Is The Runt Of A Dog Litter More Prone To Health Problems?

We are getting a dog but we need to know whether, if we were to get the runt, if it would be prone to illness or other health issues. Thank you.

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17 Responses to Is The Runt Of A Dog Litter More Prone To Health Problems?

  • Animal Artwork & the Lou says:

    It depends on why the pup is a runt.
    If its due to a later conception date – thus making it a couple days “younger” in development than the other pups – no
    If its due to litter size and uterine placement (lack of room to grow) – no
    If its due to a congenital anomalie (something wrong with it healthwise) – yes
    In a well bred litter from a responsible breed who bred health screened parents – its uncommon for the runt to have any issues other than needing a bit more care in the early days of its life.
    In a backyard bred or puppymill puppy – there is no way of telling what the issue is.
    I’ve had 3 runts in a total of 8 litters. All were from large litters and all grew up to be larger than their same sex parent. All have passed their OFA (hips/elbows) CERF, cardiac and thyroid clearances. Two have achieved their AKC Championships… and the third is on her way.

  • anwen55 says:

    It’s a common misconception that every litter has a runt. In a well planned litter all the pups should be roughly the same size although, obviously, one will be the smallest, just as one will be the biggest.
    A runt is a puppy that is not just noticeably smaller but is slower opening its eyes, getting on its feet etc. It depends why it’s slow as to whether it will have health problems later.
    A reputable, knowledgeable breeder would never sell you a puppy which is likely to develop health problems due to a poor start.

  • ♥love♥ is a German Shepherd Dog says:

    Yes, it can be, and a lot of it has to do with developmental needs. In the uterus, it means the runt probably wasn’t getting as many nutrients from the mother as the other puppies were. Maybe the litter was too large. The dog did not get enough nutrients, didn’t form as well.
    As soon as the pup is born, it is a constant battle with litter mates to drink the milk. The biggest puppies win in feeding struggles and receive the most milk and, therefore, the most nutrition. Smaller puppies feed the smallest amount of time, don’t receive as much nutrients, and it is down hill from there.
    Being so small can be an obvious lack of under-development. That can mean many internal deformities and problems.
    Now, is this true of all runts? OF COURSE NOT! However, runts can have a higher risk of being unhealthy. You should only BUY a dog through a responsible breeder, and responsible breeders have a very few health problems with their dogs because they breed healthy, tested dogs. A byb, your dog has a high risk of illness and health problems no matter the size.

  • marci knows best says:

    Not necessarily. If it comes from a reputable breeder from strong breading stock, it can be just a healthy as the others. Totally depends on why it was the runt.
    If it has pre-existing health problems such as a weak heart, yes it will have health problems. If it is because the pup was the result of a later breeding – dogs bred over a 2 day period, and it is just a couple days younger, rarely a problem. Have it checked by your Vet before you buy.

  • akitagrl says:

    I think it’s important to remember that every litter has a biggest puppy and a smallest puppy (though they may not be the same puppies from week to week), but not every litter has a runt. A true runt is MUCH smaller than its litter mates, like 1/2 to 2/3 as big and often is more lethargic and/or unresponsive. If it’s truly a runt then it probably already has problems.

  • Tori says:

    Depends. If it is considerably smaller than the other puppies, then, yes, it could have more health issues. This is only because it is smaller, and can be weaker than other puppies. It could also be deprived of nutrients or the right amount of food that it needs. My kitten was the runt (i know this is different than dogs) and she’s just a small cat. No health issues whatsoever. So, look at the puppy, how it acts, and is the only thing different about it it’s size, and not behaviour/body type?

  • Solar Panel says:

    Because it is weaker, it’ll have had less time feeding from mum due to the other stronger pups pushing in. That means less infection-fighting antibodies. They also tend to have less fat on their bodies which means they get colder easily.
    All these issues can contribute to problems when the pups turn into adults.
    Get the liveliest, brightest, most healthy looking puppy.

  • suzi-q says:

    It can go either way. I am drawn to the runts, or smallest pup in the litter every time and I guess I have been very lucky, because they are all fine. no problems with health issues.
    The runt of our last litter has turn out to be the best and healthiest.most breeders will give health guarantees.I always recommend that pup is taken to a vet within 5 days and offer a full refund if returned with a vets statement concerning a health issue, within 30 days of purchase.
    So just make sure your breeder will make it good. oh, and sometimes the runt needs more time with moma. don’t take any pup home until at least 8 weeks old.

  • ♥PoodlePuff♥ bybrs kill dogs says:

    Yes, they do tend to have more health problems as they are not as developed as the other pups.
    While some may live to a ripe old age with no problems, as a general rule they aren’t healthy and a lot of them die in the first few weeks.
    The ones that do survive grow up to become breeding stock for backyard breeders who want to make “Teacup” dogs.

  • Not necessarily. In a litter of 9 pups from a pure bred dog (or non-pure bred) there is bound to be one pup that is smaller than the others. Not all puppies come out the same size. The runt is just the smallest puppy. If it eats well and gets good nourishment, chances are that there will be no lasting health issues. It depends how small it was and how much it had to fight for food. Ask the breeder to detail its weight gain since birth. If it did good gaining weight and the vet gives a thumbs up, I don’t see a problem.

  • DeeDawg says:

    depends. if it’s just a bit smaller, maybe no. size variances can happen, especially in poorly bred or mixed breed litters. having a pup who is smaller may mean nothing.
    if the pup is small and sickly, or looks undernourished, lacking energy, etc. then the answer is a resounding yes, it probably will have more health problems.

  • alexis88 says:

    It can but it depends on how the runt is raised. The smallest can be nurtured and develop the same as the others. It does depend on the breeders care most of all. Our smallest get extra care in those first few days and end up the same size as the others. It is all in the care and watchful eye of the breeder.

  • spider pig!!!1 says:

    i guess it depends how its raised. ive seen a runt puppy become bigger than its brothers and sisters when it was fully grown

  • Naysaツ says:


  • ppc coach says:

    yes. not to be mean. but yeah, deff.

  • yes they are more prone to problems, health and emotional.

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