APGAR score as a method for prediction of survival prognosis in newborn puppies and kittens

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Clinical Sciences

Abstract: Neonatal mortality is a widespread problem in small animal medicine, of both economical and emotional concern. In human medicine, the APGAR scoring scale is used frequently worldwide since the 1950’s as an evaluation tool of viability in newborn infants. Scoring is performed by examination of the newborn infants one and five minutes after birth, considering five basal characteristics. Those characteristics includes: heart rate; respiratory effort; muscle tone; reflex irritability and color. Each parameter is graded from 0–2 and then summarized to a total score determining the viability. Low APGAR scores indicate that the newborns require particular attention and care. Even though this method is simple and developed several decades ago, it is still valid. APGAR scoring, however, has not been extensively implemented in veterinary medicine although it is both feasible, cheap and easy to perform. Identifying more critical neonates at the time of birth could possibly decrease mortality, since those individuals might receive an intensive neonatal care more immediately when required. According to the results of this study, APGAR score was associated with both viability and time of expulsion of each puppy (P<0.01). Viability and birth weight were significantly associated in kittens (P<0.0001). No significant association was found between birth weight of kittens and litter size or queen’s weight or tomcat’s weight, neither any significant association with time of expulsion for each kitten and APGAR. Median birth weight in each litter was not associated with the weight of the queen or tomcat or litter size. Nevertheless, there was a significant association between body weight of the queen and birth weight index of kittens (P<0.01). This study concludes and augments that APGAR scoring can be used as a simple method of determining instantaneous neonatal health in newborn cats and dogs – both by breeders at home and by staff at veterinary clinics after cesarean sections. Suggesting APGAR scoring to be a helpful tool in preventing and reducing neonatal death. The results of this study could be of interest for both practitioners of veterinary medicine as well as breeders of cats and dogs, providing helpful tools to improve and refine breeding management.

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