Remember me telling you about my friend Neila, who was trying to introduce a Rottweiler puppy into her already pretty full household? Well, I’m happy to say that things are looking up. Lucy, the adult female, is almost ready to accept little Dallas. Of course, Neila is still being careful, but it looks as though re-homing Dallas can probably be taken off the agenda.
Now, as it turns out, Neila has another issue. Through word of mouth, she has discovered that Dallas was actually the runt of the litter, and she has heard that this is not a good thing. So, what is the truth about runts? Are you really going to be in for a world of trouble if you take the little guy? Personally, I think there is great potential for a good outcome, but let’s talk a bit about them first. There are some problems with runts, but some misconceptions as well.
What Is a Runt?
Technically, a runt is an animal that is abnormally small, and possibly deformed. Most of the time, though, people use the term “runt” to denote the smallest in the litter. And let’s face it, someone has to be the smallest. So, for our purposes, we are going to simply refer to the smallest puppy in the litter as “the runt,” even though this is not truly an accurate description.
The smallest puppy in the litter is usually the one that occupied the middle of the uterus and got fewer nutrients from the mother than the others. It may also be the last puppy conceived.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “What do you mean, the last puppy conceived? There was a breeding. Puppies were conceived. How is anyone the last?” Well, with a single exposure to the male, you’re right – they’re all pretty much conceived at the same time. But a bitch can actually conceive several times over the course of her heat, and, in fact, many breeders will simply allow the dog and bitch to be together over the course of a few days, in the hopes of getting a large litter. So in that way, there are puppies that are conceived later than others, although they are all born at the same time. The puppies conceived later over the breeding period will usually be smaller.
Is Bigger Better?
Yes, it usually is. And especially with large litters, the smaller puppies may find it difficult to get access to mother’s milk. They may also not get as much of the colostrum immediately after the birth. The colostrum, or “first milk”, is what contains the vital antibodies that protect puppies from illness. This is the most important meal in a puppy’s life, and if he has to go without, the puppy will lack protection. This is why runts sometimes get sick and die within a few weeks.
Also, because they are smaller than the other puppies, runts can have weaker bones. Often, this can be corrected by means of supplements once the puppy is weaned. You should not give supplements to un-weaned puppies. Weaning usually takes place in about eight weeks, and at that point, you can begin offering a supplement like Animal Naturals K9 ‘Puppy Gold’ Growing Puppy Nutrition Supplement by K9-Power. It is available in a four-pound container from Amazon and is a bargain at $65.99 because it will last for a long time. It is also eligible for Prime Shipping.
If you have ended up with the runt of the litter, it is up to you to provide it with special care. If you take no action, your dog can actually end up with a number of problems that are associated with weak bones well into adulthood.
So, ending up with the runt does not have to be a bad thing. In fact, sometimes the puppy that is tagged with the term “runt” can overtake its siblings. Dallas is proof that there are no hard and fast rules. I’m not suggesting that you don’t use a supplement, but Neila didn’t, and now Dallas is bigger than any of the others in the litter. It just goes to show you that even though you think you know all the supposed “rules”, sometimes puppies will rewrite the rule book.
A Word of Caution
I don’t think you should never take the runt. Sometimes, he’s the one that tugs at your heartstrings the most. But you have to know what you could be getting into. The runt may need special care, and you have to be willing to provide it.
About those heartstrings, though… sometimes breeders will try to tug on them. Don’t be taken in by breeders who try to tell you, “Poor little guy – if someone doesn’t take him, I’ll have to have him put to sleep.” Not going to happen. Breeders only come in two varieties – the ones who will ruthlessly cull any animal that is not up to proper standards long before you see it, and the ones who are not going to cull, period. Don’t feel that you have to take a puppy that does not appeal to you because you think you are saving its life – you’re not.
The term “runt of the litter” is a misnomer. Often, you could think of a litter of puppies as simply consisting of big and bigger. If the puppy appears healthy, and displays no deformities, then technically, it is not a runt. If you take the runt, proceed as you would with any other puppy – have him checked out by your vet and weighed regularly to make sure he is growing as he should. He could end up growing into a total monster, but if he remains the smallest one out of the litter, as long as he is healthy, remember that good things can come in small packages. And, of course, if you and your vet feel that it is warranted, offer a supplement to help him on his way.