be similar in cats.

As you can see, it is very difficult to determine when to vaccinate a particular animal, since there are too many variables. Even if you conduct a blood test for the entire litter, then as a result, each animal will have different titers. Some absorb more maternal antibodies, others destroy antibodies faster, and still others use some of the antibodies to fight infections. In addition, a young animal may have antibodies to one disease, but they may not be enough for another.

True, science does not stand still. Some of the more modern vaccines can stimulate active immunity in a young animal, even in the presence of maternal antibodies.

Other functions of colostrum. If a newborn does not receive colostrum, his chances of survival are reduced. Colostrum is not only a source of antibodies and nutrients, it also plays an important role in maintaining fluid levels in a young animal. To function properly, the cardiovascular system (i.e. the heart and blood system) requires a large volume of fluid. In newborns, the mucous membranes should be moist. Water makes up 75-80% of a newborn's body weight. Dehydration is very dangerous in kittens.

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