What Exactly Is a Runt Of a Litter?

By the vague definition, a “runt” simply means the smallest or weakest in a group. When looking for a new furry pal to bring into the family, most people tend to look at a litter of puppies and ignore the cute little runt of the litter. This is usually because they assume the puppy, being smaller and weaker, is less playful and more susceptible to sickness.

In reality, there is no universal definition of what constitutes the runt of the litter. Although a runt is usually physically smaller in size than the rest of their siblings, this does not necessarily mean they are weaker or sicker at the start of life. Also, a puppy being smaller than the rest of his/her brothers and sisters doesn’t necessarily mean they are the runt. This is where the catch comes in. We’ll get to that later. 

Why Does a Runt in the Litter Occur?

Runts are born because of the fact that mama dogs, like most animals, have a Y-shaped uterus. By luck, the puppies in utero who are closest to the blood are able to obtain higher levels of nutrients, while the babies in the mid-section of the uterus receive less. This is why all the puppies in a litter differ in size, at least by a little bit, with the puppy who probably received the least amount of sustenance being the runt. There has never been a recorded case of there being more than one runt in a single litter.

Is Getting a Runt a Good Idea?

Now back to the catch; Because runts are indeed tinier than their puppy siblings, they are unlucky in that they have to live with certain disadvantages. To start, at the beginning of their life, runts struggle to compete with their siblings for milk from mom, due to their small size. This can be dangerous, as the most important time frame for a newborn puppy to drink mama’s milk is within the first 48 hours when colostrum, (the antibody-rich milk for immune strength) content is high.

If the runt fails to get enough, or any colostrum in these first two days, they will have much weaker immune systems and definitely be more susceptible to sickness, or death. Due to this, the caregiver will need to provide the pup with a natural puppy formula that contains naturally occurring microbes. 

Secondly, the runt of the litter is sadly sometimes ignored by the mama dog for natural selection reasons. In other words, she decides that the healthy pups are more important to sustain, as they are more likely to survive. All of this means that runt puppies, being so fragile and more prone to sickness, need extra tender loving care, especially if they do end up coming down with a mild to severe illness. 

Deciding to take a runt of the litter home is not a bad idea if the right steps are taken to ensure they stay healthy. In fact, there are a lot of stories of people bringing home a runt puppy, only to see them thrive later in life and in some instances grow to be huge!

Raising a Runt Puppy

The first step that should be taken when a runt is born is to help them get milk from mom. Since they will have more trouble getting to the milk than the other puppies will, you may need to assist them. In addition, being weaker, once on the nipple, they may not be able to get as much milk out as their siblings. You can help them with this by allowing one of the bigger pups to nurse first, getting the milk to flow, and then gently taking them off to let the runt nurse with ease. Another tip is to place the runt at the lowest teats, closest to the mama dog’s tail, as these produce the most milk.

Secondly, it is important to get the runt a checkup with a veterinarian to make sure they do not have a genetic abnormality or congenital defect that may be preventing them from growing. If all is well, and your little runt is simply underweight, it is crucial to weigh them daily to be sure they are catching up on weight gain. Sometimes, a veterinarian may recommend a supplement to help them along. 

All puppies, especially runts, require lots of warmth during the first weeks of life. It is a good idea to place a warming lamp above their whelping box, which keeps the area situated at around 85 to 90 degrees Farenheight. (Try to look for one that does not emit radiation). Your runt puppy may need serious medical intervention from a vet if they are failing to gain weight or if they feel cool to the touch, even with all warmth provided. 

Lastly, if you keep the runt together with the rest of his puppy family, it is vital to keep a close eye on their interactions, as the bigger, chunkier puppies can easily hurt the smaller runt when playing or roughhousing.

How To Take Care Of Your 6 Month Old Puppy

Easy. The most important thing to remember is to feed your new friend and give them plenty of water. Enjoy! Just kidding, let’s dig deeper into owning and taking care of your new addition to the family.

Having a puppy for the first time can be extremely daunting. Between the responsibility of another life, and the difference between them and actual babies, it’s easy to get confused and a bit lost. Luckily, this guide is going to teach you everything from vets to playtime to make sure your little buddy is happy and healthy for a long time to come.

Pomeranian Cutie Patootie

Find a Vet

First and foremost, you need to make sure that your puppy is physically fit and completely free from any diseases. Ensure that there are no congenital disabilities. If you fail to find a reliable vet, seek help or support from friends or dog groomers.

Finding a good vet is extremely important. As much as you can do to assure your puppies health yourself, most things are best left to a professional.

Your first visit is going to be an important one, and there are a whole lot of things you’re going to need to discuss with them!

Husky Pupper Getting Examined by a Vet

First, you’re going to want to set up a vaccination plan. Vaccines are the safest bet to keep your puppy protected from many diseases and illnesses that can affect them. Getting them sorted out sooner rather than later will save you a lot of stress and money in the long run.

Discuss options for controlling any parasites. Dogs can get anything from fleas to worms, all of which can be awful at best and catastrophic at worst. Make sure you know what to look out for and how to prevent them.

Another thing to look out for is signs of illness such as lack of appetite, swollen and painful abdomen, or nasal discharge. Your vet will be able to tell you a whole lot more about what to look out for and how to address it, so make sure to ask them.

Don’t forget to ask about spaying or neutering your pet! Six months is usually when it can be done, but there are a few cases when you should wait and it’s best to talk it over with your vet.


Puppies need a different sort of food than adult dogs. Puppy chow usually has more calories and protein to make sure your puppy grows up strong and healthy. Though the biggest decision you’ll have to make is: Dry, canned, homemade, or raw?

The all have their pros and cons, and in the end it’s going to be up to you and your own situation. The least I can do here is give you the info you need to make an informed decision.

Dry Food

On the pro side, dry food is a lot more affordable than other options. The nutrition is pretty balanced and it’s better for their teeth than soft foods. Not only that, but it’s easy to store and travel with as well as clean up if your puppy makes a mess of it – which is almost a guarantee.

Dry Dog Food

Unfortunately, lower quality dry food can incorporate chemicals and by products. They can also have fillers that irritate more sensitive digestive tracts and can cause dehydration due to the low moisture content.

Canned Food

Canned food is really tasty for dogs! Even the pickiest aren’t above scarfing down a can with no problem. It’s easy to digest for dogs getting over an illness, and easy on dogs with sore mouths or missing teeth. It also has long shelf life, so you can stock up and keep it stored for a while.

On the downside, it’s a lot more expensive and messy, not to mention that it has a lower calorie count than others. It’s prone to contamination, and must be used quickly after opening or stored away in your fridge. It can also cause your pup to have to use the bathroom more often with how much more moisture it has.

Homemade Puppy Food

Due to the nature of it, it can be pretty fresh which helps with the ingredients maintaining their nutrition. It’s definitely a plus for dogs with any food allergies, and it gets rid of any dyes and hormones since you’re making it yourself!

This option is rather expensive too, as well as being a bit harder to store. It’s also very hard to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients your dog needs without proper recipes, so nutritional deficiencies are common with homemade chow.

Raw Food

Raw food tends to be the most natural. Dogs are, at their most basic, carnivores, so this option is more likely to give them healthier skin and cleaner teeth as wells as improved digestion. Raw food is a good option for the picky eaters too.

However, this one is usually the most expensive option. Raw meat can also be nutritionally lacking for your dog, and have harmful bacteria for humans!

Even with all of this information, it can be a bit tricky to pick which one is right for your puppy. Your best bet is to keep a close eye on them whenever you’re trying out a new food.

Different dogs, and dog breeds in general, have different nutritional needs. Make sure to work with your vet and your pup to figure out what’s right for them.


Good hygiene is another important step for keeping your puppy happy and healthy! There’s quite a bit to cover, so bear with me.

First is to make sure your dog has clean bedding! Make sure to wash it regularly, preferably with a gentle, fragrance free soap. You don’t want anything irritating their skin or nose!

Brushing your dog depends entirely on what kind of breed they are, but it’s always sure to keep their skin healthy and coat glossy!

If they’re of the long hair variety, a quick brush once a day will prevent tangles and knots and clear any debris that might be caught in it.

Short haired dogs need to be brushed too, though only about once or twice per week. Always make sure to brush with the grain (not against) to make sure you don’t cause them any pain or discomfort.

It’s always a good idea to keep their nails clipped short. This can be very tricky if you don’t know how to do it, and cutting them to short can lead to bleeding and even an infection. Luckily, most groomers and vets will do it for a small fee!

Finally, bathing your dog is vital to their well being! It can be rather daunting though, especially if your dog is nearly as big as you are! Here’s a quick rundown on how to do it.

1. Prep your bathing area

While bigger dogs can use a bathtub, it tends to be better to wash the smaller ones in a sink or basin. The bottom is going to get slippery, so put down a towel or rubber mat to make sure they can keep their footing and stay safe!

2. Prep your pup

Give them a quick brush to get out any tangles or debris and take off their collar. After that, take a couple of cotton balls and place them in their ears – but not too deep! When water gets into their ear canals, it can cause an infection. You just need to keep those dry.

3. Give them a good wash!

This part is rather simple. Just wet them down, lather them up, and rinse them off! Make sure to avoid their face or ears in the process. If your dog’s face is dirty, simply wipe it down with a damp washcloth.

Lab Taking a Bath

4. Dry them off

Pat them down with a towel. Be careful not rub the towel over their fur – this can cause a lot of matting in long hair breeds. If you want to save time, a microfiber towel will get the job done a lot quicker but a regular one will do just fine.

Some people like to blow dry their dogs. If you plan on going this route, make sure to keep the heat setting on low or cool and never point a hair dryer at your dogs face.

If you’re still unsure, you can find a more in depth guide here!


Training is often overlooked for puppies, but it sets up good habits for the rest of their life! At six months, it’s good to stick to basic obedience training, the classic sit, lay down, and stay. This will make sure that you can keep them under control in a potentially dangerous situation.

Other than that, it’s good to socialize them! Take them to the dog park, let them meet other people and dogs while keeping a close eye on them. This can keep them from feeling scared and lashing out in unfamiliar situations.

Puppies are very energetic, that’s no secret! Make sure that you play with them and give them some safe toys to play with and chew on!

Like I said before, getting a dog for the first time can be pretty stressful. Hopefully, now that you know how to take care of your puppy and keep them in tip top shape, you’ll be able to focus on all the good things that come along with having a little buddy!