Disorders of Neonates
Neonates are classed as puppies from birth to weaning. They are susceptible to several disorders with the more common ones being the following conditions.
(1) Genetic disorders - All newly born puppies must be checked for cleft palates inside their mouth and deformities between lip and nose (oronasal fistules) at time of birth. There are also many breed specific hereditary disorders that have been identified in dogs. Specific tests for affected and carrier dogs are available for some defects.
(2) Failure to thrive - It is not uncommon that the body weight of a newborn puppy decreases during the first day from birth, but the body weight should increase steadily after the first day. Puppies gain, on average, 10 to 15% of their birth body weight daily and their body weight will be double by 10 to 14 days. Any puppies that fail to gain weight must be examined for diseases and physical disorders, and the bitch must also be checked, especially the quantity and quality of milk produced. Puppies may give the appearance that they are nursing even when they are weak and not being nursed. Monitoring of their body weight is important in picking ill puppies. Failure to put on body weight can be an early warning sign for neonatal septicaemia, genetic diseases, inadequate nutrition or infected milk.
(3) Swimmer pups - Swimmer pups are unable to stand. They attempt to move across the floor with a paddling movement. It occurs in overly fat puppies, or those with illnesses such as heart disease. Affected puppies are reluctant to elevate themselves. Those which are able to raise on a smooth surface flooring demonstrate splay legs due to lack of traction when attempting to walk. The cause has been reported as genetic in origin. Puppies may develop a flattened chest cavity if the underlying cause of the 'swimmer' condition is not corrected and the limbs are not used. The shape of heart, lungs and oesophagus may also change as flattening progresses, thus affecting the viability of puppies. Attempts to prevent splaying are important if leg splaying is detected early. Any non-genetic based condition can be rectified by placing the puppies on non-slippery surfaces (e.g. by placing towels or carpet in whelping area), by hobbling legs together to prevent further splaying, and by applying physical therapy to improve muscle functions.
(4) Pectus excavatum - This is a congenital deformity of sternum and rib cartilages resulting in top-to-bottom narrowing of the chest. The deformity, and subsequent chest constriction, must not be confused with 'swimmer pups'. The lateral widening and compression of the chest is more diffuse in 'swimmer pups'. 'Swimmer pups' are likely to affect several pups within a litter. Regarding 'pectus excavatum', the narrowing is more localised and usually only a single pup in a litter is affected. The sternum appears to intrude into the chest in 'pectus excavatum' and such chest malformation often causes both respiratory and cardiovascular abnormalities. This in turn results in difficult breathing, purple gums and vomiting.
(5) Noenatal septicaemia - Neonatal septicaemia has long been associated with death in puppies. It has also been known as 'fading puppy syndrome' due to the rapidity of death after signs are first noticed. The incidence of noenatal septicaemia is unknown partly due to lack of confirmed diagnosis in many cases. As the sepsis spreads rapidly, pups suspected of neonatal septicaemia must be treated immediately.