Canine and feline colostrum
Puppy and kitten survival over the first weeks is particularly dependent on colostrum, a specific secretion of the mammary gland produced during the first 2 days post-partum. Colostrum is a source of nutrients and immunoglobulins. It also contributes to the digestive tract maturation. Colostrum differentiates from milk mainly based on its concentration in immunoglobulins G: 20–30 g/L in dog colostrum, 40–50 g/L in cats’ vs <1 g/L in milk. IgG concentration rapidly drops after parturition (−50% in 24 hr). Immune quality of colostrum is highly variable between bitches, with no relationship with maternal blood IgG level, dam's age, breed size or litter size. In addition to systemic immune protection, colostrum also plays a major role for local digestive protection, due to IgA, lysozyme, lactoferrin, white blood cells and various cytokines. Energetic concentration of canine and feline colostrum is not superior to that of mature milk. It depends on colostrum fat concentration and is affected by breed size (higher in breeds <10 kg adult body weight). As puppies and kittens are almost agammaglobulinemic at birth, transfer of IgG from their digestive tract into their bloodstream is crucial for their survival, IgG absorption ending at 12–16 hr after birth. Energetic supply over the two first days of life, as evidenced by growth rate over the two first days of life, also affects risk of neonatal mortality. Early and sufficient suckling of colostrum is thus the very first care to be provided to newborns for their later health and survival.