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Fading puppy syndrome is term used to describe when a puppy dies within the first few weeks of life without a clear cause of death or clinical signs. Death usually occurs within the first five days of life, but can happen up to ten weeks of age. It is responsible for about 50% of deaths of new-born puppies.

This condition affects puppies under the age of 12 weeks. These puppies, known as ”faders,” basically fail to thrive and are unable to survive. According to research, about 20 to 40% of all puppies do not survive past 12 weeks of age!.

A number of different conditions can cause fading puppy syndrome. Sometimes solitary puppy deaths are related to a birth defect that was not immediately apparent.

Puppies are not capable of developing resistance to illnesses on their own that they will need an external source to thrive. Dogs have their own, natural way to grant passive immunity to their puppies.

Although the pups get little to no antibodies while developing inside the womb, they would need to absorb essential nutrients by drinking their mother’s milk called colostrum. It’s the first milk that the mother dog produces after whelping. One of the colostrum’s principal functions is to pass the bitch’s maternal antibodies to the puppies and boost their immune system. It will also help them to fight illnesses until they get the necessary vaccinations they need.

Causes of Fading Puppy Syndrome in Dogs

There are known causes of the Fading Puppy Syndrome which accounts for approximately 45% of all cases of neonatal mortality. Some of which Includes:

  • Poor husbandry.
  • Maternal factors (including illness and poor nutrition resulting in low birth weight pups).
  • Congenital defects.
  • Problems at parturition
  • Poor mothering behavior.
  • Trauma.
  • Immune insufficiency.
  • Infection with viruses, bacteria or parasites.

Signs and Symptoms of Fading Puppy Syndrome in Dogs

Common signs of fading puppy syndrome in newborn puppies include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Not nursing or poor appetite
  • Staying separate from mum and the rest of the litter
  • High pitched crying
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Loss of weight
  • Cold to touch
  • Weakness
  • Blood from nose or mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Very quiet and not moving
  • Sudden death

Treatment & Prevention

There is no reported treatment for fading puppy syndrome. Early supplementary feeding of suspected fading puppies may improve survival. If you suspect a fading puppy, it is best to seek veterinary attention for the puppy.

Prevention is difficult to describe as no specific cause has been identified for fading puppy syndrome. A variety of breeding management systems have been studied with no common management-linked factors associated with neonatal death. There is a tendency for certain dams to have successive fading litters, whilst other bitches experience no problems.

Review of breeding management especially at the time of whelping and through the neonatal period may help to decrease losses. 


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