Fading kitten syndrome

May 16, 2024 | ASK OUR VET, Cats

Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS) is a condition that affects newborn kittens, typically within the first few weeks of life. It is also known as Kitten Mortality Syndrome. It refers to a kitten’s failure to thrive during the period between birth and when they wean from their mother or a bottle. This period lasts about four to five weeks, when a kitten is most vulnerable to sickness.

Fading Kitten Syndrome is typically fatal, but recognising the symptoms can help you to understand when to get veterinary help.

Fading Kitten Syndrome: the causes

These are usually a combination of factors including poor nutrition, genetics and infection.

  • Trouble during birthing
  • Lack of maternal antibodies (cells that help protect kitten’s immature immune system)
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Parasites
  • Malformations present at birth (e.g., heart defects, gastrointestinal defects, brain defects, lung defects)
  • Low birth weight
  • Trauma
  • Maternal neglect
  • Malnutrition

Genetics can also play a role. If a mother cat has a blood type that differs from her kitten, her maternal antibodies may attack the kitten’s red blood cells, causing anaemia that can lead to fading kitten syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Fading Kitten Syndrome?

Kittens may appear healthy at birth but soon become weak, lethargic and lose weight. They may also have difficulty nursing or show signs of infection.

Kittens that fail to meet normal developmental milestones may be experiencing FKS. Some of these milestones include:

  • Ability to turn over from their back by day 3 after birth
  • Ability to support themselves on their feet by 2 weeks of age

Other symptoms include:

  • Making distressed sounds (whining or crying) even after feeding
  • Lethargy and lack of appetite
  • Poor suckling reflex
  • Inability to gain weight
  • Laboured breathing
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Nasal or eye discharge

Treating FKS

If your young kitten is behaving oddly in any way or failing to thrive it is essential to get him or her to the vet as early detection and veterinary care are crucial. Treatment may include antibiotics, nutritional support, and fluid therapy. Unfortunately, even with treatment, some kittens will pass away.

Can FKS be prevented?

It is often not a preventable condition, however ensuring the mother’s health and nutrition during pregnancy is vital to begin with. Ensure she is fully vaccinated and has been protected against parasites.

It is also essential to provide a clean environment for your mommy cat and her newborns, and keep a close eye on the kittens. If you’re at all concerned about a kitten’s health or behaviour, don’t hesitate to ask your vet for advice.

 

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