Fading puppy/kitten syndrome: what does this even mean?

We did several talks on neonatology this year all over the country. During each of them I liked to touch on the “fading puppy/kitten syndrome”. And certainly not in the way people would expect me to! Over the years I indeed had several discussions with breeders telling me how they lost puppies/kittens “because of fading puppy/kitten syndrome”. This one is often perceived as a disease in itself, some kind of threat that can blast into a kennel and lead to the loss of some - if not all in worst-case scenarios – of the puppies/kittens inside a litter. So each time I did this talk I asked: “What is this “fading puppy/kitten syndrome” everybody seems to be so afraid of?”.  And each time I got tons of answers (even if we touch on very serious topics, these talks are supposed to be interactive and fun so I am always glad to have this kind reaction from the audience!). However, not a single one was the same!

One expression referring to many different causes


You might have wondered when starting to read this blog why the picture above is a carboard box (BTW I hope you did!). Simply because in my opinion, this is what the term “fading puppy/kitten syndrome” refers to: a big box where we put everything that can potentially cause neonatal mortality. I am often under the impression that we use this term when we have no clue what really led to this loss (this falls into the “idiopathic” category, a fancy word to say we could not determine what the real cause was). “Fading puppy/kitten syndrome” corresponds to a failure to thrive: in previous posts I told you that a scale is the ONE thing you guys should always have inside your kennel/cattery maternity, and I reiterate it here. Monitoring the daily weight gain of newborn puppies/kittens is the best way to ensure they are healthy. If they start to lose weight, there are however several different causes that need to be considered, as depicted in the infographic below. These are the potential causes of the “fading puppy/kitten syndrome” we might observe in our kennels and catteries.


Always very frustrating causes


You understand now that I don’t like to use the term “fading puppy/kitten syndrome” (despite the fact that I already used it quite a lot in this post!). This is just a personal opinion, I think it is often misleading and does not refer to the true cause of the problem. I understand however why it is used so often. When we unfortunately have to deal with cases of neonatal mortality in kennels or catteries, these cases are often really frustrating. Indeed, it is often difficult to clearly point out what happened.

I wish you guys never have to face these kinds of situations (but let’s be real, when you’re breeding, you know that this can unfortunately happen one day or another). In case you do, speak with your vet as quickly as possible. There are ways now to approach this situation, and it is important to collect samples as quickly as possible so that necropsy / histology / bacteriology /PCRs can eventually be conducted. In my opinion, in a cattery or kennel, it is always important to try to find out what happened. This is how we can build the best prevention strategy for the future…

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