increasing volume over time. Refusing a feeding is normal, and a cub should never be forced to finish all the formula being offered. Neonates ingest air during nursing bouts. Therefore, post-feeding pats and massage should be provided until air is expelled. This may be necessary repeatedly in some individuals during and after the same feeding.
Feeding transitions (e.g. changing the dilution of formula) can cause gastric upset and diarrhoea. Formula changes should be gradual to ensure that the neonate is not suddenly overwhelmed by a fluctuating diet. Signs of underfeeding include restlessness, searching, frequent crying and poor growth. Indications of overfeeding include fussiness at feeding time, regurgitation, bloating, excessive weight gain and diarrhoea. The latter, even if dietary in origin, can lead to serious dehydration or hypogly-caemia. In this case, parenteral fluid support should be provided by diluting formula with water to one-third to one-half concentrations or by offering electrolyte solutions orally until the stool returns to normal.
The weaning process for all herbivores is difficult, from a fibre-free, easily digestible diet (milk) to a highly fibrous, poorly digestible diet (bamboo). Removal of milk and introduction of new food items should be slow and gradual. At six months of age, some bamboo shoots and bamboo may be offered. At this age, most individuals play with these foods, but occasionally undigested bamboo fragments can be seen in faeces. Additional solids may be introduced by ten months, including the concentrate portion of the adult diet. Weaning from formula should be complete by 24 months of age.
Body weight, growth rate and development
Body weight is a critical metric for monitoring successful growth in relation to same-age cohorts or earlier-produced individuals. Absolute body mass is also used to determine stomach capacity that, in turn, is used to calculate amount of formula to provide (see above). For the hand-reared panda, body weight should be collected once daily, preferably in the morning before first feeding. Newborns may lose weight in the first few days after birth. Thereafter, the neonate should gain weight regularly; a contrary observation indicates the need for immediate medical attention. Typical mean body weights for newborn giant pandas are provided in Table 13.5. Although there was a tendency from this small sampling for newborn females to be slightly heavier than males, the difference was not significant (p > 0.05).
At birth, giant pandas are pink with a light white coat of lanugo. Various other development characteristics of young giant pandas (mother- or hand-reared) are provided in Table 13.6. Body measurements should be taken regularly (e.g. every five days) as an indicator of normal growth. However, more so than absolute weight at a given age, postnatal growth (i.e. average daily gain) is perhaps most indicative of development. Although information is available on both mother- and hand-reared neonates, care should be taken in evaluating mother-reared data
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