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Why Puppies Die

The first two weeks of life is the period of greatest risk for newborn pups. Unfortunately, some early neonatal deaths are due to lack of advance preparation, especially failure to provide adequate heat in the whelping quarters, failure to vaccinate the dam (which causes neonatal infections), and failure to provide the dam with an adequate diet during pregnancy. These deaths are preventable.

Maternal factors are critical to puppy survival. Novice, obese, and elderly dams have higher puppy mortality rates than do experienced, well-conditioned, and younger dams. The quantity of the mother’s milk is also of utmost importance. Genetic influences may play a role, but in most cases milk supply is insufficient because the dam has not been fed enough calories. This is especially true for dams with large litters.

Congenital and acquired birth defects are infrequent causes of newborn deaths. Cleft palate, often accompanied by harelip, prevents effective nursing. Large navel hernias allow the abdominal organs to protrude. Heart defects can be severe enough to produce circulatory failure. Other developmental disorders that may be responsible for neonatal deaths include hemophilia, esophageal atresia, pyloric stenosis, anal atresia, and malformations affecting the eyes and skeletal system.

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