Warning Signs A Puppy Is Dying-How to Prevent, Recognize, and Treat

Fading Puppy Syndrome

If you have ever had the experience of having a litter of puppies, or even just bringing a puppy home you know how trying it can be. Those new little creatures come into the world so helpless, and it is heartbreaking when you lose one.

Unfortunately it is not uncommon to lose a puppy or two out of a litter. They actually have a term for the early loss of a puppy, it is referred to as fading puppy syndrome. This can be heart wrenching and frustrating as well. All too often we spend countless hours attempting to save a weak pup just to lose the battle. Sometimes it all comes down to not recognizing the signs in time to be able to take action.

If you are a puppy owner, a breeder, or if you plan on getting a puppy for the family it is important to know what to be on the look out for. Although fading puppy syndrome is not well understood it is believed that there are ways to prevent it. There are many signs and symptoms that your puppy is not doing well. One should become familiar with these symptoms and know when they call for more drastic action, like a trip to the vet.

How to Prevent, Recognize, and Treat Fading Puppy Syndrome?

Fading puppy syndrome is similar to that of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS in humans. It is a term used to classify most deaths of young puppies that cannot really be explained. although Fading puppy syndrome is not fully understood, scientists seem to think that there is a cause behind it all that you may be able to prevent.

 Puppies are mammals just like human, horses, or cows. All mammals survive by the means of their mother, but every animal is different. Our immune system is what protects us from harmful germs and viruses around us, and prevents us from becoming sick. Baby mammals gain their immune system from their mother, or in other words called passive immunity. Human babies absorb antibodies through the placenta while they are in the womb so they are born with some form of immune system. Puppies on the other hand, do not develop any sort of immune system while they are in the womb so they rely completely on what they will get from their mother’s colostrum directly after birth.

Research has shown that puppies are only able to absorb the colostrum from their mother for a few hours after birth, so it is really a race against time. Tests showed that after only four hours the rate of absorption declined dramatically. After only twelve hours there was very little, if any absorption at all.

Knowing this, you want to make it a goal to get every puppy in the litter to nurse within the first four hours of their life. This will greatly increase their chance of survival, and decrease your chance of losing one or more of your puppies.

It has been proven that the antibodies absorbed make a huge difference in the survival rate. Studies showed that 95% of puppies with a higher antibody level survived to 3 weeks old, while only 56% of puppies with lower antibody levels survived to be the same age.

It is believed that problems with puppies absorbing antibodies from their mother can also be caused by the mom being in a long stressful labor. Factors that contribute to this would be an extremely long labor, or puppies having a low oxygen supply. These factors are believed to cause premature gut closure, making it hard or even impossible for the puppies to absorb the colostrum. One of the steps you can take to ensure a smooth labor, and hopefully a good start for your pups is to know when the mom is going to give birth. This means ovulation tracking and calculating the days until the litter is due.

Taking careful precautions can make a world of difference when it comes to how the little ones do when they are born. The more careful and thorough you are in your preparations the more likely things will go well. Also the more likely you will be prepared to deal with a problem if it does arise.

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Symptoms Your Puppy Could Be Dying

After knowing that fading puppy syndrome is a thing, and that you can take some precautions to help prevent it happening it is still important to know the signs that something is wrong. NO matter how careful you are, or how many extra steps you took it is still important to be prepared. Knowing what to look for can mean life or death for your little puppy. If one of your pups is acting strange it is important that you pay close attention, and get them help if needed. These next few symptoms are not only specific to puppies, if you notice the actions from an adult dog you should still seek veterinary help.


Fatigue itself is a fairly vague symptom. It could be related to many other medical causes, and is by no means always a sign of something terrible. A dog who is dying or severely ill will be more lethargic than one that is just sick or not feeling well. Puppies are usually very full of energy and willing to play, if they begin to show signs of fatigue it is cause for concern.

Lack of Interest

You will probably notice this symptom before any other. Most dogs are interested in walks, or a favorite toy. If you cannot spark your dog’s interest with one of his favorite treats or activities, you may need to be concerned. If your puppy has been playful and energetic, but all of a sudden is no longer interested in things such as play time with other pups, toys, and treats then that is a sure sign something is wrong. It would be wise to keep an eye out for other strange behavior in your pup, if they begin doing things they wouldn’t usually this could also be another sign of an issue.

Related: How To Develops your Dog’s Hidden Intelligence.


It is among your pet’s natural instincts to hide if they are feeling ill. In nature weakness attracts predators. If you notice your pup is hiding in a dark secluded spot and is not willing to come out then something is probably wrong, and more than likely a call to the vet is needed. In a litter of puppies they will usually all stick together close to their mother. If you notice one pup off by itself hiding in a secluded or dark place it is definitely not normal, and you do not want to waste any time getting the puppy checked out.

Related: How to Socialize Your Puppy – A Complete Easy Guide

Problems With Coordination

Problems with coordination are a sure sign that something us up with your pet. Puppies can be wobbly on their feet, and somewhat accident prone in the beginning but this is different than problems with their motor skills. If dogs are ill, and nearing the end they usually struggle moving from place to place. They will stumble at times, and even fall. A dog in serious condition may refuse to get up from their spot at all. If you notice your dog having troubles with their coordination do not hesitate to get them to the vet, as this is a fairly serious symptom.

Related: To eliminate bad behavior and Create the obedient, well-behaved dog of your dreams

Loss of Appetite

It is fairly common knowledge that dogs like to eat. They usually do not hesitate to gulp up that stray scrap of food from your plate. If you notice your dog or your puppy not eating like normal it may be cause for concern. If you can’t coax your dog to eat, even with a favorite treat or table scrap then it its probably time to get the vet. The loss of appetite is usually due to the fact that the dogs organs aren’t functioning properly and his digestive system cannot handle the food being given to him.

Shaking Uncontrollably

A dog in poor condition will often develop the tremors. The animal will shake uncontrollably. This symptom is one that usually follows a few of the others. If your dog has not been eating right due to illness of some sort this can cause blood sugar levels to drop, which in turn causes the shaking. Once your pet has hit this point there is not a lot of time to get them taken care of.


 Another sign that your dog might be on death’s door is when they no longer have control over when they go to the bathroom. If you have a dog that has never had an accident, and has always asked to go outside without fail, and they all of a sudden start going all over the house it could be a sign something is wrong. Dying dogs slowly, but surely lose control over their bodily functions. When dogs have a serious health problem, even the best trained dogs will start to have accidents. This is unpleasant for both you and your pet, so make sure you are paying attention to the signs and get them the help they need as quick as you can.

Breathing Problems

In the last days or hours of your dogs life you will surely notice that their breathing pattern has changed. Their breathing will usually become shallow and the time they take between inhaling and exhaling will increase greatly. Over time it will become more and more difficult for the dog to breathe, and by this point he is very near the end. If your dog reaches this stage you will want to make sure you say your goodbyes and try to make their last moments as comfortable as possible.


Being a dog owner is an incredible thing. The bond you have with a dog is something special, and everyone wants to take the best care of their companion. If you keep an eye out for many of the symptoms above, along with normal everyday care, your dog should live a healthy happy life. Just remember that the nutrition that your puppies get from their mother directly after birth is extremely important, and could ultimately determine whether or not they survive. Do your best to ensure that every pup in the litter nurses from mom within the first four hours of their life so they get the best chance they can of developing their immune system to protect them from the sicknesses around them.

It is also important to make sure you have a good place for the mother to birth the litter if you are expecting puppies. Make sure you are paying attention to the mother’s health and that you know when she is due so you are prepared for the labor. Overly long, or stressful labors are not good for the health of the mother or the health of the puppies. Keep a vet on call, and be sure you are able to get the mother to the vet if she ends up needing a C-section to safely get all the babies out.

It is unfortunate that things like this happen and you do occasionally lose a puppy. Even if you are paying attention to the signs and are able to act quickly, there are times when there is just nothing you can do. So if you do in fact lose a dog or a puppy from a litter, try not to let it get to you. Not all puppies are born able to survive, the best you can do is try everything you can to give them a healthy happy life.

Hopefully some of the information in this article will help you prepare for the arrival of you litter, or even just ensure the well being of your adult dog. If you have concerns about the health of your pet you can always do some research to figure out what is wrong, but never hesitate to call your vet. It is better safe than sorry when it comes to the lives of our dogs.

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