It’s perfectly fine to choose the runt of the litter as long as it doesn’t have serious health issues. Being born underweight doesn’t always imply that the puppy is unhealthy. In fact, with proper care, runts can easily catch up to the size of their siblings.
So, if you have locked eyes with an adorable tiny puppy (the smallest ones are always the cutest!) and are now contemplating, ‘is it ok to pick the runt of the litter’, you have your answer.
However, you should know a few things first about picking litter runts and how to look after them…
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Should You Pick the Runt of the Litter?
Whether or not you should pick the tiniest furball will depend on what you mean by “runt.” If you mean a slightly underweight but otherwise healthy puppy, go ahead and pick it. We’ll even walk you through some guidelines below to help this little one gain weight and grow strong.
However, if by runt you’re referring to an abnormally underweight puppy, getting one might not be the best idea.
You see, puppies born with a slightly low birth weight have an 81% chance of dying within the first two days. But those who weigh 25% less than the average birth weight (abnormally underweight) are at a higher risk of passing away. Even if the significantly smaller pup survived, it could face several health complications.
So it’s usually best to have the breeder weigh the runt and perform health checks on it before taking it. If the weight was within a safe range and the results didn’t show signs of serious illness, you could welcome your new tiny family member!
Do Runts of the Litter Grow To Full Size?
Runts of the litter can grow to be the normal size of a husky. Yet, this is determined by two interdependent factors:
Getting Enough Nutrition
Runts are born with a fragile bone structure, making them weaker than their siblings. So when it’s time for the litter to receive nourishment from their mothers, smaller furballs have difficulty competing for milk.
If you’ve ever seen a dog nursing, you know how puppies fight over a feeding spot, so runts don’t usually stand a chance against the rest of the squad.
Not to mention that mama doggo can ignore her weaker babies so she can focus on the healthier ones; talk about the harsh reality!
All of this contributes to runts not getting enough nutrients to help them grow and lead healthy lives. Consequently, breeders must identify litter runts early on to ensure they receive enough nutrition. This will give them a better chance of reaching their full size.
Absence of Health Issues
Canines, like humans, require essential nutrients to fight disease. If runts don’t receive an adequate nutrient supply, their immune systems will be compromised. This, in turn, makes them more susceptible to health problems.
These potential health complications can hinder the litter’s development and even put their lives at risk.
For example, fading puppy syndrome is a common illness associated with litter runts, and one of its symptoms is failure to gain weight. Some of its main causes are lack of mother care and improper nursing.
How to Care for the Runt of a Puppy Litter
Don’t worry; caring for these tiny pups isn’t as challenging as you might think. That is, of course, assuming you follow these four guidelines to help them thrive:
1. Ensure Adequate Nutrition
Generally, you can’t adopt or buy a puppy until it’s at least eight weeks old. Thus, before you can bring this bundle of joy home, make sure the current owner is committed to providing it with adequate nutrition.
We’ll go over the specifics of a healthy puppy diet so you can get a sense of what it looks like. First off, runts should be completely dependent on their mother’s milk for the first four weeks.
Colostrum, the first milk produced by the mother, plays a major role in litter development. It’s packed with nutrients and antibodies that boost their immune system, which is especially vital for runts.
Pups then enter the weaning phase, during which they transition from their mother’s milk to solid food. At this point, you should ensure that your runt is fed high-quality, balanced puppy food to aid its growth.
Your pup should be completely weaned off its mother’s milk by the age of eight weeks and ready for you to take it. It goes without saying that you’ll need to continue feeding it nutritious solid food (see our recommendation below).
Further reading (mostly for those with husky puppies):
2. Maintain Proper Hydration
Your puppy will be able to drink water by the time you get it. Keep a bowl of fresh water nearby and monitor your furball to ensure it’s staying hydrated. The ideal daily water intake is between half and one ounce per pound of body weight.
Dehydration is a bad omen for runts, so keep an eye out for it.
Dehydration symptoms include:
- Losing skin elasticity
- Sticky or dry mouth (rather than a wet one)
3. Create a Warm Environment
Adding a source of heat to your pup’s environment will greatly benefit it, especially during the colder months.
This is primarily to support your runt in maintaining a safe body temperature. Otherwise, its temperature may drop dangerously low, leading to hypothermia. Its warning signs can be as mild as shivering or as severe as losing consciousness.
To avoid this, simply place a heating pad on one side of your runt’s space. That way, your furball can use it for warmth if it gets cold. Just remember to wrap the pad in an insulating layer, such as a towel, to prevent skin burns.
4. Monitor the Weight
If you get a well-fed, healthy runt, it’ll grow quickly in the first six months, just like any other husky puppy. However, if your pup isn’t gaining or losing weight, you should take it to the vet because this could be a sign of illness.
Weigh your runt daily to ensure they aren’t getting too skinny. You can use a digital kitchen scale for this.
Further reading: Why is my dog skinny?
So, is it ok to pick the runt of the litter? Yup, as a matter of fact, caring for healthy runts doesn’t differ much from caring for normally-sized ones. As long as you provide them with adequate nutrition, hydration, and temperature, they’ll grow big in no time!
On a side note, you can consult with your vet about giving your furry friend supplements to help strengthen its immune system.
Whether you choose the runt or not, but especially if you do, you’ll want to ensure they have adequate nutrition. We recommend buying your dog food from Ollie.