A Quick Guide to Fading Kitten Syndrome

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
If you’re working with young kittens, you’ll need to know about Fading Kitten Syndrome. Here’s what you need to know about FKS.

Fading Kitten Syndrome, which is also referred to simply as FKS, is considered a series of symptoms that could lead to the death of a neonatal kitten. Foster parents and rescuers, as well as anyone else who is planning on working with young kittens, should be aware of what Fading Kitten Syndrome does and what efforts can be made to stop it from advancing. Because this is considered an emergency situation, having a plan in place will allow you to take action quickly.

The Causes of FKS

FKS isn’t considered a disease, but rather a set of symptoms associated with a kitten’s failure to thrive. A variety of conditions could lead to Fading Kitten Syndrome, such as parasites, viral infections, bacterial infections, and congenital defects, but environmental factors and human error when hand-raising a kitten could also play a role.

Related: What Is an Umbilical Hernia in Kittens?

Neonatal kittens are delicate and their immune systems are still immature, so they’re vulnerable to the symptoms associated with Fading Kitten Syndrome, and what might appear to be a small problem at first could quickly escalate. For example, you might notice that a kitten has diarrhea, but this could then trigger hypothermia, anemia, emaciation, and dehydration, as well as the shutting down of bodily functions. This is why immediate intervention is necessary.

The Symptoms of FKS

A kitten who is showing signs of FKS will deteriorate quickly, so if you notice any of the following symptoms, consider it an emergency and take your kitten to a veterinarian right away:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Hypothermia
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • An inability to gain weight
  • Loss of muscle, causing a gaunt appearance
  • Strange vocalizations, such as whining, that indicate pain
  • Abnormal breathing, such as open-mouth breathing or gasping for air
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Lack of interest in eating
  • Sleeping alone, away from littermates
  • Neck arching

Again, if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to not waste any time. This is why experts recommend knowing which veterinarian, and which emergency veterinary clinic, to turn to when FKS arises. Having access to a vet with experience in feline pediatrics or a specialization in neonatal kitten care can be helpful as well.

Related: How to Care for an Orphaned Kitten

The Treatments for FKS

Your veterinarian will examine your kitten to figure out if there are any illnesses, such as parasites or a respiratory infection, that need to be treated. But in addition to figuring out the underlying cause of Fading Kitten Syndrome, the vet will also be able to provide supportive care to address secondary symptoms like hypoglycemia or dehydration.

A fading kitten might need to be fed with a tube, and subcutaneous fluids might help keep the kitten hydrated. Plasma therapy may also be a treatment option to provide immune support, and supplementation with vitamin B12, iron, and dextrose may also be helpful.

Unfortunately, when FKS strikes, it might become too advanced too quickly, and there could be extreme suffering that can’t be treated. At that point, a veterinarian might recommend euthanasia.

The Key Is to Act Fast

If you have a neonatal kitten, it’s best to keep a close eye on her to ensure that she is thriving. And if you are a rescuer who will be hand-raising kittens, you can even consider receiving training to provide immediate care at home whenever necessary so that you don’t waste any time. With FKS, the key is to act quickly, as doing so might help increase the odds of the kitten surviving.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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