Perinatal Mortality in Puppies


Dr Rob Foster

Normal values

Age determination

Van den Broeck et al (2023) reports on the aging of normal puppies based on radiology of ossification centres of the carpus.


Van den Broeck M, Chen Y, Cornillie P. Age estimation of puppies based on the radiographically assessed development of ossification centres in the carpal and metacarpal regions. Vet Rec. 2023 Jan 24:e2582. doi: 10.1002/vetr.2582.

General considerations

There is little in the peer reviewed literature about perinatal mortality in puppies.

Perinatal mortality is grouped with puppy mortality and stillbirth by Chastant-Maillard et al (2016) who reported the results of a survey of breeders in France. Stillbirths were 7.4% of 204,537 puppies from 37,946 litters, and stillbirth and deaths to 2 months of age were 13.4%. No specific disease statistics were provided.

Stalker and Anderson (2019) reported on the cause of death in 75 puppies. The following were the causes

Cause of death Total 0-2 wks 3-8 wks 9-16
Congenital defects 7 3 3


Trauma 6 5 0 1
Bacterial 35 17 15 3
Viral 15 5 7 3
Protozoal 3 0 2 1
Miscellaneous 8 0 4 4




Stalker M, Anderson M. Common causes of puppy mortality diagnosed at the AHL, 2015-2018. Animal Health Laboratory Newsletter, June 2019.


Chastant-Maillard S, Guillemot C, Feugier A, Mariani C, Grellet A, Mila H. Reproductive performance and pre-weaning mortality: Preliminary analysis of 27,221 purebred female dogs and 204,537 puppies in France. Reprod Dom Anim 2016;

Non infectious


Congenital ichthyosis

Hoffmann et al (2016) reported on several litters of Great Dane puppies who had congenital ichthosis and they died in the neonatal period and up to 60 days.


Metzger J, Wöhlke A, Mischke R, Hoffmann A, Hewicker-Trautwein M, Küch EM, Naim HY, Distl O. A Novel SLC27A4 Splice Acceptor Site Mutation in Great Danes with Ichthyosis. PLoS One. 2015; 10 :e0141514.

Hoffmann A, Metzger J, Wöhlke A, Peters M, Junginger J, Mischke R, Distl O, Hewicker-Trautwein M. Congenital Ichthyosis in 14 Great Dane Puppies With a New Presentation. Vet Pathol. 2016; 53: 614-620.

Hydrops fetalis

Hydrops fetalis is also called Walrus puppies, or water puppies. There is edema throughout the entier puppy and especially beneath the skin. These puppies can be 4-5 times normal size and often results in
dystocia necessitating a Cesarean section. The disorder is a recessively inherited trait and most
commonly affects brachycephalic breeds but does occur in other breeds including the Cairn
Terrier, the German Shepherd Dog, and the Belgian Sheepdog and Belgian Tervuren


Hopper BJ, J. L. Richardson JL, N. V. Lester NV (2004) Spontaneous antenatal resolution of canine hydrops fetalis diagnosed by ultrasound. J Sm Anim Pract 2004, 45: 2–8

Low birth weight.

In many species, low birth weight and low growth rate is a risk factor for perinatal and neonatal mortality. In a study by Mila et al (2015) where puppies were weighed at birth and 2 days of age and mortality was recorded to day 21. Most low birth weight puppies died in the first 2 days, but a low birth weight did not influence death from 2 to 21 days. Those with a low early growth rate (less than -4%) from day 2 were more likely to die. Birth weight was related to litter size - more puppies meant lower birth weight.


Mila H, Grellet A, Feugier A, Chastant-Maillard S. Differential impact of birth weight and early growth on neonatal mortality in puppies. J Anim Sci. 2015; 93: 4436-4442.

Maternal trauma


Neonatal isoerythrolysis

Neonatal isoerythrolysis occurs in dogs when there is incompatibility for DEA 1.1, 1.2.  This occurrs when a DEA 1.1 negative bitch is sensitized by transfusion of DEA 1.1 positive blood or by previous pregnancy by a DEA 1.1 positive sire followed by a second
breeding to a DEA 1.1 positive sire. Severe intravascular hemolytic anemia and hemoglobinuric nephrosis results.


Anticoagulant toxicosis





Goericke-Pesch et al (2018) cultured bacteria from the uterus of 50 dogs undergoing caesarian section for dystocia and correlated this to mortality. Bacteria were identified from 34 dogs and there were 12 had Staphylococcus epidermidis, 7 had the Staphylococcus intermedius group, 6 had B haemolytic streptococci, 4 had Staphylococcus aureus and 4 had gamma haemolytic streptococci. They were mostly in low collony counts. The number of bacteria were higher in those with stillbirth puppies.

Goericke-Pesch S, Fux V, Prenger-Berninghoff E, Wehrend A. Bacteriological findings in the canine uterus during Caesarean section performed due to dystocia and their correlation to puppy mortality at the time of parturition. Reprod Domest Anim. 2018 Aug;53(4):889-894.


Anaplasma playtys

Puppies can be infected with Anaplasma playtys, the cause of infectious canine cyclic thrombocytopaenia, from their infected mothers. It is by transplacental or neonataly.

Matei IA, Stuen S, Modrý D, Degan A, D'Amico G, Mihalca AD. Neonatal Anaplasma platys infection in puppies: Further evidence for possible vertical transmission. Vet J. 2017; 219: 40-41.

Brucella canis

Campylobacter jejuni

Sahin et al (2014) described a case were an newborn pup had low numbers of neutrophils and macrophages in the placenta. Campylobacter jejuni was cultured from the placenta and lung and liver.


Sahin O, Burrough ER, Pavlovic N, Frana TS, Madson DM, Zhang Q. Campylobacter jejuni as a cause of canine abortions in the United States. J Vet Diagn Invest. 2014; 26: 699-704.

Escherichia coli


Guerrero et al (2018) examined dogs that had a normal puppies and those with neonatal deaths.They compared cultures of Streptococcus canis and Streptococcus dysgalactiae of the vaginas of the bitches. More culture positive bitches had neonatal deaths, and those that had puppies that died of Streptococcal disease had less deaths if pennicillin was administered to bitches.




Canid alphaherpesvirus 1

Canid alphaherpesvirus-1 is in the order Herpesvirales, Family Herpesviridae, subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae, genus Varicellovirus.

Canid herpesvirus 1 is somewhat unique amongst the herpesviruses as its main disease manifestation in dogs is perinatal mortality and death of puppies up to 8 weeks of age, and sometimes older.

Much of the early work on canine herpesvirus in puppies was done in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Hypothermic puppies are much more likely to have CaHV-1 replication and disease (Carmichael et al 1969)

Larsen et al (2015) examined 57 puppies from 37 litters that were stillborn (21) or neonates (1 to 7 days) (25) or older (11). 13 puppies were infected with CaHV-1 as detected with PCR. 6 of them were in the older age group, 3 were in the neonatal and 4 in the stillborn groups. Only 1 puppy had signs of CaHV disease and it was 13 days old.

Jager et al (2017) described the neuropathology of acquired canine herpesvirus-associated meningoencephalitis in puppies that were stillborn through to 57 days old. Lesions were usually glial nodules with or without perivascular cuffs and meningitis. Some puppies has segmental necrosis of internal granular cell layer of the cerebellum.

Puppies normally have a drop in temperature at birth and Lúcio et al (2019) found that body temperature drops from about 36.5 at birth to 32 an hour later, This is in the optimal range for CaHV to proliferate.


Carmichael LE, Barnes FD, Percy DH. Temperature as a factor in resistance of young puppies to canine herpesvirus. J Infect Dis 1969; 120: 669-678.

Jager MC, Sloma EA, Shelton M, Miller AD. Naturally Acquired Canine Herpesvirus-Associated Meningoencephalitis. Vet Pathol. 2017; 54: 820-827.

Larsen RW, Kiupel M, Balzer HJ, Agerholm JS. Prevalence of canid herpesvirus-1 infection in stillborn and dead neonatal puppies in Denmark. Acta Vet Scand 2015; 57: 1

Lúcio CF, Garcia Silva LC, Vannucchi CI. Haematological and biochemical analysis of healthy neonatal puppies during the immediate foetal-to-neonatal transition. Reprod Domest Anim. 2019 Oct;54(10):1419-1422.



Carnivore bocaparvovirus 1 (Canine Minute Virus)

Phylum Cossaviricota, Class Quintoviricetes, Order Piccovirales, Family Parvoviridae, Genus Bocaparvovirus Species Carnivore bocaparvovirus 1 Canine minute virus

Canine Minute Virus causes bronchitis, interstitial pneumonia, myocarditis and necrosis of the small intestinal villi.


Carmichael LE, Schlafer DH, Hashimoto A. Minute virus of canines (MVC, canine parvovirus type-1): pathogenicity for pups and seroprevalence estimate. J Vet Diagn Invest. 1994; 6: 165-174.

Decaro N1, Amorisco F, Lenoci D, Lovero A, Colaianni ML, Losurdo M, Desario C, Martella V, Buonavoglia C. (2012) Molecular characterization of Canine minute virus associated with neonatal mortality in a litter of Jack Russell terrier dogs. J Vet Diagn Invest. 2012; 24: 755-758

Järplid B, Johansson H, Carmichael LE: (1996) A fatal case of pup infection with minute virus of canines (MVC). J Vet Diagn Invest 1996; 8: 484-487.

Canine Parvovirus 2 (CPV)




Kelli M. Almes, Kyathanahalli S. Janardhan, Joseph Anderson, Richard A. Hesse and Kristin M. Patton. Fatal Canine Adenoviral Pneumonia in Two Litters of Bulldogs. J VET Diagn Invest 2010 22: 780