The Mia Foundation
Swimmer Puppy Syndrome

The term 'swimmer' is used to describe a puppy that paddles his legs much like a turtle, but is unable to stand. A puppy should be standing and walking by three weeks of age. As a result of weak muscles in the rear limbs, swimmers are generally unable to stand at the normal age.

What are the symptoms?

The only symptom of a swimmer puppy is his inability to stand or walk by the normal age of three weeks. The puppy will instead lay on his chest and paddle his feet as if attempting to swim in a turtle-like fashion.

What is the management?

Slippery floors may worsen, or in some cases, may even cause swimmer puppies. Egg crate bed liners work well. Pups should NEVER be on a flat surface. Bunch up towels and blankets and keep pup confined to a small area. 

Puppies should not become overweight, as this may further the weakness in the rear limbs. 

Most swimmers have a flattened chest from laying flat. Massage therapy throughout the day ~ by rounding out the chest with your hands and putting them in a dog life vest works well with keeping pups off of their chest.

Taping the legs in the correct position should be done asap. You will see almost immediate progress. If the pup is a chewer you will have to put a cone on while legs are taped. 

Swim sessions three times a day will help with building muscle. Note - the swim reflex may not develop until pups are 6 weeks or older. Submerge pup to his chin (this kicks in the survival instinct to kick.)

Since there may be a hereditary component to this condition, dogs who were swimmer puppies would not be optimal breeding animals.
Mick was our very first Swimmer pup. He was flat as a pancake the day he arrived and was running in less than two weeks.
This shows Macie's transformation in one week.