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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Fading Puppy Or Kitten View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Puppies and kittens are very susceptible to illness, and they can go from being healthy to near death within hours.


If they are losing fluid through vomiting or diarrhea, becoming less active, not nursing aggressively, or crying frequently, take them to your veterinarian within 4 - 6 hours of seeing these signs.


A range of problems can cause them to fade, from parasites and blood compatibility problems to viruses and maternal neglect. Hypothermia, dehydration, and hypoglycemia are the major causes of death in young pets, and there is little time to waste when a nursing puppy or kitten shows signs of distress.


Diarrhea and vomiting quickly dehydrate tiny puppies and kittens. This can make them move less, which causes them to lose body heat and can lead to hypothermia. Low blood sugar develops if they fail to nurse regularly. They will need medical attention immediately and can die without help. Pets who are 8 - 20 weeks old have a little more reserve, but they can also become severely dehydrated in a short amount of time.


First aid can support pets until you can reach a veterinarian. If the babies are vomiting or have diarrhea but are still active and nursing, call your vet for advice.

  1. Keep him warm - The most important step is to keep the puppy or kitten warm. Young pets do not have built in thermostats to regulate their own body temperatures, and they quickly get chilled if separated from the litter or their mother. Be sure to buffer the heat source so that the puppy or kitten doesn't get burned. You can use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. A 20oz plastic water bottle filled with hot water and wrapped with a thick, dry kitchen towel will also work, and it holds the heat for a long time. Judge the temperature of the wrapped bottle on your skin, as it should be a comfortably tolerable heat.

    You can also put plain, uncooked rice in a thick sock and microwave it for a few minutes, but let it sit for up to 5 minutes to let the heat distribute evenly. Be careful to check the heat over the entire sock to be sure you do not burn your pet.
  2. Keep giving fluids - Giving your puppy or kitten fluids will fight possible dehydration. Nearly any kind of fluid will work - kitten and puppy milk replacers are available from pet-supply stores and catalogs or at your veterinarians office. If nothing else is available, dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in a cup of warm water and serve. the fluid not only fights dehydration, but also helps keep the blood sugar level in check.

    Use an eyedropper or needle-less syringe and see if the animal will swallow. Be careful that he doesn't choke. Remember that puppies and kittens shouldn't be held on their backs to nurse like human babies. They will take the nourishment more readily and naturally (without the danger of choking) when they are allowed to rest on their bellies as they would when nursing from their mother.
  3. If he won't nurse - If your puppy or kitten refuses to nurse or is unconscious, dab a little Karo syrup or honey on his gums and get to the veterinarian right away. If will be absorbed through the tissue and help to keep his blood sugar levels normal.


There are times when puppies and kittens are so sick and weak that they aren't able to suck or swallow and will starve without being helped to eat. Experienced breeders routinely tube feed puppies and kittens who need help by threading a flexible, hollow tube down each baby's throat into the stomach, and injecting food with a syringe. It saves time when feeding a whole litter because it takes only about 2 minutes to feed each one. No air is swallowed (so no burping is required), and you know that each baby is getting the right amount of food. If your veterinarian advises you to tube feed your litter, they will provide complete instructions.


Some puppies and kittens will be so dehydrated that your vet may recommend giving them fluids when they come home from the hospital. Subcutaneous fluid therapy (injecting fluid under the skin) can be tricky because their skin is so thin that the needle often goes in one side and out the other side of the skin. Puppies and kittens also have a very limited amount of space to hold fluid under their skin, so only tiny amounts can be given at a time, depending on the size of your pet.

Your vet will give you the syringe and fluid and demonstrate how to use. To inject the fluid, draw the recommended amount into the syringe. Gently "tent" the skin on your pet's shoulders, then insert the needle and gently depress the plunger. Watch for leakage - if you see any, withdraw the needle slightly so that the fluid goes beneath the skin and not outside the body. This may be necessary several times a day.

When intestinal parasites are diagnosed, your puppy or kitten will probably be treated once at your vet's office and then several times at home with medication prescribed according to his weight. With very young pets, this is usually a liquid medication like Nemex-2 (pyrantel pamoate) or Piperazine. For liquids, draw up the prescribed amount in an eyedropper or needle-less syringe, insert the tip into your pet's mouth between the cheek and gum, tip his head up, and slowly squirt the liquid. Give only a small amount at a time to make sure that your pet doesn't choke.

Puppies or kittens who don't nurse well, or who have been rejected by the mother will need to be fed commercial puppy or kitten milk replacer. Just Born is made for both puppies and kittens. There is also Esbilac for puppies and KMR for kittens. It should be warmed to about 100F so that it won't upset their stomach. How often and how much to feed varies by the age and size of the pet. Check the package or ask your vet for specific instructions. Usually, puppies and kittens need to eat every 2 hours for the first 2 weeks, then every 4 hours for another couple of weeks, and finally about every 6 hours.

You can also get nursing bottles for puppies and kittens at pet-supply stores, but you need to be sure that the opening in the nipple is large enough for the milk replacer to pass through easily. Fill the bottle with the milk replacer then hold it with the nipple end down. The milk should drip slowly, without the bottle being squeezed. If it doesn't, heat a sewing needle with a match and use it to enlarge the opening. Be sure not to open the hole too much because the pet can aspirate (breathe in) the food into his airway and down into his lings. test the bottle before using it. You can also purchase a nursing kit that contains everything you will need to nurse newborn puppies or kittens at pet stores or from pet supply catalogs.

Once puppies and kittens are 4 weeks old, they can begin eating mushy solid food. Run a quality commercial puppy or kitten food through the blender with water or a commercial milk replacer to make a gruel. Avoid cows milk because it can be hard to digest and can cause diarrhea. Offer food in a shallow pan so that it is easy for your puppy or kitten to eat.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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