Fading Puppy Syndrome – a Comprehensive Guide

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There are few sweeter things than the sound and sight of newborn puppies and watching them grow into the world around them!  It’s no surprise that puppies are particularly vulnerable during their first few weeks of life, and anyone involved with puppies has likely heard the term ‘fading puppy syndrome.’  We’ve created a comprehensive guide on fading puppy syndrome that will explain this topic and answer the following related questions:
  • Why is my newborn puppy cold and barely moving?
  • Can a puppy survive fading puppy syndrome?
  • How long do fading puppies live?
  • Should you separate a fading puppy?
  • What should I do if I think a puppy is fading?
Recognizing a fading puppy early on increases the chances of a thorough recovery, so let’s get started! Disclaimer: Please refer to the information in this article as a guide only. Contact your veterinarian if you want specific information tailored to your pet’s condition. 

Why is my newborn puppy cold and barely moving?

Fading puppy syndrome (FPS) is the phrase used by veterinarians for puppies who sadly aren’t strong enough to make it through the first few weeks of life and need some extra care. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to this, which we’ve listed below (source):
  • Their immune system hasn’t had to develop fully, so they are more susceptible to infectious diseases.
  • They aren’t yet able to adapt to changes in their environment, such as temperature.
  • Many of their bodily functions aren’t yet up to full capacity.
  • They have pretty non-existent or very low-energy stores, especially if they aren’t consuming enough milk. 
  • Abnormalities in their development.
  • Diseases of the mother or complications during whelping.

Do fading puppies cry a lot?

It’s not always the case that fading puppies cry or cry a lot; however, interestingly, it has been noted that fading puppies can have a weak and high-pitched cry. If you think your puppy might be fading, it’s best to look at them completely rather than trying to reach a conclusion based on one aspect, such as vocalization. At the same time, fading puppies can go downhill very quickly, which means that it’s best to act as fast as possible. If you notice something abnormal with your puppy, then it is best to contact your veterinarian and tell them the following information:
  • Their age.
  • Any complications during birth.
  • The amount of milk they consume.
  • Their weight and weight changes.
  • Their symptoms
  • Whether any other puppies appear similar.

Can a puppy survive fading puppy syndrome, and how long do fading puppies live?

If spotted early enough, fading puppies can be helped, but it’s very important to act very fast and take them to a veterinarian immediately.  If the puppy is already too far gone, they are unlikely to survive very long. We’ve listed some signs that your puppy could be fading below (source):
  • They don’t drink and or are dehydrated. 
  • They aren’t very active.
  • They’re not gaining weight.
  • They have a low temperature.
  • They don’t breathe or suckle normally.
  • They look particularly weak compared to their littermates.
You can read more about what a healthy puppy looks like in this article. It’s good to be aware that the specific symptoms a puppy with fading puppy syndrome has can vary depending on the exact cause. Examples of things that can lead to fading puppy syndrome include:
  • Congenital defects and inherited conditions.
  • Parasites (especially worms or fleas).
  • Inadequate living environment (too cold, damp, or dirty).
  • Infections from bacteria or viruses.
  • Not consuming enough milk.
Sadly, it’s not always possible to tell why a puppy has symptoms of fading puppy syndrome. If your puppy dies from this condition, it’s preferable to ask for a necropsy to see if you can determine the cause.

Should you separate a fading puppy, and what should I do if I think a puppy is fading?

Separating a fading puppy from its mother is pretty complicated. If you think a puppy is fading, it’s best to take them, along with their siblings and mother, to your veterinarian as fast as possible. Your veterinarian will examine the puppy and ask you some of the questions we mentioned earlier.  Keeping puppies at the appropriate temperature is important, but especially so for fading puppies. However, this should never interfere with them drinking their mother’s milk. According to this article, there are a few things you can do to help decrease the risk of a puppy fading:
  • Make sure that the mother is in good condition and health before breeding.
  • Vaccinating the mother and treating them against endo and ectoparasites.
  • Thoroughly checking and weighing the puppies every day.
  • Maintain an appropriate temperature and level of hygiene in the puppy’s living area.
  • Take the mother and the puppies for a check with a veterinarian the day after the puppies are born.
You can read more about caring for puppies in our article Starting Good Hygiene Habits from Day One of Your Life with a Puppy.

How do I save my fading puppy?

If your puppy is fading, then you need to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis. Once your vet has confirmed that your puppy is fading, then they may recommend aspects of the following for treatment:
  • Keep the puppy warm using a warm water bottle, heat lamp, or heat pad.
  • Giving them a feed supplement and rehydrating them.
  • Medication – such as antibiotics or treatment against parasites.
  • Making sure that the puppy’s living environment is clean.
From the list above, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of your puppy developing fading puppy syndrome, which we’ve listed below:
  • Make sure that the temperature is appropriate (around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit until the first week, source).
  • Regularly clean the area where the puppies live and thoroughly clean areas with feces or urine.
  • Check the puppies frequently and weigh them every day.
  • Keep the area where the puppies live as calm and quiet as possible, giving them plenty of time to rest.
  • Reduce contact with other dogs to an absolute minimum until after the puppies have finished their vaccinations.

Can a 5-week-old puppy have fading puppy syndrome?

The chances of a puppy suffering from fading puppy syndrome are higher in the first few weeks of life until they have around three weeks.  After three weeks, the term ‘fading puppy’ is not commonly used. After this point, a puppy has passed one of the most critical phases; however, it doesn’t mean that they can’t still get sick. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your pet, then it’s best to take them to or contact your veterinarian:
  • Difficulty walking, breathing, moving, urinating or defecating.
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea.
  • Bleeding.
  • Neurological signs.
  • Abnormal changes in behavior.
  • Shivering or shaking.
You can read more about the important diseases of puppies in this article. Veterinarians recommend the following to help keep your dog healthy and happy:
  • Feeding them high-quality food in the appropriate amounts.
  • Helping them have regular exercise every day.
  • Vaccinating them and treating them against endo and ectoparasites.
  • Taking
  •  them to a veterinarian for a yearly health check.
  • Making sure they have an appropriate body condition score and monitoring their weight.
For more information about keeping your dog healthy and happy, have a look at the following articles on this topic:

Conclusion

Fading puppy syndrome sounds scary; however, if it’s recognized early enough, a puppy can recover. After reading this article, we hope you feel comfortable spotting the signs so you can get the help your puppy needs in time. Don’t forget, if you’re ever unsure of anything, it’s best to contact your veterinarian.

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