Treating “Fading Puppy Syndrome” or Orphaned Pups with Fresh-Frozen Plasma

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Recently, we have been discussing canine emergency care situations that require blood transfusions. Did you know that you can also give orphaned puppies fresh-frozen plasma (FFP)? Bulldog breeder, Sora Ngo, made a wonderful instruction video on how to tube feed puppies with fresh-frozen plasma, which she obtained from Hemopet. Hemopet offers 12 mL tubes of FFP that are the ideal size to treat fading puppy syndrome or orphaned pups. To order FFP from Hemopet, please call Jennifer at (714) 891-2022 ext. 1 or email her at jenniferlane[at]hemopet[dot]org.

When puppies are born, they receive colostrum milk from their mothers. The milk is packed full of nutrients and antibodies to protect puppies from infectious diseases like parvovirus and distemper. The first 36 hours are critical since the neonatal intestinal mucosal lining is open then to accept the maternal antibodies. After that, absorption through this mucosal lining shuts down. The colostrum–derived antibodies gradually wane from birth over the next three months or so, and most are gone by the age of 14-16 weeks.

Until then, what remains in their body is called “residual maternal antibodies”, which are present in decreasing amounts to help protect them from the common infectious diseases in their environment.

Sometimes a puppy is weak or orphaned, did not receive enough colostrum, or might have the “fading puppy syndrome”. In this instance, we can replace the colostrum with FFP either by injection or orally in the first 36 hours of life. The FFP then provides a source of globulins (plasma protein antibodies) to protect the puppy against common viruses and other microbes.

Responsible breeders often have a few tubes of FFP on hand and may give it to ensure the pup has enough nutrients and antibodies.

Rescues and shelters frequently have abandoned mothers whose vaccination histories are unknown. Additionally, pregnant and nursing dogs should not be given any vaccines as these could harm her health and her litter’s health. So, these organizations would particularly benefit from having a few tubes of FFP on hand. As a side note, Hemopet does offer a 10% discount to rescues and shelters.

Plasma treatment for orphaned puppies or for those receiving only minimal colostrum after birth should be given three times in the first 24-48 hours of life: 1st at birth; 2nd in 12 hours; and, 3rd time in 12 hours after the 2nd. Treatment for healthy newborns may be repeated at 5 to 14 days of age and then again at 3 to 4 weeks of age. For sick newborns, more frequent transfusions of FFP may be necessary. These transfusions are usually given intraperitoneally (IP), but they can also be given orally in the first 24-36 hours of life. FFP is salty, so it should be followed with a little drop of honey (not raw honey for newborns) or syrup on the tongue. When puppies are two days of age or older, the route of administration must be IP (or IV or subcutaneously) and not oral, as the antibodies in plasma will no longer be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.

If you are unsure about administering the plasma, please consult with a veterinarian.

Sora’s Additional Tips:

  • This is just a simple clip of us tubing a puppy. If you are not experienced in this, please ask a mentor, veterinarian or myself on further instructions and tips. It is relatively simple to tube feed, but please exercise caution when it comes to handling any newborn puppy.
  • Never tube hot formula or cold formula. Puppies need room temperature liquids.
  • It is nearly impossible for the feeding tube to go down into the trachea (windpipe) and get in the lungs. Make sure the pup suckles on the tip of the tube, so that it will glide down the esophagus. Make sure you get the right size of tube. If it is too small, it could go down into the windpipe.  
  • PINCH the tube when pulling the tube out of his mouth so any trace of left over liquid does not flow out on its way up out of the puppy.
  • Never try to feed a cold or unresponsive puppy.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

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