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Why is Fading Puppy Syndrome?

sick puppy

Fading puppy syndrome is a very sad thing that happens and is also a very normal thing that happens. It is a term that describes puppies that appear to be completely normal at birth but start to fade and die within the first couple of weeks after birth.

Why do puppies fade?

The first few weeks of a puppy’s life are the most dangerous. This is when they are the most vulnerable to illness and stress. Puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature, do not regulate fluids well, and have difficulties with energy balance. Their immune systems are not fully functioning yet either. This makes them all very vulnerable both to infection but to dying because of infection.

What are the signs of a fading puppy?

Sadly, often when you notice the signs of a fading puppy it is too late. Some things are flags, like if the puppy is the runt. Being the runt means they are the smallest one in the litter and they have low birth weight or have failure to gain weight. An inability to suckle from their mom and decreased activity compared to their siblings. They remain separate from the rest of the litter. They have a high pitched and weak cry. Though puppies with these signs can be fine, they are at higher risk for fading.

The clinical signs are vague. It is often too late to save a puppy once clinical signs are apparent. The common findings are a low birth weight or failure to gain weight at the same rate as their siblings (the ‘runt’ of the litter), decreased activity and inability to suckle. These puppies have a tendency to remain separate from the mother and the rest of the litter. They are often reported to cry weakly in a high-pitched tone. Sometimes this is refered to this as ‘seagulling’ due to its similarity to the cry of seagulls. These puppies often quickly progress to severe lethargy, loss of muscle tone, and death.

What causes a fading puppy?

  • lack of care from the mother, typically because the mother has identified that the puppy has a high death risk.
  • lack of milk production or poor-quality milk
  • inadequate nursing or milk consumption
  • birth defects
  • low birth weight
  • infectious causes

Some dogs do not make good mothers. They lack a good mothering instinct. This can lead to poor hygiene for the puppy, as they are dependent on their mothers for cleaning. Poor hygiene can lead to neonatal septicemia. If the puppy does not get the first milk they miss out on the colostrum which gives them the majority of their immune system and will make them more vulnerable to infection. If the mother has an infection in her teats, mastitis, she can pass on the infection to her puppies. If the mother is not properly vaccinated she can pass on the virus to her puppies. This is why vaccinations are so important. Canine Parvovirus, adenovirus, canine distemper are all causes of fading puppy syndrome and all preventable with vaccination. Bring your mama dogs into our shot clinics to get their vaccines!

Parasites, fleas and ticks can weaken puppies and cause them to struggle with weight gain which can also lead to fading. Make sure your mama dog has her Frontline Flea and Tick treatment to keep her and her puppies safe.

What can be done to treat a fading puppy?

If you think your puppy is fading, keeping them warm and making sure they get adequate fluids are the most important things. For their first 4 days, keep them at 85-90 degrees F. Heatlamps over the whelping box will help maintain their temperature. If you are breeding your dog, or have a pregnant dog, you need to speak with your Los Lunas vet about how to have a safe birth and how to take care of your puppies.

If you notice bacterial septicemia then antibiotics may be administered and that might take care of the infection if it is not too widespread. If the puppy gets a treatable bacterial infection you and your vet will need to discuss proper care and hygiene of your puppies.

If you discover that your dog is not a good mother, it is a good idea to get her spayed. Discuss options with your Los Lunas vet.

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2510 Main St. NE #1 Los Lunas, NM Phone: (505) 865-0662

Veterinarian Clinic Website: www.loslunasvetco.com


The information provided on this website is written by Vetco staff. All information is meant to be informational and is not meant as veterinary advice. If you have a health question regarding your pet, their treatment or anything concerning their veterinary care, please call Vetco to consult with a veterinarian.