Swimmer Puppy Syndrome: Everything You Need to Know

Swimmer puppy syndrome: what is it? How can you know if a puppy has it and what causes it? What, if anything, can be done to treat swimmer puppy syndrome, and what is the outlook? There is hope, which is nice.


Puppies who are physically unable of standing and walking properly are referred to as “swimmers” because they use their legs like how sea turtles paddle when stranded on high land. A swimmer puppy normally lays flat on its chest and tummy, with its forelegs stretched in front and/or to the sides and its hind legs extended behind.

A swimmer pup’s thorax flattens after an extended period of immobility, which impairs respiration and limits its ability to feed effectively. Milk is frequently regurgitated in puppies that have swimming puppy syndrome as newborns.

Swimmer pups frequently struggle with their whole digestive system; as a result, many struggle to urinate and end up constipated. Without therapy, a swimmer puppy runs the danger of having severe joint abnormalities brought on by repeatedly keeping their legs at an odd angle.

Arrowhead Bulldogs


How can you determine if a puppy is a “swimmer” besides their paddling their legs like small turtles or pushing themselves along on their stomachs like snakes? A few things to watch out for are:

  • Instead of seeming rounded, the puppy’s chest will appear flattened.
  • You’ll probably see that the dog is having some respiratory issues.
  • Puppies who swim are frequently sluggish.
  • The puppy’s legs typically seem permanently splayed to the sides by the time it is one week old, regardless of how it is held.
  • The puppy won’t be learning how to stand and walk like its littermates by the time it is three weeks old.

Call your veterinarian right once if you observe any of these conditions or even the remotest suspicion that a puppy is a “swimmer.” The puppy’s prognosis is likely to be better the sooner therapy can start.

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Large dog breeds are less likely to develop swimmer puppy syndrome than small and dwarf dog breeds. Due to the rarity of this illness, little study has been done to ascertain its etiology While some veterinary professionals think the problem is inherited, others blame conditions that restrict puppies from moving around enough to adequately grow their muscles. Others think that swimmer pups are born with birth problems known as congenital defects.

The good news is that swimmer puppy syndrome can frequently be treated, regardless of its underlying cause.


Humane euthanasia used to be the sole “remedy” for swimmer puppy syndrome. These puppies are no longer in hopeless situations.

Since there are several ways to cure swimmer puppy syndrome, many doctors are eager to step in and offer the puppy a shot at a happy, healthy life. Given that every person is different, only your veterinarian can say if these or other solutions are practical.

  • Suspend the puppy for up to 20 minutes at a time, up to four times a day, using a harness or sling. The goal of this procedure is to make muscles stronger while relieving strain on the chest and abdomen.
  • Ask your vet to demonstrate how to tape or hobble the puppy’s legs into place. Although every situation is unique, this is often done gradually, for just 15 to 20 minutes per day, and initially only 3 to 4 times each day. The puppy’s paws only barely contact the ground and are not at all supporting the puppy’s weight when used in conjunction with the harness or sling technique.
  • Avoid areas with slick surfaces so the dog can get traction.
  • To prevent the pup’s thorax from being squashed as much as it would be on a hard surface, make sure the bedding is fluffy and soft. Cutting holes in an old sock and filling it with fluffy material to keep the chest up can also work to make a soft vest that the dog may wear.
  • Instead of lying on its stomach, encourage the puppy to sleep on its side. Help the puppy shift positions when feeding and napping while you are nearby.
  • At least a few times each day, tickle the puppy’s paw pads with a soft toothbrush. This mild stimulation can aid in nerve growth and urge the puppy to move its legs more frequently and forcefully.
  • Regularly massage the dog, especially after eating. A full-body massage may stimulate your muscles and nerves while improving your digestion.
  • Use your fingers to gently urge the puppy to stand up and make “walking” gestures with its legs. The puppy can also be trained to make these motions while being carried in a sling.
  • Make sure the puppy is getting enough to eat without becoming obese. Weight gain makes recuperation more challenging.
  • Clean up after the puppy. Swimmer pups frequently find themselves laying in their feces since they can’t fully relieve themselves. This may result in uncomfortable lesions and complicate the healing process. If your veterinarian allows, apply a moisture barrier ointment or unscented baby powder to help avoid inflammation.


In conclusion, early puppies may have Swimmer Puppy Syndrome, a disorder that impairs their ability to walk and move normally. Breeders and pet owners must be informed of the symptoms and indicators of this illness. We can assist these wonderful puppies in overcoming their difficulties by comprehending the causes, performing early identification, and putting the right activities and remedies in place.

Always keep in mind that the keys to treating Swimmer Puppy Syndrome are patience and persistence. These puppies can live typical, content lives with the right care, rehabilitation, and support. It is your responsibility as a responsible pet owner or breeder to give your animals the care and affection they require to flourish.


How common is Swimmer Puppy Syndrome?

Although it is quite uncommon, Swimmer Puppy Syndrome can happen in several breeds. Large-breed dogs or pups who are predisposed to the illness are more likely to experience it.

Can Swimmer Puppy Syndrome be cured?

Yes, Swimmer Puppy Syndrome can be controlled and the afflicted puppies can get over their mobility problems with the right treatment and rehabilitation. It is crucial to remember that the severity of the ailment and the particular puppy might affect how well the medication works.

Are there any preventive measures for Swimmer Puppy Syndrome?

While the precise origin of Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is unknown, reducing the risk can be achieved by giving pups a nurturing and suitable environment while they are still in the early stages of development. This involves ensuring a healthy diet, frequent exercise, and preventing overcrowding.

How long does it take for a puppy with Swimmer Puppy Syndrome to recover?

Puppies with Swimmer Puppy Syndrome may take a while to recover. It depends on the seriousness of the ailment, how each puppy responds to therapy, and how consistently rehabilitative attempts are made. While some puppies may begin to recuperate within a few weeks, others could need consistent care for several months.

Can Swimmer Puppy Syndrome recur in the future?

Even though it is uncommon, puppies with Swimmer Puppy Syndrome have had relapses of the illness in later life. Even once they start to show indications of recovery, it’s crucial to keep an eye on their progress and to continue giving them the right exercise and support.

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