To a dog lover, nothing can be more exciting than a litter of adorable puppies. Helping the mother dog care for the newborn pups would not be an easy task. The results however, will be rewarding. Watching the newborns’ development from the small, deaf and blind tiny puppies to very energetic, curious and playful individuals would be very gratifying. However, not all puppies will survive. Despite all the efforts to keep the puppies warm and well fed, only the fittest will survive. A puppy may also succumb to an illness or the development will not progress. One of the puppies in the litter can be a “fading puppy”.
The first two weeks after birthing is a very critical period in a puppy’s life. When dogs mature they become hardy animals. However, about 30 to 40% of puppies die before reaching the 12th week mark. Puppies are very delicate. Although dogs that give birth in the wild seem to manage on their own, modern day dogs would need the care provided by the owner to ensure the survival of the pups. After delivery the puppies will need nourishment and warmth to survive. These basic needs are provided by the dam but some puppies will fail to thrive. Fading puppies is not a disease but a symptom of a condition that affects young puppies.
A birth defect can be the reason why the puppy would not survive. A puppy with a cleft palate would not be able to nurse properly thus the life-sustaining nutrients from the dam’s milk cannot be received. A large percentage of fading puppies is associated with malformation of the limbs, head and other birth defects. Most puppies that are born weak, underweight and diseased are very likely to become “faders”. Some congenital defects can be easily seen thus the owner may not wonder why the puppy has expired. A puppy may appear normal at birth. It may be nursing well but it is easily apparent that the puppy is not developing in the same way that the other puppies are growing. Failure to gain weight can be associated with other genetic anomalies like a heart condition.
Puppies that appear to be healthy and normal at birth can manifest the fading puppy syndrome several days after birth. The pup will deteriorate rapidly especially if it has stopped nursing. Infection is one of the most common causes of death. Puppies should receive antibodies by nursing the special milk that the dam secretes for about 48 hours after whelping. A puppy that was not able to nurse colostrums is highly susceptible to various infections. Viral and bacterial infections can be the culprits that will snuff the life of the puppy. A puppy that gets no sufficient attention from the dam can be a fader too. A dam seems to have the ability to know which of the litter would not survive so that the weak one would be neglected. Difficult delivery can be a traumatic experience that will let mother dogs to neglect the puppies.
Diagnosing the puppy’s condition can be a challenge given that no clinical symptoms will be shown and the death of the puppy happens rapidly. Not all puppies can be saved but the fading puppy syndrome can be prevented. Thorough examination after the puppies are whelped would be important to detect any visible congenital defects. The newborn would need warmth, water and sugar. Water and sugar that are provided by the dam’s milk will prevent the puppy from being dehydrated and hypoglycemic. Warmth must be provided as a chilled puppy will certainly die. The development of the puppy must be closely monitored. Signs of weakness, trauma, neglect and symptoms of any health concern must be promptly addressed. Providing the dam with high quality nursing diet is one good way of ensuring the survival of the puppies.