When should I be worried about a runt?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

As a dog lover and experienced pet owner, I understand your concern about the well-being of a runt puppy. It’s important to monitor the behavior of the mother dog towards the runt to determine if there is cause for worry.

One clear sign that you should be worried about a runt is if the mother dog pushes away or rejects the puppy. This can be seen through her actions, such as refusing to allow the runt to nurse or actively avoiding the puppy. This rejection can be due to various reasons, including the runt being significantly underweight, weak, or underdeveloped.

If the mother dog consistently pushes away the runt and shows no interest in caring for it, this is a cause for concern. The runt may not receive the necessary nutrition and warmth from the mother, which could affect its growth and overall health. In such cases, you need to step in to provide the care and attention the runt requires.

Another indication that you should be worried about a runt is if it is unable to nurse properly. Puppies rely on their mother’s milk for essential nutrients and antibodies that help build their immune system. If the runt is unable to latch onto the mother’s nipples or if it struggles to nurse effectively, it may not be getting enough sustenance. This can lead to malnourishment and further complications if not addressed promptly.

Additionally, if the runt appears significantly smaller and weaker compared to its littermates, this can be cause for concern. While some size variation is normal in a litter, a runt that is excessively smaller and visibly weaker may require extra care and attention. It may need assistance in feeding, staying warm, and receiving proper veterinary care to address any underlying health issues.

It’s important to note that not all runts face severe health challenges, and with proper care, they can thrive and grow into healthy dogs. However, if you notice any of the aforementioned signs, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian for guidance and support. They can assess the runt’s overall health and provide appropriate advice on how to care for the puppy.

In my personal experience, I have encountered runts that required additional care and attention. One particular runt in a litter I fostered was noticeably smaller and weaker than his siblings. The mother dog showed little interest in nursing him, and he struggled to latch on and nurse effectively. With guidance from a veterinarian, we implemented a feeding schedule using a puppy milk replacer, ensured he stayed warm with a heating pad, and monitored his progress closely. Over time, he gradually gained weight, grew stronger, and eventually caught up with his littermates.

Remember, each runt is unique, and their needs may vary. It is essential to observe their behavior, consult with professionals, and provide the care they require to give them the best chance at a healthy and happy life.