Fading Puppy Syndrome - a deep dive into causes and treatments

What is Fading Puppy Syndrome?

Fading Puppy Syndrome is not a diagnosis. It is a catch-all phrase that describes neonatal puppies born healthy, but which gradually fade and die of uncontrollable and unknown causes.

Up to about 30% of newborns die within the first two weeks of life. 50% of these deaths occur within the first week and are attributed to Fading Puppy Syndrome. Little research has been done on this subject, but it is a situation every breeder will know eventually. Fading Puppy Syndrome is most common during the first week of life but may occur up until ten weeks.

Immunity and colostrum

Puppies are born with an incomplete immune system. To develop antibodies to disease, puppies must drink their mother’s first milk, called colostrum. Your goal must be to get each puppy nursing within 12 to 24 hours of birth. This is when their intestinal linings are best able to absorb it.

Once a fading puppy (also known as a fader or runt) misses that narrow window to ingest colostrum, risk elevates. So, be sure all of the puppies drink colostrum, preferably within the first 12 hours. If natural colostrum is not available, The Dog Breeder Store carries bovine colostrum, which is known to increase immune response against certain viruses, support gut microflora and provide some basic nutrients needed for increasing passive immunity. Bovine colostrum also conveys anti-inflammatory support and growth hormones, so although bitch colostrum is best, bovine colostrum is an important supplement for newborns.

What are the symptoms?

Clinical signs in a fading puppy are subtle and vague. Most noticeable are decreased weight, a body cool to the touch, and decreased activity. They often have trouble latching onto a nipple. Often the mom will push the fader away, so watch for puppies who are away from the puppy pile. They may also cry in a weak, high-pitched tone that some describe as sea-gulling, like a seagull’s cry.

Symptoms may include:

Lowered body temperature

Difficulty latching on

Rejection by mother

Failure to twitch/lack of movement

Separation from the litter


Failure to gain weight at same rate as siblings

High pitched crying (“seagulling”)



Progression to lethargy, loss of tone, death

Fading puppies often progress quickly to loss of muscle tone, severe lethargy, and death. They must be attended to immediately once symptoms are observed. Time is of the essence.

Why does fading puppy syndrome happen?

Aside from immune systems not yet fully functioning, limited infection immunity, and inability to regulate temperature and fluid, here are some other causes—



Inbreeding (Fox, 1963)

Hypoglycemia (low glucose levels in the blood)

Insufficient maternal care

Lack of milk production or poor quality of milk

Infectious causes such as septicemia

Complications and trauma during the birth process

Low birth weight

Intestinal parasites

Viral or bacterial overloads

Toxins – especially from harsh cleaning fluid fumes

Viral infections such as canine parvovirus can also cause fading puppy syndrome.

To avoid symptoms caused by toxic household chemicals, we recommend cleaning your nursery and equipment with Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy Association (VMAA)-approved Thieves Household Cleaner. In addition, proper care of the puppies, their surroundings and strict hygiene are also critical.

How can I treat fading puppy syndrome?

Their needs are simple: Glucose, heat, calories, fluids, and our two powerhouse Fading Puppy products, proven to save all but those born with unsalvageable birth defects. We recommend removing faders from the litter to a warming box for intensive care until they are very stable.


Signs of hypoglycemia include severe lethargy and even seizures. You can swipe a glucose source, such as organic syrup, onto the gums. This can be your first treatment, and it is often lifesaving.

Temperature regulation

Do not allow puppies to become chilled. You can maintain room temperature at 85 – 90°F (29.5 – 32°C) during the first four days. Temperature may then be gradually decreased to approximately 80°F (26.7°C) by the seventh to tenth day. However, you do not necessarily need to heat the whole room to these temperatures. An “always on” heating pad, available from The Dog Breeder Store, is often all that is necessary. Many heating pads turn themselves off, so be certain yours does not. Newborn temps should be 95-99°F. Anything below that is life threatening. Any rewarming should always be done slowly.


Newborns should be fed every 2 hours, approximately 1cc per 1oz./30mL of body weight, or in accordance with the formula label. If the baby is not successful with bottle feeding, use our Tube Feeding Kit appropriate for your breed size. We offer a recipe for a homemade Immunity Formula in our articles section, or you can purchase a premade formula from The Dog Breeder Store.

Use a warm moist cotton wipe on the puppy’s genital area to stimulate urination and defecation for the first two weeks of life.


You can easily discern dehydration by feeling for sticky gums or by pinching up the skin at the neck. If it is supple and flows back down easily, the puppy is properly hydrated. If it stays in the air, feels “dry or stuck,” or flows down very slowly, hydration by subcutaneous injection may be required. Using slightly warmed sterile saline or lactated ringers, available from The Dog Breeder Store in our Newborn Puppy Rescue Kit, clean the back of the neck with an alcohol wipe, pinch up the skin, poke a sterile needle just under the skin, and slowly inject liquid until a nice ball forms under the skin. Typically, about 1cc per 1oz./30mL of body weight is about right but use good observation skills so as not to “overinflate” under the skin. Never inject cold liquids.

An environmental humidity of 55 – 60% is also preferable. Place a warm, wet washcloth in the box, replacing when it cools. You can also use a humidifier. A reptile hygrometer, available from The Dog Breder Store, is helpful to measure humidity.

Homeopathic: Fading Puppy Remedy liquid

Fading Puppy Remedy liquid

The Dog Breeder Store offers Fading Puppy Remedy, a homeopathic preparation. This product addresses symptoms by helping the body better respond to them. Homeopathics provoke the puppy’s body to speed healing of symptoms he or she is experiencing.

Fading Puppy Remedy addresses most reasons why pups fade, giving it a very high success rate. It is manufactured under FDA license in an approved facility. Potencies are gently low, but effective.

Richard Croft, originator of Fading Puppy Remedy, developed the product over many years of observation, and by trying over 800 combinations. Europeans have used it for over 30 years, and it has treated tens of thousands of puppies and kittens successfully. The Dog Breeder Store modernized this formula by adding pharmaceutical-grade homeopathic ingredients and safer inactive ingredients.

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Active ingredients

Carbo Vegetabilis is known for its ability to reverse near-death states. This has earned Carbo Veg. the characteristic title of the “corpse reviver.” This state of collapse is where this remedy proves its value: Animals in traumatic shock, septicemia, colic, liver, or kidney shutdown. These can all precipitate the Carbo Veg. state. The animal is cold, gasping, has air hunger, mental and physical inactivity, lack of circulation and bluish skin and gums (cyanosis). There may also be pale mucus membranes in the inner linings of the eyelids. The animal seems too weak to hold out. Carbo Veg also helps with gas, bloating, and oxidation.

Calcarea Carbonica helps when organs’ nutrition is impaired, and acts on glands. Increases energy and aids in poorly toned muscles, fatigue and muscle weakness. Improves circulation and access to calcium.

Acidicum Acidum is often prescribed for anemia, hemorrhage, gastric upset, wasting and debility, bloody stool, nausea, emaciation, weak heart, vomiting. This ingredient is prescribed for profound weakness.

Hepar Sulphuris is indicated by liver imbalances, constipation, pain and sensitivity to cold. Helps with inflammation, glandular swellings.

Kali Muriaticum A cell salt for animals with swollen glands, earaches and infections, and any ailment that affects the blood, muscles, and mucus membranes.

Impatiens glandulifera helps with pain, shock and trauma.

Nutrition: Fading Puppy Support powder

Fading Puppy Support poweder

Fading Puppy Support powder is a blend of nutritional support including prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, colostrum, glucose, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. Designed for newborn and older puppies, adults and senior dogs during weakness and compromised times of stress, all in one, concentrated powder. This can be alternated with formula to boost the weakened puppy’s nutritional status.

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Two powerhouse products

Better together

To purchase both with the Fading Puppy Syndrome Deep Dive booklet, all at a discounted price, order the Fading Puppy Complete Kit.