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What is Anasarca?

Puppies born with anasarca are commonly called walrus puppies, swimmer puppies, rubber puppies or water puppies. This is because they are born with a deadly amount of fluid underneath their skin. There is still not enough research done to truly understand why puppies are born with the condition. Some researchers believe that it occurs when puppies are in the birth canal too long and trauma from the contractions causes swelling, however, this is speculative.

Anasarca is generalized edema, this includes lymphedema and is often associated with nephrotic syndrome, hypoproteinemia or liver failure resulting from infectious canine hepatitis. Anasarca is a life-threatening condition that is most common in the brachycephalic breeds, such as English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers and Bull Mastiffs. Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs, Tervurens and Australian Shepherds have been known to have anasarca.

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Symptoms of Anasarca in Dogs

It can be difficult to determine if an expectant mother is carrying a puppy that has anasarca. Some breeders and veterinarians have reported noticing the following symptoms in pregnant dogs:

  • Additional weight gain resulting from excessive fluid
  • Water ring around the teats
  • Swollen mammary glands
  • Shifting of puppies from one side to another
  • Leakage from the vulva

Many breeders opt to have an ultrasound performed about two weeks before their dog’s expected due date. The ultrasound will show if there is an oversized puppy that appears to have excessive water retention in comparison to the other puppies in the uterus. 

Puppies born with anasarca will have the following symptoms:

  • Bloated or distorted features
  • Rubber looking skin
  • Flat chest with front legs splayed
  • Swollen or distended abdomen, legs and or head

Causes of Anasarca in Dogs

Puppies that have excess fluid build up can be born with up to five times their normal weight. All puppies can be affected, but generally only one or two puppies are affected with anasarca. Puppies born with anasarca have a very low survival rate, puppies that are severely swollen with excess fluid are at risk of their skin splitting open or their abdomen rupturing from the swelling. 

Researchers believe that anasarca is a congenital problem but it is still unclear if this is an inherited condition except in English and French Bulldogs. Some researchers believe that environment also plays a part in the development of anasarca in neonatal puppies. There has not been enough research conducted on anasarca in dogs to definitively report the exact cause of anasarca in dogs.

Diagnosis of Anasarca in Dogs

Only an ultrasound during the later phases of pregnancy can detect whether or not a pregnant female is carrying a puppy that has anasarca. If the entire litter is affected, an ultrasound may not be effective since the puppies are compared to each other looking for abnormalities that would indicate excessive fluid build up. 

When a puppy is born with anasarca, it is usually very obvious from the visible symptoms that are present. The puppy will have swollen, distorted features and will have a rubber-like appearance to its skin and body.

Your veterinarian will need to run additional tests on the puppy to determine the extent of the fluid build up and any organ damage that has been done. Generally, a puppy that is diagnosed with anasarca will have a low chance of survival.

Treatment of Anasarca in Dogs

Puppies that are mildly affected with anasarca have the highest chance of survival and your veterinarian will probably suggest that the puppy be hospitalized while undergoing treatments. Puppies that are severely affected with anasarca are generally recommended for euthanasia. 

Treatments include elevating the puppy’s head and also extending the neck to clear the airway so your puppy can breathe easier. Urination will need to be encouraged, puppies cannot urinate on their own when they are first born and they will need to be stimulated in order for them to express their bladder. 

Lasix is becoming an accepted treatment for puppies diagnosed with anasarca. Lasix is chemical furosemide which is a diuretic saluretic. This means that Lasix will inhibit the resorption of sodium. Lasix is administered intravenously immediately after birth. 

Your puppy will need to be on a warming blanket or put in a warming chamber to regulate body temperature. Breathing will begin to level out as the excess fluid is being expressed from your puppy. Mildly affected puppies will take between one to two hours to begin breathing normally. Moderately affected puppies have a lower survival rate and will take anywhere from an hour and a half to four hours to begin breathing normally.

Recovery of Anasarca in Dogs

Most puppies that are severely affected by anasarca will not survive; they generally drown in the excess fluid within 30 minutes of being born. Euthanasia is recommended for these puppies so they do not suffer needlessly. Puppies that do survive anasarca can grow normally and lead healthy lives. There are occasions when damage to the puppy’s organs has occurred and the puppy does have health issues that continue for their lifetime.

Anasarca Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Malaya
English Bulldog
2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Swallen teats

Hi , i have a dog , preganat english bulldog,accordingto the vet shes due nov 18 onwards , base on her first stud shes have white sticky like discharge, her 2 teats are swallen , and shes drinking so much water ..i worry a lot shes gonna gave water puppies.can you guys give me some advice what to do .. Thanks in advance

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2952 Recommendations
If you are having some concerns about Malaya, you should visit your Veterinarian since problems at this stage of pregnancy can be dangerous for Malaya and the pups; infections, hormonal issues, trauma and other issues may cause problems for the pregnancy. If you are noticing changes like increased water consumption and vaginal discharge it would be advisable to have your Veterinarian give her a once over and to perform an ultrasound to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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