Fading Puppy Syndrome: Beware of Dehydration

It's important to know about fading puppy syndrome so you can do what you can to prevent it in young animals. Keep reading to learn more.
Fading Puppy Syndrome: Beware of Dehydration
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Fading puppy syndrome mainly affects newborn animals. It happens because puppies have very low immunity right when they’re born.

Unfortunately, there are very high neonatal mortality rates due to fading puppy syndrome. Research shows that about 20% of newborn puppies die from it. Many of them are already too weak when they get to the vet.

The neonatal period of puppies’ immunity

In dogs, the neonatal period starts at birth and lasts up to 15 days. In cats, the period is shorter and ends around the tenth day. The first 24 hours of a newborn’s life is known as the perinatal period.

A puppy sleeping on the ground.

In this stage, puppies are physically, emotionally, and immunologically immature. In fact, this makes it hard for them to survive. Puppies are very vulnerable to all kinds of conditions, especially the animals that are born last.

Also, puppies’ immune systems are not ready to defend their bodies. They aren’t prepared to fight the countless microorganisms around them.

This explains why fading puppy syndrome forms so quickly in newborn animals. Because of this, it’s important to prevent the symptoms of it as much as you can.

Causes of fading puppy syndrome

With such a weak immune system, puppies can develop symptoms of fading puppy syndrome for different reasons. For example, some of them are deficiencies in their bodies. On the other hand, they can inherit them from their mother during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Internal causes of fading puppy syndrome

  • Low blood sugar
  • Dehydration
  • Hypothermia
  • Congenital malformation of the digestive tract
  • Immune deficiency
  • Internal parasites
  • Bacterial infections (and risk of sepsis)
  • Inflammation of the umbilical veins (omphalophlebitis)
  • Not enough oxygen at birth
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Neonatal distemper

Causes from the mother

  • Contaminated breast milk (from toxic substances, bacteria, or diseases)
  • Low milk production
  • Postpartum behavioral problems (leading the mother to not want to breastfeed her puppies)

Symptoms of fading puppy syndrome

A puppy’s health can get very bad very fast. Usually, newborns have the first symptoms within 96 hours after birth.

Some of the main symptoms are:

  • Apathy
  • Malnutrition and anorexia
  • Not latching on to breastfeed
  • Hypothermia
  • Very weak from the second or third day of life
  • Constant whining, crying, or moaning
  • Heart or lung failure
  • Seizures (mainly before 10 days of life)


At first, the treatment is to fight the symptoms, mainly malnutrition and dehydration.

Usually, they get a glucose serum every four to six hours, either orally or in an IV. That way, you can treat dehydration. In addition, to fight low blood sugar, the vet might give them natural sugars, like honey. Also, the dose will depend on each animal’s size and health.

Keeping your puppy’s body temperature stable is also essential to prevent hypothermia. If your puppy has parasites, the vet will also deworm them.

Four husky puppies outside.

Normally, the vet will separate the puppy from its mother and siblings to receive treatment. However, if the mother’s milk is contaminated, or she doesn’t make enough, then the vet will treat the other puppies too.

It’s important to feed the puppy with a healthy formula or breast milk from another dog.

Fading puppy syndrome: can you prevent it?

Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent fading puppy syndrome in newborns. To do this, you need to take some precautions. That way, you can prevent hypothermia, dehydration, hypoglycemia, and malnutrition. For example:

  • Keep the temperature and humidity at good levels
  • Control newborns’ feeding and behavior
  • Visit the vet to make sure the puppies and mother are healthy
  • Make sure the mom is making enough quality breast milk
  • Regularly weigh the puppies to make sure they’re gaining enough weight
  • Check that all puppies latch on while breastfeeding
  • Give the mother and puppies the right prevention medications that they need

Finally, remember that this article is just to inform you. Therefore, it’s essential to go to the vet to diagnose and treat fading puppy syndrome  and other conditions.

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  • Díaz, D. (2020) Reconocimiento y manejo adecuado de neonatos caninos que requieren asistencia médica. (Tesis de grado, Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas y Ambientales)
  • Martí, S. (2008). Enfermedades de los neonatos. Animales de compañía COVELMA, 6-12.
  • Khan, F. A., Dutt, R., Deori, S., & Das, G. K. (2009). Fading puppy complex—an overview. Intas Polivet, 10(11), 335-7.

The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.