How Do You Care for the Runt of the Litter?

The runt of any litter needs the same care as the rest of the newborns, including nursing every few hours, being kept warm and proper medical care. The key is to pay close attention to the health of the runt and ensure that it does not develop fading syndrome.

The smallest puppy, kitten or another animal of a litter is sometimes referred to as the "runt" of the litter. These newborns are generally smaller, possibly underweight and weaker than the others. Runts are at risk of developing fading syndrome and dying before reaching 12 weeks of age.

It may be tempting to try and overfeed the runt of a litter to help it gain weight faster. However, this can lead to joint problems and digestive issues. The recommendation is to ensure that the runt gets the same level of care as any other newborn and to ensure that it gets the right medical care.

Allow the runt to stay with its mother and make sure that it can nurse as needed, every few hours. If the mother rejects it or the pup is in danger, bottle feeding or syringe feeding may be required. Weigh the newborn daily to ensure that its weight continues to go up. Keep the runt warm and comfortable. A heating pad wrapped in a towel works well.

Owners should keep an eye out for fading syndrome, which is when newborns get progressively weaker, lose weight and may stop feeding. If fading syndrome is suspected take the runt to a veterinarian for treatment. Otherwise, the first vet visits may occur around 6 weeks of age for an exam and vaccinations.