Further ailments of newborn puppies

Very often, it is the runt of the litter that becomes sick, and dies earliest.
Q: What is the runt of the litter?
A: The RUNT is the one pup (sometimes more than one) which is unusually small as compared with its siblings. Its growth is stunted.
Such physically disadvantaged pups would have a lower birth weight, as compared to the others of the same litter. This is visually obvious, even if you do not have a scale to weigh the pups. Such a pup just lacks the muscle mass. The fatty layer under the skin is palpable and thin. All of these physical inadequacies would lead to the pup(s) being unable to breathe well. When it has to compete with its siblings for the mother’s milk, it would not be able to nurse adequately and successfully.

Q: What causes runts to be delivered by a mother dog?
A: 1. It may be of a genetic origin – fertilisation of inferior quality egg (from the mother) and sperm cell (from the stud dog) to start the life of what may turn out to be a potentially disadvantaged pup (the runt).
2. Inadequate nourishment during the time when the pup(s) is (are) in the mother’s womb. (All the more reason for the mother dog to be fed well during pregnancy).
3. Overcrowding (too many puppies) in the womb.

Q: Can the
caregiver save the runt?
A: Yes, but it would be very difficult, as a lot of time and effort must be expended to foster growth, development, and survivability. We discussed the hand-rearing of newborn pups in recent Pet Care columns, and the methodologies described would be applicable to runt(s) in a litter.

Q: What is FPS?
A: This is a condition reminiscent of human babies dying early in their lives, identified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). I shall not venture into providing a definite opinion about the sameness of the two problems, of SIDS and FPS.
Newborn puppies (especially the weaker ones) which are born into stressful environments do not do well, and may die within a few days. FPS incorporates other considerations. In FPS, the pups are usually healthy and mobile at birth, then suddenly begin to lose vitality. Within a day or two they die, if not removed from the litter and taken care of independently. As for the treatment of runts, I refer to the hand-rearing of ailing and failing new-born pups discussed in previous “Pet Care” columns.

Q: What causes FPS?
A: There is much debate among research scientists over the cause(s) of this condition. Empirical observation of clinic practitioners tends to identify certain specific characteristics relative to FPS:
i. Sibling rivalry (as early as) within a few days of life – as the pups “fight” for the mother’s milk (breast).
ii. Size (weight) of the pup at birth.
iii. Unhygienic environment into which the pups are born.
iv. Inherent internal (invisible) and external (visible anatomical) birth defects.
v. Rejection by the lactating mother.
vi. Diseases. (Not all pups are born with the same (immune level) ability to fight off invading germs.
vii. Breed disposition
viii. Premature/prolonged labour.
ix. Parasitism.
1. After about 5 days of age, surviving pups seem to be able to cope better with stressful conditions.
2. The mother dog may not possess a well-developed immune system. This leads to the birth of pups that are more easily susceptible to stressors, including actual diseases.
3. Scientists are examining virus involvement in FPS. In fact, the wise books are now equating FPS with Canine Herpes virus – Type 1 (CHV-1). At some later point, when we are discussing virus diseases, we will return to the CHV-1 in puppies – not lastly because of associated disorders and other factors.
4. There is another specific ailment (Cardiopulmonary Syndrome), which is a blood circulatory problem in the new-born pup. Next week we will spend some time explaining this ailment. We feel it is important within the context of discussing FPS.