Failure to thrive in puppies is a phenomenon defined by some as failure of weight gain and general un-thriftiness from birth, and others as regression in growth and development in animals that had been growing well. Common among both theories are low birth weight, abnormal environment, or maternal neglect with secondary hypothermia, failure to ingest colostrum within 24 hours of birth, parasites and septicemia.
Signs associated with animals that never grow well include failure to suckle effectively (cleft palate), or congenital abnormalities of metabolism. Signs associated with animals that had been growing well but then stagnate or regress in growth and development varies depending on body condition.
Anatomic and metabolic causes of poor body condition may include porto-systemic shunt, renal failure, mega esophagus, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and cardiac disease. Signs associated with good body condition include hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and adrenal disease; however these are very uncommon in puppies.
Monitor your puppies’ weight. Puppies should be weighed at birth and every day thereafter. They should remain stable or gain weight every day, doubling their birth weight by about 10 days of age. Other signs of illness can include moving away from mom or littermates, crying for more than 20 minutes, poor muscle tone or being persistently rejected by mom. Monitor temps–normal rectal temp varies by age, averaging 96.0F in the first 7 days of life, 98.6 – 100.0F from 7 to 21 days and gradually achieving adult values by 7 weeks of age.
Puppies can dehydrate quickly because of their relatively large surface to volume ratio compared to adults, greater skin permeability, increased total body water content and decreased renal function with subsequent inability to retrieve water. Dehydrated puppies that are not hypothermic can be tubed and provided with oral fluids.
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