Fading kitten syndrome does not refer to a single condition, but a variety of health problems that arise as a kitten matures and develops. As it always affects the young one of a cat, in that respect FKS is often compared to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) - a medical condition common in human babies.
The inability of newborn kittens or neonates to survive is known as fading kitten syndrome. As mentioned before, FKS does not refer to a single medical condition, but to various other conditions that can affect its health at an extremely early stage. Fading kitten syndrome can affect the kitten in the fetal development stage, during birth, or during its nursing stage.
It is difficult to detect this condition, because kittens who die from it appear extremely weak and die suddenly. The problem affects the kitten gradually, and in most cases isn't diagnosed on time until a crisis develops. The prognosis rate is also unimpressive, and hence, the only way to save the kitten is to understand the causes and symptoms which might help to detect the problem early.
Causes of Fading Kitten Syndrome
The causes of fading kitten syndrome are divided into the following categories: Environmental, Infectious, and Genetic and Congenital factors.
The body temperature of a kitten may vary with the environment, thus making it easily vulnerable to becoming too hot or cold. Kittens start to shiver when they are about 6 days old, which helps keep them warm. They also develop the ability to pant, if they are feeling too hot. If the environment is too cold, the kitten won't be able to digest its food. The cold surroundings can also cause their circulatory system to collapse, and heart rate to decrease. Hyperthermia is extremely rare in kittens, but it does happen, and kittens suffering from it cry relentlessly.
A dam can display maternal neglect as she may be nervous, inexperienced, or extremely sick. The mother might probably refuse to lie with the litter to keep them warm, and not feed them enough milk due to lack of milk production. She might also abandon the litter, which would make them vulnerable to several environmental infections and predators.
Kittens are extremely vulnerable to intestinal parasites (roundworms and hookworms), as they can be transferred through the placenta, and most of them are born with these infectious agents. In most instances, kittens have acquired these parasites through nursing. It is important to remember that these agents aren't life-threatening, but can cause various other illnesses which can prove pretty dangerous.
Due to their weak immune systems, kittens are prone to a greater risk of infection of the placenta, umbilicus, and respiratory and gastrointestinal tract from toxic agents in the environment. Also, infection from viruses, such as calicivirus and feline herpes, is common. Kittens are also prone to coronavirus infections, that can cause infectious peritonitis and diarrhea.
Genetic and Congenital Causes
The normal weight of a kitten at birth varies from 100 to 120 grams. Kittens with a weight lower than that have extremely less chances of survival. It is normal for them to lose a little weight during the first 24 hours of life, but after that, weight gain should be steady. Birth defects related to the mouth, skull, anus, and heart are responsible for the untimely death of many kittens. Some of the most common birth defects that usually involve the nervous system are cerebellar hypoplasia and spina bifida. Congenital cardiovascular diseases common among kittens include valve defects, aortic stenosis, Tetralogy of Fallot, septal defects, and patent ductus arteriosus.
Neonatal isoerythrolysis, also known as hemolytic icterus, is another common birth defect that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of kittens every year. It occurs when the mother and her offspring share a different blood type, and the antibodies in the mother's blood start working against the blood type of the newborn. Neonatal isoerythrolysis becomes evident after one or two days of birth and can prove severely fatal.
Kittens affected by FKS are born or grow weak, stop nursing, and eventually die. Unless a variety of tests are not performed, determining the exact cause of the fading kitten is difficult. Treatment is possible if the cause of fading kitten syndrome is detected early enough, and it includes administering fluids, antibiotics, and thermal support. Sadly, not all causes are treatable, and especially in cases of neonatal isoerythrolysis, there are less chances for survival.Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.