Nursing kittens sometimes weaken and die for no obvious reason. This is usually attributed to a poorly understood group of diseases and health conditions called fading kitten syndrome. A kitten suffering from this syndrome starts out healthy and then quickly declines.
Fading Kitten Syndrome Causes
Experts have suggested a number of potential causes for fading kitten syndrome. These include the following:
- Neglect by the mother
- Low body temperature
- Bacterial Infections
- Viral Infections, including Feline Herpes Virus, Panleukopenia, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Leukemia Virus, Calicivirus and Coronavirus
- Intestinal parasites
- Toxins in the environment
- Obese mother
- Physical abnormalities
- Metabolic problems
- Immune system dysfunction
- Neonatal alloimmune hemolytic anemia, a disorder caused by a kitten with blood type A ingesting colostrum from a queen that is type B
- Birth weight under 3.2 ounces
In most cases, fading kittens will be affected by more than one of these problems.
Fading Kitten Syndrome Symptoms
With so many causes contributing to failure to thrive in newborns, symptoms can vary greatly. This means that owners and breeders need to seek veterinary care for any kitten that shows abnormal physical signs or behavior. Some potential warning signs for fading kitten syndrome include the following:
- Separation from the mother and other members of the litter
- Constant crying
- Failure to nurse
- Weight loss
- Inadequate weight gain
- Blue tinge to the gums
Fading Kitten Syndrome Treatment
Initial treatment of a fading kitten is aimed at stabilizing the animal. Most fading kittens suffer from hypothermia, so an important component of initial treatment is warming the pet gradually. This is critical because cold kittens have low heart rates and cannot digest food appropriately. Most hypothermic kittens also suffer from low blood sugar due to their inability to digest food, so another goal of early treatment is to maintain adequate blood sugar levels. Caregivers can provide sugar as an oral glucose solution or a dextrose solution given intravenously or intraosseously. If the kitten is dehydrated, it will also need to receive warmed fluids.
Once the kitten is stable, it is important to provide appropriate formula or food. At this time, the treating veterinarian can also run diagnostic tests and address any other treatable health issues contributing to the kitten’s condition.
The best way to care for a newborn kitten is to take care of its mother. If the queen is healthy and feels safe, she is more likely to care for her babies properly. Owners and breeders simply need to observe kittens and monitor weight gain and general health status. Any kitten abandoned by its mother, failing to properly gain weight or showing any other signs of fading kitten syndrome should receive immediate veterinary attention. Raising a kitten? Know about Kitten Basic Care: How to Raise a Kitten.
If you need to raise an orphaned or abandoned kitten by hand, you should consult a veterinarian for instructions about appropriate care and feeding. You will need to feed the baby regularly, stimulate it to urinate and defecate, keep it warm and do your best to minimize environmental stress.
Puppies can also be affected by this syndrome: Fading Puppy Syndrome.