The term fading puppy syndrome (FPS) or fading puppy complex has been used inconsistently to refer to any failure-to-thrive syndrome beginning from birth to weaning that results in death despite all attempts at treatment. However, the term ‘fading’ has been mostly applied to neonatal puppies. The neonatal period has been defined variously as the first seven or 10 or 21 days. The reality is that the neonate is born immature and maturation occurs only gradually over a period of weeks. For example, the external ear canals of the puppy are occluded until between 12 and 14 days after birth. Further enlargement of the canal continues until its size and relationship to the other external ear structures appears to be normal, at about five weeks of age. Glomerular filtration in the kidneys increases from 21 per cent at birth to 53 per cent at eight weeks old. Tubular secretion also matures at eight weeks of age. Thus, any cut-off point in development in the first weeks of life is arbitrary but the change from the nest period, when the neonate is completely reliant on the dam for its survival, to the stage when it can start to feed itself and walk away from the nest marks a turning point when the puppy becomes far less vulnerable to a variety of factors.
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