Hello & welcome, Liz. I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee ones today.
How long has you had them?
Can you tell me what brand of kitten milk replacer you are using?
Do either have sunken eyes, sticky gums (instead of moist), or a skin tent when you lift the skin over their neck?
Hello, approximately one week. I am feeding them Toplife Milk for kittens which I bought from Petwise. Their eyes and gums are fine. No they don't have tent of skin. You have to gather the skin to pick them up by the scruff.
However, before I took them from my friend I believe she was feeding them with cows milk, which I know they're not supposed to have and butchers cat meat. Again, way too old for them.
I know it's not nerves as they both seem to have settled and want to be cuddled all the time. However, when I hold tinker I noticed that she's leaker little bits from her bum even when she's not trying to go.
First, you are a star for taking these poor wee ones in. Still I would just note that you do want your friend to keep an eye out for the mum cat since they will often leave the kittens to hunt and it is possible that she may come back for her kittens (unless she has been gone for days and then we'd have to be concerned what became of her).
Now I have to warn you that the milk you are giving is not really appropriate for this situation. TopLife as the company notes is a "daily treat ... made from lactose reduced cows' milk. (More Info ). It is not a replacement for mum's milk. It can be used as something to mix into their food to make it more appealing in later stages of weaning. But it isn't going to meet their nutritional requirements if you are feeding it at a dose similar to what we'd feed to kittens that were on the bottle or early weaning (mostly on milk, just getting into wet food). And it is important to note that using it as such is very likely why they have diarrhea. So, if these kittens are mostly on milk (and not mostly on wet food) at this stage, then you should discontinue this and instead use a proper kitten milk replacer formula. Good quality kitten milk replacer brands include KMR and Cimicat. These can be purchased OTC at vets and pet stores.
Now while the milk is very likely to be the culprit here, we do have to appreciate that there are a plethora of pathologic reasons for diarrhea in the kitten. Therefore, if they don't settle with a proper milk replacer then you will need to consider agents like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and protozoa. In that case, if you have not already, you can consider worming against those parasitic causes. To do so in kittens so young, you will want to use a safe wormer like Panacur. Again this is available OTC at vets and some pet stores but you will need an idea of their weight when purchasing so you get the right dose for them.
Further to that, just since dehydration can cause these little ones to deterorate quickly, we do need to monitor their drinking and hydration. To monitor and make sure they are not becoming dehydrated, you can check some parameters at home. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether they have a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE. (They use a big dog but it makes it easier to see and the principle is just the same). If you check these and are already seeing signs of dehydration, then that would be a red flag that you'd want to have them seen by your vet before this becomes an additional issue for them (since it is often dehydration that causes lethargy, weakness, and makes them feel poorly).
Finally, just to note some safe options to slow their diarrhea while you swap them onto a proper milk source, we do have a few options. The ones we most commonly use are Kaolin/Kaopectate (More Info/Dose) available from your local pharmacy or Protexin Pro-Fiber (which is available OTC at vet practices; example). Do avoid using PeptoBismol or any anti-diarrheas that contain aspirin or Loperamide (as they can cause adverse issues).. In regards ***** ***** safe options, they both will slow diarrhea and the Pro-Fiber has the bonus of providing support to the delicate good bacteria of the GI. So, you can consider trying these as a short term means of trying to soothe their GI upset and slow that dehydrating diarrhea.Overall, diarrhea in the kitten can be caused by a range of agents. That said, the first point of call is changing them onto a more appropriate milk source since cow milk (even low in lactose) is not ideal for barely weaned kittens and is likely the cause of their diarrhea. Further to this, you can consider worming now and the above supportive care. If you do so, but they are not settling over the next 12-24 hours or are showing dehydration, then we'd want to have them checked by their vet. The vet can help pinpoint which of the remaining causes could be present and dispense antibiotics, treat with fluids to resolve dehydration +/- anti-diarrheals to get them settled (which should stop the blood as well) and back on track for you.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
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Thank you, ***** ***** extremely helpful.
Before I go I've checked my local stores and they don't keep this milk replacement in store. I'm going to have to order on line, but it could take 2-3 days to come. In the mean time what should I do? Just give them water with kitten meat? Thanks Liz
You are very welcome, Liz.Now that is a shame. I would quickly advise ringing your local vet practices (some have weekend hours -- you can find them via the RCVS Register (HERE) ) to see if they can dispense this to you sooner. Otherwise, it is best to get them more onto the wet food (or you can use an easily digestible protein source like boiled chicken, white fish, scrambled egg) and away from the milk. Further to this, it is a case of doing the best we can until the online order arrives (or local vet opens). In regards ***** ***** you can dilute the kitty milk with water or Pedialyte so that its not dense and getting more fluids in to combat dehydration. As well, you can pick up the Kaolin from the chemist to slow the diarrhea. So, hopefully a local vet will be open and can just dispense this for you but otherwise it is a case of trying to wean them a bit quicker onto solids to reduce the risk of the milk contributing to their loose stools.
Thank you so much for your help