Fading puppy



Fading puppy syndrome is a hard case to tackle, and only once before had I experienced it and this with a Yorkie pup years ago. Just recently I experienced it again with a dandie puppy born into a litter of four. The bitch was either on time or just over her dates, and despite my asking the vet to do a section due to the bitch being stressed and not going in to labour,  he declined - unless of course I had insisted. It was only when a water sac burst that he decided the time was right.


The four puppies were born on in September 2003 by caesarian section, three were mustard and one was pepper, two girls and two boys.  All seemed fine and Dandie.  Initially,  as the mother was a little confused after the aneasthetic the pups were put to her two hourly until she accepted them fully.  One of the puppy bitches did not seem to suck very strongly or for long and I grew concerned, thus I began to supplement this puppy.  She was given cholesterol, nutri drops and every now and then a tiny amount of honey. She was also placed on and kept with  her mother who never once rejected her.  Her inability to suck strongly grew concerning as all the other pups began to gain weight and this one did not, consequently, she was eventually placed on a heat pad in a box on her own as I feared there was infection, her faeces from time to time having a very strong smell. However, the other pups remained unaffected.


This puppy became to be called ‘Skinny Lizzie’ she had a very swollen stomach and her limbs were thin with her neck appeared long.  Her coat grew coarse as dehydration hit her readily, her skin would stay up in folds if she was not kept hydrated, she continued to want her food and to poop and pee with stimulation. She never complained and snuggled happily - or so it seemed -  in to her blanket and heat pad.


On about day four I took this puppy to the vets, he administered I/M antibiotics. He could not find anything obviously wrong with the puppy who, by this time,  was also being given an electrolyte mix to stave off dehydration, she dehydrated quickly and thus was fed or watered  every two hours morning noon and night.  She was a delightful puppy and never cried or complained, just hungrily took her food and then settled down again.  Of course she had to be stimulated re her waterworks and bowels and she obliged readily.  The other pups continued to thrive, but not this one, she lost her birth weight, went down to seven and a half ounces from eleven ounces. I wondered if she was allergic to her mothers milk as now and then she would regurgitate a mouthful of food and twice vomited. I bought goats milk, and to this added honey and egg yolk. She took this readily as she did with whatever I gave her.  Nevertheless she did not thrive and continued to either lose weight or just not gain any, the other pups were double their birth weight by this time.     I was frantic and exhausted with it and by the time she was a week old I had decided to let her take her chances and put her back with her mother who accepted her readily. 


I still supplemented her, but not so often, but could see she was losing weight again.  My friend Maureen visited and offered to take this puppy and see if she could have any more success than I. What a relief this was, exhaustion was hitting hard!  Skinny Lizzie lived with Maureen for about twelve days, her eyes opened at the same time as the other pups, she continued to feed but not gain weight, we tried all sorts with her, making the food thicker, leaving out the egg, adding honey, you name it!  Lizzie  was a constant visitor to the vet who did what vets do and pumped her with more antibiotics, even wormed her as we wondered if she had a worm burden despite her mother having the full course during pregnancy. Lizzie had a will to live, she had a strong suction and could almost hang on to your finger with  the grip from her mouth.  She had begun to snuffle and lose milk through her nose, yet her lungs remained clear, she was hungry but the fluids in her nose and throat stopped her from feeding, she was starving to death.  We grew frantic, searched the net for a similar situation, mostly all we found were articles on infection, the vets seemed to have no idea what the problem was, and we supposed all sorts.  A day before her third week Lizzie died.


Did we do the right thing in trying to keep her alive?  It is human nature to do this, especially with a puppy that fought so hard.  I think we felt that if she showed willing then so would we. I often think now how she opened her eyes to see the world before she left it. Did she not like what she saw?


 R.I.P. Skinnie Lizzie, you were loved whilst you were here and you will always be remembered.  Would I do it again?  I am not sure, maybe for a week or so and then let the puppy go, who knows what these puppies feel, we only knew she fought and we fought with her, but that is so heart wrenching, to see her fade and die,  and after such a fight it was heartbreaking. 


There is scant research on fading puppies and most of this veers towards infections being the cause, albeit to say the other pups were fine, but maybe this one had other problems that did not enable her to fight off any infection. I believe it was 'her' sac that  had broken before she was born which may have been where the trouble started, but who knows. She initially appeared strong and healthy and then started to fade.  PM results so far have proven inconclusive to the cause of death and maybe we will never know.  What we do know is how heartbreaking this is, to see a wee soul come in to the world only to leave it after seeing it for the first time.  Skinny Lizzie earned a  rightful place in our hearts..


Celia Danks



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