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Fading Puppy Syndrome

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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The first few weeks of a puppy's life are crucial. Puppies are fragile and they rely completely on their mother for nutrition as well as social requirements. Puppies that do not survive the first few weeks are afflicted with "fading puppy syndrome" and are called "faders." About 20 to 40 percent of all puppies born do not survive past 12 weeks of age.

Causes of puppy death in the first 12 weeks of life are generally linked to problems developed while in the uterus, problems associated with the birth process or problems around the time of weaning.

Uterine Development Problems

Birth defects, which include both genetic as well as drug or environmental causes, account for a large number of fading puppies. The easiest birth defect to detect is malformation of the head, limbs, genital or anal area as well as a cleft palate. After birth, thorough examination of the puppy, including examination of the roof of the mouth, can help pick up on any potentially fatal birth defects. Pregnant dogs that are fed a low quality diet have a higher incidence of fading puppies. The puppies are often born weak, diseased and underweight. In very large litters, some puppies suffer from uterine malnutrition due to competition between other developing feti.

Birth Process Problems

The delivery process can be quite traumatic for both the bitch and the puppies. Extended labor and difficulty passing the puppy can result in potentially fatal traumatic injuries. Cannibalism at the time of delivery can also occur, leading to puppy death. Neglect of the newborn either due to a nervous, high-strung new mother or due to illness usually results in early puppy death.

Weaning Problems

Problems during nursing and weaning that can cause puppy death include various bacterial and viral infectious diseases, as well as parasites. Parvovirus and herpes virus are primary culprits in puppy death between the ages of 2 to 12 weeks. Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacterial infections also play a significant role in the early demise of some puppies.

Diagnosing Fading Puppy Syndrome

Puppies that do not survive beyond 12 weeks of age are generally diagnosed with fading puppy syndrome. These puppies can slowly deteriorate, stop nursing, and become profoundly weak and thin. The exact cause of the fading puppy is usually not determined. If more than 20 percent of the litter is affected, submitting a recently expired puppy for post mortem examination to determine the cause of death may be helpful in preventing additional puppy losses.

Treatment

Finding the cause of the fading puppy syndrome helps to determine if any treatment is possible. Birth defects and severe traumas are difficult to treat with a good outcome. Bacterial and viral infections can be treated, and with aggressive care, some of these puppies can survive. Expect your veterinarian to recommend hospitalization, injectable fluid support, antibiotics and assisted feedings. If the puppy does not survive, post mortem examination in order to help the remaining litter is recommended.

Home Care

Early detection of fading puppy syndrome is essential. Thorough exam at the time of birth to detect any developmental defects is important. Daily weights are also crucial in monitoring the puppy's development. Make sure the bitch is fed a high quality pregnancy diet and then a high quality nursing diet. Monitor the puppies closely for signs of trauma, cannibalism, weakness or neglect. Prompt veterinary attention for those suspect puppies is necessary.

Preventative Care

Certain numbers of puppy losses are unavoidable. Feeding the bitch a high quality pregnancy diet and keeping her quite and calm can help. Detecting early signs of fading puppy syndrome with prompt veterinary care can help reduce the number of puppy deaths.

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