Welcome to Lab Blog!

I started Lab Blog to share my experiences and help other dog lovers with their beloved furry companions. Some articles will deal with specific medical conditions and treatments. Others will just recount the many joys and sorrows of living, loving and losing our best friends.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT a veterinarian, nor am I trying to play one on the Internet!

My intent is simply to offer the knowledge and insight I have gained in nearly 35 years of owning, training, breeding and loving my own dogs. I hope you find it amusing, informative and useful.

Thanks for visiting!

Lab Mama

'Swimmer' Puppy Syndrome

Background

On July 7, 2005, we had a litter of nine Chocolate Lab pups. One female pup was born very small, sick and weak; she only lived about half an hour. Other than that, there was nothing remarkable about any of the pups at birth.  Everything seemed normal.

The puppies grew and developed in ordinary fashion for the first few weeks; I saw nothing to cause any particular concern. It wasn't until they began to sit up, stand, and then walk, that I realized I had a pup with a problem.

At nearly four weeks old, Fudge was unable to stand, let alone walk. All the other puppies were walking, playing, fighting and generally behaving like puppies always do. Fudge, on the other hand, was not doing any of these things. He laid flat on his belly at all times, with all four legs splayed out to the sides. When he moved to his mother to nurse, he looked like a soldier crawling under concertina wire, scooting along on his tummy.

When I held him, I could feel how flat his rib cage was; he had trouble breathing. I made an appointment with our vet to confirm my ‘diagnosis’ of Swimmer Puppy Syndrome. At the time, I had never seen a case in person.

The vet seemed to think I was overreacting; he assured me Fudge would outgrow it. I refused to accept that, since the poor baby was already four weeks old and having respiratory problems. A spin around the Internet wasn’t very encouraging, either. Most sites I found recommended euthanizing afflicted pups to prevent them from dying a slow and painful death. I looked this sweet little pup in the eyes and knew that was not a viable option, so I kept searching.

Thank God for Coreen at Oak Ridge Cockers, a Cocker Spaniel breeder with experience saving Swimmer puppies. Her site was full of information and positive encouragement, and gave me the basis for Fudge’s treatment that ultimately saved his life. If you visit her site, you will see a synopsis of Fudge’s story.

Treatment

I didn't think to take photos of "Fudge" before beginning to work with him, but there are several taken early on in his therapy. The first priority is to get the pup off it’s chest so it can breathe more normally. I adapted the information from Coreen to make it applicable to a much larger pup. Using an old, ribbed-knit t-shirt, I cut a large piece and made holes for Fudge’s legs. I used a thick make-up sponge under his belly, and smaller, wedge-shaped ones on the sides of his front legs. Then I tied the ends of the shirt up and over his back to hold the whole rig in place. This relieved some of the pressure on his rib cage and he was able to breathe easier immediately.

The second concern is positioning the front legs properly; the wedge-shaped sponges helped accomplish this. The elbows must be propped in tight to the body so they can bear some of the pup’s weight and get it accustomed to being in a more upright posture. This also permits you to lay the pup on it’s side...Swimmer puppies do not ever lay on their sides like normal pups do. It took three days in the ‘rig’ for Fudge to lay over on his side by himself—a major milestone.

To transport him to a follow-up appointment with the vet, I laid him in a basket. I noticed that the size and shape of the basket forced him to lay on his side and use his front legs when turning over, so I used the basket every day - a sort of 'hobble by basket' technique that seemed to help strengthen his little legs. He had not tried to push himself up and back onto his butt before the basket therapy.

Fudge’s front legs were completely rigid; the muscles were constantly tensed. I held him on my lap every night and massaged each side until he relaxed. He would sleep so soundly during this procedure that I could flip him over and rub the second side without waking him. We’re talking one blissed-out pup!

On Wednesday, August 3, 2005 I put Fudge in his 'rig' for the first time. On Sunday, August 7, 2005 he took his first steps. By August 12, 2005, I tried to photograph him walking, but it wasn't easy! All he really wanted to do was RUN! The photo in the home page header is of Fudge's little butt as he ran through my yard on August 12th.

Outcome

It took another two weeks for Fudge to fully catch up with his litter mates. At eight weeks, when he went to live with his new family, no one would ever have known he started off with problems. He's a happy, healthy adult dog with a full life expectancy. I sold him with the caveat that he not be bred, because some 'experts' believe there 'may' be a genetic component to the syndrome.

If you think you may have a Swimmer puppy, do not wait to intervene! The sooner you act, the easier it will be for the pup to catch up with normal development. I encourage you to read the information on Coreen's web site.  Jack Vanderwyk has a scholarly article on the syndrome at labradornet.com. Please don't hesitate to post a comment here asking for help if you need it.


234 comments:

  1. Hi There
    I have just been sent your site, I am praying your advice works. I have a whole litter of pug pups, three are not too bad one is very bad with swimmers. i am off to make some t shirts, they are 4 weeks today. I hope im not too late. your little lab boy looks wonderfull, well done
    for giving him the time he needed.
    I will keep you posted.
    Regards
    Bev Carter www.bevians.co.uk

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  2. Bev, best of luck with your babies! Please let me know if I can help you at all.

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  3. Thanx, Labmama! I just wrote an article about Swimming Puppy Syndrome and I linked it to this blog.

    Warm regards,

    Jack Vanderwyk,
    LabradorNet

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  4. thank you so much for you HUGE support! I too have been breeding labs for 13 years now, and have never had a problem. Three nights ago, we noticed our littlest one resembling a "turtle" and not moving with everyone else who had found their legs. ( pups will be 3 wks on Monday). After carefull examination, her chest was completly flat and she was wet in her lungs when auscultated. I too " diagnosed" and ran to the vet. Unfortunatly my vet had never heard of it, so for 90.00 I had to inform HER of how people were splinting using the tshirt method. ( found it on that cocker spanial site as well). Long story short, two days into this and we are now laying on our side, and are scooting with our back legs under us now. you have no idea how much encouragment you have been- Thanks once again.
    Stacie- Simbathe labradors NM

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  5. Stacie, I'm so happy to know this site has helped save puppy's lives! That was my hope and intention in creating Lab Blog in the first place.

    It sounds like your pup is right on schedule (2 days to laying on the side)... If you have any questions or problems, please don't hesitate to post here...I get notice of new comments so I should be able to respond quickly.

    Your 'baby' should have a long, healthy life ahead. :-)

    LabMama (aka Grammy Cracker)

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  6. hi there
    we have a litter of three cocker,s 1 has swimmers i have made your rig and she is now lying on her side fingers crossed this works thank god for your web site
    many thanks
    mandie bagshaw
    14/4/09

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  7. Mandie, I'm so happy to be able to help. Laying on the side is the first step in your pup's recovery. For Fudge, it was another 4 days to taking his first steps.

    Best of luck with your little girl; please post here again if you have any questions.

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  8. Thank you for writing about your swimmer puppy!

    I've a four week old swimmer. He has been walking for a few days now. I'm a bit concerned about his rib cage. How soon should I expect it to become normal? Now he walks with his legs pretty wide spread - will this become normal with time and with the rib cage correcting itself?

    Pardon my English, it's not my native language.

    I hope you can tell me something to calm me down :)

    Regards
    Anna

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  9. Hi, Anna. Your puppy is making good progress! His rib cage will gradually round out and his legs will get stronger and straighter. He just needs a little more time. Good luck, and let me know if you have any more questions.

    Your English is perfectly fine, by the way. :-)

    LabMama

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Thanks LabMama for your quick answer!
    I'll be back in a few weeks to tell you how we are doing.
    Hopefully just like a normal puppy :)

    Regards
    Anna

    (a bit of a perfectionist: had to delete previous message cause there was a word misspelled - sorry!)

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  12. I wanted to share my experience with our first case of “Swimmer’s Puppy”. We are breeders of ADRK German Rottweilers and one of our females developed “SP”. We found your web site and tried your sock method for 3 days on the 4th day the puppy had gotten considerably worse. Since this is a large deep chest breed the padding inside the sock was restricting the chest even more and causing the puppy to having difficult time breathing. We took everything off and constructed a new variation of your sock method, by sewing the padding on the outside of the sock, therefore allowing the chest to expand, but also by keeping the puppy off her chest and onto her side. Within one day this puppy was up on all fours and walking (unsteady but walking none the less) with is a 110% improvement from the day before when we were sure we were going to loss her all together. Thank you so much for loving dogs enough to put your information out there for others to benefit from.

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  13. Also, If you could provide me with a way of sending you pictures I would love for you to post them on your web site along with our information.

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  14. Hi,
    Promised to tell how we are doing. The puppy is now a bit over 7 weeks old and perfectly normal :) I'm so happy for his recovery. His front legs are perfectly straight and rib cage normal shape and he has level topline :) At the age of six weeks he started to look and feel perfectly normal, before that I could still tell the difference. However someone who didn't know about his past couldn't see or feel anything abnormal.

    He now has an owner who has been waiting for a puppy from this bitch for a long time - this was the bitch's last litter (no swimmers before, now a really small litter for a retriever - only two pups) so the owner is happier than ever that he became normal :) And so are we :)

    So thank you Labmama for your support!


    Best regards

    Anna

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  15. Anna, that is such good news! Thank you for updating all of us on the success of your pup. It helps give others hope that they will be successful, too.

    Best wishes....

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  16. Rottweilers Royal: I'm glad you fought for your pup and found a method that worked for you! Every pup and breed is slightly different, but the concept is the same. Best of luck to you!

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  17. Hi, I have a 13 day old chow puppy that at 5 days old I noticed his chest seemed flat. At that time, I just thought to myself I sure hope his chest drops when he is up on his legs. He never had the swimmer puppy front legs. His front legs have always been right out in front of him as he pulled himself around. He was a very big puppy at birth and all he did was eat and sleep on his belly. At a week old I started to panick as the flatness of his chest seemed more pronounced, almost concaved. I started searching on line and found coreen's web site. I started with the sock and cotton balls, tha lasted about 2 days and he busted out of it. Over the weekend, he seemed to get weaker and didn't really try to nurse. I made him a shirt with an ankle support and foam and that lasted about 3 minutes. He started screaming so bad that he was gasping for air. I took it off and then made him a shirt out of an old ribbed tank top and foam. He is still wearing it, but it seems to be getting too small and the foam keeps falling out. He now is using his rear legs and getting around pretty well. His eyes just opened today. My concern is that his chest is so concaved and I am so worried about his organs and he has been fighting me the last 2 days of laying on his sides. I always find him sleeping on his stomach and then I have to turn him over. When he cries it is so soft and weak compared to his brother. Please tell me what I am doing wrong or what I can inprove on. I have eggcrate matting in the bottom of my whelping box, it is very soft. I just can't bear to lose that little guy.
    Thanks
    Diane Myers

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  18. Diane, it sounds like you are doing everything right if your little guy has swimmer puppy syndrome. Since his front legs are not splayed (if I understand you correctly), the padding and t-shirt method probably isn't right for him. If the hind legs ARE splayed, it is easy to 'hobble' them with a bit of surgical tape to force the pup on his side for a few days until he becomes accustomed to it.

    I also had great success with the basket technique. Find a SQUARE basket, box, etc. that is big enough for the pup to lay on his SIDE, but NOT big enough for him to lay on his belly. This not only develops the habit of laying on the side but helps them strengthen their legs by forcing them engage all fours when turning over.

    Please let us know how your baby is progressing, and if you need more information, please let me know. All the best....

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  19. Hi, Thank you for your reply. My puppy is actually standing up on all 4's. He maybe out at the elbow, but his hind legs are not splayed. I think I might have realized part of my problem. The foam I have on his belly is only about 1/2 inch thick. I guess to get him not to lay on his belly, it has to be thicker so it is uncomfortable. I think I have just made it more comfortable for him. PLease advise..

    Thanks
    Diane

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  20. Hi,

    I have a swimmer puppy whose hind legs are affected. I just discovered this at 4 weeks old. His front legs appear strong and he does not have breathing problems although his ribs are very widely sprung out and flattened.I put a sock on him with cosmetic sponges on his stomach and I hobbled his hind legs. He has begun standing and attempting to walk but his legs are still a little splayed to the sides. If I hobble any tighter, he can't walk. Sometimes I help him walk or stand by holding him up by the sock. The problem I'm having is when I put him on his side, he starts breathing fast and rapidly and panting like he's having a harder time breathing on his sides. Should I continue to try and put him on his side, or will the cosmetic sponges give him enough relief off his stomach?Or do you have any other suggestions?

    Thank you so much,

    Crystal

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  21. Hi,
    Your site is so helpful! Thank you! We have a litter of Golden Retrievers, it is our Scout's first litter, and she only had 3. So, without much competition for feeding, we have 3 VERY fat little pups! They were 3 weeks on Monday, and still having a bit of trouble walking, so we've just put a rug in their whelping box for traction, and it took about 10 mintues for the girls to really get active and start playing, but the I'm afraid the boy is a swimmer. He just wants to lie on his belly and his ribs are definitely flattened, one side much worse than the other.
    My question is, when I try to get him to lie on his side, does it matter which side, since one is worse than the other? I don't think he would stay on the side that is worse, or even be able to at this point. I'm just noticing that this blog is pretty old, I hope you're still checking it!
    Thanks!
    Brooks

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  22. Brooks, it shouldn't matter which side the pup lays on. Getting him off the chest is more important. I had great success with the basket (see photo). Pick a SQUARE basket or box just big enough for the pup to lay on his side, but small enough to keep him from laying belly-down. Once he begins to spend time on his side, his ribs should start rounding. It usually doesn't take more than 3-4 days for them to start sitting/standing from there.

    I know the original post is older, but I monitor the site and will be notified if you post again, so please let me know if you need any more information.

    Good luck!

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  23. Crystal, I apologize for not replying sooner; I had some computer issues and I did not see your message.

    If your pup's front legs are in a normal position, you don't need to use the foam and shirt technique I described; that only works for spayed front legs. Hobbling the hind legs is the correct treatment if they are still splayed.

    Once the pups begin walking, their conformation should normalize quite quickly.

    Is your pup progressing? I will be monitoring the site again now, so please let me know if I can be of any more help.

    Best wishes....

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  24. hi there...I ahve a full litter of 5 swimmer lab puppies...thw vet wasn't experienced with the syndrome, so we had to look for info and hobble the puppies ourselves...thanks a lot for your useful information...the front legs are getting stronger with the t-shirt method, but we have problem figuring ou a way how to hobble the hind legs , so that the puppies can urine and also try to walk...they also don't want to lay on the side, although we push the to, several times a day....could you please describe a way to save the hind legs or even bettere post a picture?PLEASE HELP BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE

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  25. eleutheria... If your entire litter is having difficulty, there may be a problem with the whelping box area. Be sure the surface under the pups provides them with some traction. I have had excellent results with both a textured industrial-type rubber mat and a rubberized rug-gripper pad. Both provide cushioning and traction, are easy to clean and can be cut to fit.

    If you need to hobble the hind legs, a bit of surgical tape usually does the trick. This is only necessary until the pups begin laying on their sides. Once they begin to lay on their sides, walking usually starts in about 3-5 days. They will need their hind legs free to sit up and stand.

    I also highly recommend the basket (or box) hobble technique I have explained here. Each pup will need his own box. I put Fudge in his basket every day while I was washing his 'rig' or making dinner and let him sleep there for hours - until he needed to eat. It helped tremendously.

    I'm sure it's much more difficult with an entire litter affected, but remember it will be over in a few weeks and you will have happy, healthy pups. They're worth it.

    Please let me know if you have any more questions.

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  26. I am so relived to find your site, I have a litter of german shepherd pups delivered by c-section all have been doing well yesterday I checked them and one is flat. He is only 3 days old . Most of the ideas are for older pups He is so tiny I dont know if I should try the sock method I am kinda panicked...I put him on his side while nursing that works for awhile,, but then he crawls away and lands on his belly. so I kept him with me on his side and then just brought him to nurse.... what should I do?? thank you,,beckey

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  27. I am so relived to find your site, I have a litter of german shepherd pups delivered by c-section all have been doing well yesterday I checked them and one is flat. He is only 3 days old . Most of the ideas are for older pups He is so tiny I dont know if I should try the sock method I am kinda panicked...I put him on his side while nursing that works for awhile,, but then he crawls away and lands on his belly. so I kept him with me on his side and then just brought him to nurse.... what should I do?? thank you,,beckey

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  28. Rebecca, it sounds like you are doing everything right. Since your little guy is SO young, forcing him onto his side may be the only intervention you will need to 'fix' him. Pups should naturally lay on their sides while nursing, so making him do that is exactly the right thing. Removing him from the litter and putting him on his side (you might try the basket/box method) is also a great idea.

    I would give it a while - perhaps even a week or so - to 'sink in' with your pup. He's growing so fast that his body should adjust quickly.

    Congratulations on spotting the problem and taking quick action! Please let me know if you have any more questions.

    All the best...

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  29. Thank you for such a quick response , I am sorry to bother you again I had another problem , the rest of the pups have began to get a small flat spot on there chest.they all including the one I am working on will crawl with there legs under them there swimming appearance isnt bad. sometimes they push there legs out to the side but for the most part they have them under them.I have put an egg crate in the box and turned the heat off I make them crawl and rub there legs . do you know if I am doing enough? I know you said it may take awhile for it to sink in and I don't mind the wait or the work I am just worried that I will miss something I was supposed to do and my babies will pay for it. I can't tell you thanks enough for having this site and taking the time to help others. Thank you. Rebecca

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  30. pS: I am also trying the box....

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  31. Rebecca.... If the puppies have their legs underneath them, they are NOT swimmers. You won't have to intervene unless they never do that.

    Any 'flatness' the pups have will correct as soon as they start sitting and walking. Remember how fast they are growing right now... their bones have to be 'flexible'.

    Please keep us posted on your progress!

    Labmama

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  32. thank you thank you thank you your support is so appreciated. I will keep an eye on them and keep you posted. thanks again , rebecca

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  33. Hi

    Have just found your site and it has been very helpful to me, I have a litter of 9 Labrador puppies and 2 are swimmers, not sure if this is of help but I found it while surfing the net.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI9TVaJbhi8.

    I have made two for my puppies and it seems to work well.
    Thank you for all the information and will keep you updated about my puppies. Kind regards Jacqui

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  34. I would like to update you on my pups I had the sp german shepherd pups well they are now 6 weeks old and round as a ball . I kept putting them on there sides and working with them and all of them are just fine clean bill of health! Thank you for the support when I was so nervous. It makes a big difference to have some one who understands.

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  35. Rebecca, that is just wonderful news! Thank you so much for sharing your success; it will be a great help to other people dealing with pups of their own.

    All the best....

    Labmama

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  36. Hi i was recently reading on your web site about swimmers syndrome ,my st bernard had a litter of pups 7 weeks ago one of the puppys back legs where splayed toke him to vet they hobbled him for 3 weeks now instead of walking normally he wants to hop everywhere,he can run and gets around just fine,but the vet says the true test will be the next 2 months as he gains weight as to weither he will fully recover or not i am having a tough time finding him a good home,i would love to keep him but we have our limit on dogs already,do you have any advice.

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  37. Cora, I would agree that time will tell with your boy. It may be that after being hobbled for so long - during his critical early development - he is just accustomed to hopping and will need a while longer to figure out what proper gait is.

    They grow and change so quickly at this age that I doubt it will actually take two months to see improvement; my guess is the vet is being cautious not to over-estimate recovery.

    If the pup is active and running, I would give him as much 'free' time as possible to exercise and roam. Practice makes perfect....

    Please let us know how your boy is doing, and good luck.

    ~LabMama

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  38. Hi, I have a litter of only 2 staffy pups & just realized yesterday that the boy is a swimmer. I am feeling very deflated after our trip to the vet today as I was told he has no chance as he is so flat chested that it is not likely he will come good. This is our first litter for all involved so do not have much experience. I am determined to help the pup but not sure if I am doing the right thing, he has trouble breathing trying so hard to get around so I wonder if he is suffering. I have read all of this info aswell as other sites & it seems that my boy has a problem with both front & back legs, both are splayed. I have made the rig using a cotton shirt but so far not much success, he does not want to stay on his tummy. I know I must persevere with turning him over all the time. I am not sure how to "hobble" the back legs, I will have to research this more. How will he go with all 4 legs "rigged" at once? I am going to try to box/basket trick aswell as massaging as he is very rigid.
    I would really appreciate your advice, I am so worried about losing him.
    Thank you
    Stacy (Australia)

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  39. Stacy, I had a similar situation with Fudge. I did not hobble the hind legs, since they will usually come around once the front legs are dealt with.

    It will take a few days for your boy to lay on his side alone. You're doing everything right by propping him up with the front leg 'rig' and putting him on his side.

    I think the basket (or box) technique may be especially helpful for you. Find one that is just barely big enough for him to lay straight out on his side, but too small for him to lay all splayed out on his belly. Leave him in it during the day when he isn't nursing. Let him sleep with his mom at night. He will be quite eager to turn over or lay on his tummy, so he will use his front legs more. This will strengthen and develop them.

    At this young age, the bones are quite flexible and the ribcage will round out nicely in a few weeks once he stops laying on his tummy all day long. Don't give up on your boy! It takes some hard work, but only for a short time... and they're worth it!

    Please post here again if I can be of any more help to you!

    LabMama

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  40. Thank you so much, you're an absolute angel giving your advice to us novices. I will follow what you've said & let you know how it goes, fingers crossed.
    Kind regards
    Stacy Archer

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  41. Hi I am new in here hope I am posting in the right area!
    I had a litter of 10 Lab puppies born 2weeks ago & one male has a very flat chest & I can feel a difference in his rib cage it feels like they stick out on the sides more he definitely will not lay on his side. and all his limbs are out like a seal.
    I keep reading that it is hard to notice any difference until the puppy is older but I noticed over a week ago that something about his ribs just didnt feel right. I have searched the web for over a week & have finally found this place.
    could this be swimmers or something worse?
    Please help me I am so worried!
    Julie

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  42. Julie, you're definitely in the right place.

    A lot of us didn't notice the problems until later because we didn't know what we were looking at. The signs were there, but....

    Your pup sounds just like Fudge. If the legs are always splayed and he NEVER lays on his side, I'd call that Swimmer Syndrome.

    You can't begin correcting him too soon! At this age, you may be able to simply hobble the front legs with a bit of surgical tape. I would recommend trying that first; just bring his front legs together in a natural position and tape them together. The key is to FORCE him onto his side. He should quickly (3-4 days) get the hang of it, and once he is sleeping and nursing properly, the ribcage will correct itself as he grows.

    You are SO ahead of the game by catching it early! Best of luck with your boy, and please let me know if you have any more questions.

    LabMama

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  43. Sorry.... I was logged in under a different account, so my response shows a different name, but it's still LabMama. :-/

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  44. Hello, my mother is a miniature schnauzer breeder and our litter is 4 weeks old. We have never come across it before but we think one of the pups is a swimmer. her back legs are splayed but her front ones seem to be working. I am so worried, If you can give us any advice please email me on rhiannon-sushi@hotmail.com 

    Rhiannon

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  45. Rhiannon, I will also forward this to your e-mail address, but I'm posting it here to help out other readers.

    At 4 weeks, the pups should be standing and walking on their own.  Does your girl try to do this, or is she on her belly at all times?  If she can sit up, stand or walk on her own, she's NOT a Swimmer puppy.  

    Assuming she can't sit, walk or stand, and since only the hind legs are splayed, I recommend the tape hobble.  Use a length of surgical tape to pull her back legs together into a normal position; this will force her to lay on her side.  Most pups will 'get the hang of it' within 3-4 days. Once she starts doing it on her own, you can remove the tape hobble.  

    The basket/box hobble might help your girl out, too.  Anything that makes her lay on her side will get the process started. Please let me know if you have any more questions!

    LabMama

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  46. I have a three and half week old lab who is a swimmer. I have been lying him on his side for a week. I found this site, and made the t-shirt 'rig', today which works well. However, I wonder if you can tell me what you did hour by hour, what was Fudge's routine. I ask because I am loathe to leave him in the rig overnight, he won't be able to move, and won't be able to feed/toilet. The litter has also begun the weaning process and I have taken him out of the rig to feed. As usual, they all are wearing more food than they are eating, but it is early days :)

    Thanks,

    Michelle

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  47. Michelle, Fudge spent most of the day and all night in his 'rig' for the first 3 or so days.  When he wasn't in the rig, he was in his basket (see photos).  If the t-shirt is interfering with his potty breaks, shorten it up towards the waist.  He should be still be able to move and take care of 'business' while wearing it.  The idea is to FORCE him to stand up / sit / walk by himself.  They get the hang of it rather quickly - usually no more than 3-4 days.

    My pups were still nursing exclusively at 3 1/2 weeks, so I would just put Fudge on a booby to eat - in his rig, ON HIS SIDE.  This is very important; Swimmer Puppies NEVER lay on their sides by themselves, and that is the natural position for nursing.  If you are feeding your babies solid foods, you may have to remove the rig for 'chow time' and put it back on afterwards.

    Every night, I removed the 'rig' and held him on my lap for his massage sessions.  He was so very tense and stiff, and by massaging him I was able to release the muscles and get him to relax into a normal body position.  I did this for about a week.


    It IS intense therapy, but only for a very short time... and our sweet fur-babies are worth it, aren't they?   :)

    I hope I have answered your questions.   Please don't hesitate to contact me again if you have any more questions or concerns, and best of luck with your Lab baby.

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  48. <p> 
    </p><p>Hi LabMama
    </p><p>I'm a small lab breeder and I got three weeks ago a litter with only one puppy.
    </p><p>It was the first time for me, so I didn't know that's the puppy will get so fat, but he also has a flat chest and I think he is a swimmer. I started to google and found your website.
    </p><p>I wanted to thank you so much for all this information, I started two days ago with your T-shirt advise. Yesterday I saw him sleeping on his side.

    </p><p>Do you think he will be ok, so I can still sell him? I hope he will learn soon to walk too <img></img>
    </p><p>Thank you so much for all your great help and putting up this great website and lab blog
    </p><p>Yvonne
    </p>

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  49. Yvonne, CONGRATULATIONS!  If your boy is sleeping on his side, he's on the road to full recovery.  He should begin sitting up and walking very soon.

    There should be no complications to his overall health and he has a normal life expectancy.   By all means, sell him to a good home!  You may want to advise his new 'parents' not to breed him (this is what I did with Fudge) because some "experts" believe there "may" be a genetic component to the syndrome.  That's a decision you will have to make when the time comes.

    I'm so happy to hear of your success!  Please write here again if I can help you with anything else.

    LabMama

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  50. Hi LabMama,
    thank you so much for all your help and advise I will let you know about his progress.
    Your website and this lab blog is so great, I'm sure you it helps a lot of breeder.
    talk you soon
    Yvonne

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  51. Hi LabMama,
    Just wanted to post some updates, the puppy did start to stand up now, just after 5 days. I also put him in a basket, it was a great idea.

    How long should I keep him in the rig? He is a fat puppy (only one in the litter)  and I think it takes a little longer. And he is very lazy. 
    Thank you for all your help
    Yvonne

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  52. Hi LabMama,
    Just wanted to post some updates, the puppy did start to stand up now, just after 5 days. I also put him in a basket, it was a great idea.

    How long should I keep him in the rig? He is a fat puppy (only one in the litter)  and I think it takes a little longer. And he is very lazy. 
    Thank you for all your help
    Yvonne

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  53. Wonderful news, Yvonne!  If the pup is sleeping on his side and standing on his own, it should be safe to remove the rig completely.  You may want to use the basket for another day or two to help strengthen his legs a bit more.

    He's supposed to be fat and sleepy at this age; once he begins walking he will work off the chubbiness, and they grow when they're sleeping.  He sounds like a fine, healthy boy now!

    As always, please write again if I can help you.

    LM

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  54. Hi, 
    sorry to bother again, he did so well and was standing up in the basket, but he has problems to bring his bag leg up out side the basket. He is a very big puppy.It does look like he as a very flat hip.  Do you think it will come on his own or do I have to hobble the legs and if so how do I have do I have to do this. I can't find any picture on the internet. If you have a minute and could help me, please.
    Thank you so much 
    Yvonne

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  55. Yvonne, I think he will come around by himself just fine.  Their bodies are remarkably flexible at this age - they have to be to grow so FAST.  Give him another day or two.  If he still seems to be having trouble, let me know.  I will help you as much as I can for as long as you need it, okay?  You are NOT a bother.   :)

    ReplyDelete
  56. Thank you so much, I started to keep him for a few hours in the basket and I think he like it.
    I had him out on the lawn and he did try to walk, but his back legs are still weak and going to the side and than he crawls. He can stand in the basket, because of the support. I think he will come along, but I don't know if I should help and how, to make his back legs stronger. Do you have an idea? Do you think it's because he is a little fat for his age?
    Thanks again
    Yvonne

    ReplyDelete
  57. Thank you so much, I started to keep him for a few hours in the basket and I think he like it.
    I had him out on the lawn and he did try to walk, but his back legs are still weak and going to the side and than he crawls. He can stand in the basket, because of the support. I think he will come along, but I don't know if I should help and how, to make his back legs stronger. Do you have an idea? Do you think it's because he is a little fat for his age?
    Thanks again
    Yvonne

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  58. just a short update, the puppy is now walking  :)  he is five weeks old and house trained.
    Thanks for the great help with all the tip.

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  59. What wonderful news, Yvonne!  Congratulations, and best of luck to you and your 'baby'. :)

    LabMama

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  60. Ylfamist HelgadottirSeptember 14, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Hi! I live in Iceland and found out today thru internet that in my litter, one is a "swimmer." wish I knew earlier about this syndrome, cause last year I had to put a puppy down, cause I didn´t know any better.. :(
    But now I´m determent to cure this little fella! He´s almost four weeks old and I made a "sock" today, trying to gather all the stuff i need for proper jacket. No I keep him constantly laying on his side. Even by holding him. Is that the right way or should he stay on his stomach for some time?
    Regards from Iceland!
    YMH

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  61. Ylfamist, your story is too familiar; this is such a common and universal condition and even many veterinarians don't know what to do.  I'm sorry for your lost puppy, but we can save this new one!

    Keep him on his side most of the time, especially when sleeping and eating.  Use foam padding or cotton balls to prop him up, so even when he's on his stomach the weight isn't all on his chest.  I have pictures of what I used on the post.  If you have a box or basket to use, try that also.  He will quickly learn to use his legs to turn over and it helps build the muscles.

    Please let me know if you have more questions; I'll help you any way I can.

    LabMama

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  62. hi.  I have a swimmer who is just 4 weeks old. I started using the t-shirt method today but he is slipping out.  What am I doing wrong?  I am also going to look for a basket his size.

    thanks
    I

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  63. My heath melted when I saw the puppy suffering in that kind of sickness. I guess if I am in your situation I also can't give up that little angel. Thanks also for giving us information about the disease.

    dog beds

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  64. My heath melted when I saw the puppy suffering in that kind of sickness. I guess if I am in your situation I also can't give up that little angel. Thanks also for giving us information about the disease.

    dog beds

    ReplyDelete
  65. Ylfamist HelgadottirOctober 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    Hi there! Just wanted to tell you that my Swimmer is doing just great! He´s going 8 weeks next friday and you cannot see he´s ever been disable at all!
    I used an old sock most of the time and made holes for the legs and neck. I also hand to tape his legs together for period of time so he would lie on his sides and to "correct" the growth.

    Thank you so much for your info´s and if I can help any swimmers out there my email is ylfaemm (at) gmail.com.
    Love from Iceland!

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  66. That's WONDERFUL news!  Congratulations and best wishes.

    LabMama

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  67. John, my sincere apologies for not responding to you sooner; I was ill for a bit and must have missed the notification.

    If you still have questions or issues with this pup, please do post here again.  I will get it this time, I promise.

    LabMama

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  68. I have a chocolate lab pup that will be 4 wks tomorrow. We just found out on Wednesday that he is a "swimmmer". I have been searching for help with this. I found your blog just last night. I went out today & bought all the materials to make him a rig. I am not real sure I have the leg pads in the right place. I was wondering if you could explain to me a lil where to place  them. Our lil guy also gave us a scare tonight. He started gagging and his breathing has gotten worse. Did "fudge" ever do this? I did however get him to lie on his side for a lil while on my lap. Which I have not been able to do cuz he fights me. He is such a sweet boy, I hope we get him doing better. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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  69. <span>
    <p>First, the gagging may or may not be related to Swimmer Syndrome, although the older pups do often have breathing problems from the compression on their chests.  Fudge didn't gag but he did have restricted breathing.  This is why it's so important to get them on their sides as much as possible.  It helps them breathe more easily.
    </p><p> 
    </p><p>The padding on the front legs is there to hold the legs in position; I used foam wedges.  The large end of the wedge was at the shoulder and it tapered to the elbow, kind of like football pads.  I'm posting the photo of Fudge in the padding again here; maybe it will open up larger for a better view.  See how the foam is wedged against his leg from shoulder to elbow?  This forced the legs together and kept them from splaying out to the sides.  That is the goal, so whatever you use should be with that in mind.
    </p><p> 
    </p><p>It's great that he laid on your lap for a bit; that's how I held Fudge when giving him his massages.  Anything you can do to keep him on his side for as long as possible is key.  I highly recommend the 'basket' technique for this also.  Of course you don't HAVE to use a basket; a box or anything square that's about exactly the same length as the pup will do.  
    </p><p> 
    </p><p>I know it sounds intense, and it is for a few days, but that should be all it takes to get your boy on the road to full recovery.  Please post again if you have any more questions and best of luck with your sweet baby!
    </p></span>

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  70. Holy cow!  Echo reformatted my whole post.  Please ignore the unusual spacing.

    Sorry.....

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  71. Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites

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  72. I have a 6 month old cocker spaniel swimmer puppy that can barely walk, is very inactive, and has to be picked up and carried outside, and taken out of his crate each day.  He doesn't move around, we have to pick him up to put him outside, put him in front of his food, and he hobbles to his doggie bed.  I was told he had a hard time going up stairs when I picked him up on 10-17.  I had no idea he would be so "disabled".  Is it too late to try the methods described in your site?  I was hoping he would get better, and become active and able to run and play, but he is not getting any better.  He is small, the vet estimated he would be 15 lb full grown.  Please tell me what I can do to help him get stronger.  The vet told me to stretch his rear legs in and out twice a day, didn't do sa thing to help. 

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  73. Debbie, is your pup 6 MONTHS old or 6 WEEKS old?  At 6 WEEKS, you may be dealing with a swimmer puppy.  If the pup is indeed 6 MONTHS old, I do not think your problem is Swimmer Syndrome; most untreated swimmer pups don't live that long.

    I have a few ideas about what the problem might be, and I think the basket technique could be very useful, but I highly recommend you contact Coreen at Oak Ridge Cockers.  She is a long-time breeder of Cocker Spaniels and can probably help you figure out what is affecting your pup.  She is very kind and eager to help.

    Please let me know if you still need assistance.  I'll do whatever I can to help you.  Best wishes.

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  74. He is 6 months old.  The rescue told me he was a swimmer puppy, and when they got him he could not moe off his back.  I will contact  Coreen.  Thanks for your advice.  Willupdate you.

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  75. I have an unplanned litter of lab mix puppies.  At about 1 1/2 weeks, I noticed a little female was flat across her chest, but she was big and healthy and nursing so I just kept watching her.  At 3 weeks, when everyone else started getting up and walking around, she couldn't.  I found your website at 3 1/2 weeks.  I splinted her and we worked diligently with her.  After 14 hours, she stood for the first time.  About 2 days later, she took 4 wobbly steps.  She has improved by leaps and bounds.  Now, she is 6 weeks old and is running and walking like her brothers.  Thanks for your help.

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  76. Denise, what wonderful news!  Your babies are SO beautiful!  

    Thank you for sharing the photos with us; your experience can encourage and help other people help their puppies.  

    You should enter the one of them on the hay bale in a photo contest!  I just want to kiss every little snout!  LOL

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  77. Before I found your site, I had already talked to my vet about her and been told there was really nothing that I could do.  I am so thankful for the information you shared.  Thanks again.

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  78. A little background.. I have a Husky mix i started bottle feeding at 1 week (wasnt nursing). He is weighing in now at about 3.5lbs, where the rest of the litter is over 10lbs. He seems to have very little muscle (rough start to life i'm guessing?) At 2 1/2 weeks I used the sock method on his front legs. His chest rounded back out and he now uses his front legs to push himself into somewhat of a sitting position. He always lays on his side or back to sleep. The problem is, he just cant keep his back legs under him. He tries soo hard and it just breaks my heart. I know he wants to so badly run around and play, and he just can't. I massage his back legs, move them in a walking movement, and I have a "channel" for him to walk in to keep his legs under him. I tried the swimming method. Problem was, I've been his mommy since 1 week and he trusts me not to let him go under.. he fell asleep. He's also taking NutriCal to help gain muscles.. The vet doesn't have much to say other than keep doing therapy. I'm beginning to get very discouraged, and when he lays and "mopes" while watching the other pups.. it breaks my heart. Any thoughts on what else I can do to help him gain control of his back legs, and strengthen the muscles, would be greatly appreciated.

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  79. I forgot to mention he is 6 weeks today. I added a picture.. you can see how his back legs are splayed out.

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  80. I recently had a litter of three Japanese Chin puppies.  They were all three swimmers, with their front and back legs splayed.  I found you on Google.  I used your tee shirt method to make a hobble.  I also rolled up towels and placed them under the whelping box liner to form hills and valleys, which also helps to strengthen their muscles.  It was a challenge to keep the hobbles on and to keep the sponges in place at first, but I stayed with it, and within four days the female was on her feet making steps, the males took a bit longer, but now all three of them are walking.  The female is actually running.  The males are still wobbly.  I almost cried when they started standing on their legs. because I was so happy.  My vet suggested not doing anything thinking they would out grow it, but when they were not walking by three weeks, I started researching to see what the problem might be.  I am so glad that I did not follow his advice.  Thank you so much for posting this on Google it has been such a life saver for my puppies.

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  81. Carole, that is wonderful news!  I’m so happy to hear about babies that were helped by Fudge’s story; that’s why I put this site up in the first place.

    I was told Fudge would ‘outgrow it’, too.  No.  They won’t.  Not when they’re 3 weeks old and still unable to sit or stand.  I’m glad you didn’t accept that answer either!

    Best wishes to you and your darling pups.   :)

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  82. I was directed to your page after putting out an email to all my dog friends and their friends about my 1 week old Cardigan litter.  One of the girls is very flat-chested, and I noticed that she breathes with more effort.  She is not in distress, eats, and she can get her front legs under her when she wants to, but for the most part, she lays on her belly.  Flipping her to the side has proven to be a challenge, but every time it seems to get easier.  I was very glad to see your photos, because on the swimmerpuppy website, it was difficult for me to really see how the little shirt works and goes on the dog. 

    I do notice that most of the puppies that people are posting about are older than mine.  With the breathing on my little cardigan girl, I don't think I should wait, I'm flipping her, massaging her, propping her in a very light/fluffy bed that keeps her on her side and if she goes to her belly, she's very much suspended.  The puppy now weighs about 14 oz.

    Do you think there is any reason not to try the shirt on her at this age?  I don't want to waste any time if I can get her turned around (literally).  I am holding her and massaging her a lot, but I know overnight she probably flips back to her belly and sleeps all night like that.  The photo was a huge victory, I had to hold her and massage her and when she finally went to sleep, it was agonizing to try to move her and prop her without her waking up and fussing/flipping.

    Thanks again for such an informative site, I've been feeling pretty much on my own with this (lost two other puppies for other reasons), and am glad to see that it's not a definite death sentence like I've seen elsewhere.

    Sarah

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  83. First of all Sarah, it is NOT a death sentence!  You are SO far ahead now because you recognized a potential problem early and did the intervention.  Kudos to you!

    If you can get your girl to nurse and sleep on her side now, I’d hold off on adding the shirt binding for another week to 10 days.  Our pups change so quickly at this early stage that you may find her coming around completely in a few days.  You will know for sure at 2 - 2 1/2 weeks.  If she is still on her belly most of the time and makes no real effort move like the other pups, that’s when you’ll want to craft a ‘rig’ like Fudge’s to force her into position.  You are already doing most of the work to assist her.

    Please post here again if you have any more questions or concerns as she grows.  Best wishes for happy, healthy puppies!

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  84. Hi
    So glad to have found a site dealing with swimmer puppy.  I have a beautiful 3 week old cocker spaniel girl with this problem.  I only discovered she had a problem when her 3 brothers starting walking and she just lay on her chest.  I have made the t-shirt and she has it on 3 days now, I alternate with the sock. I am using a make up sponge under her belly. I dont see any improvement yet. I am massaging her and am now thinking about hobbling her hind legs as these are very weak, the front ones just stay straight out in front of her but the back ones are really floppy and go straight out behind her or to the side, but I know she can use them because when I put her on her side she puts up an enormous battle to get back to her belly.  I am in the process of looking for a small box or basket to put her in.  I make her sleep on her side during the day but I suspect she sleeps on her belly during the night. She is not terribly big, her brothers would make two of her, she dosen't feed for long either.  It has been suggested to me to have her put down but I cant, she is so gorgeous.  I am very worried about her and wake up at night wondering if she is on her side!!!!!  Anyway I will persevere and see what happens.  ~Thanks for all the tips and suggestion, I will update you on progress

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  85. Just had to share the good news :)  my little darling just stood up and took a few steps! I am sooo happy, I know she has a long way to go, but she is on the road to recovery.  Since I was last on ( this morning) I spent a few hours doing back leg cycling exercises, massage and I put her to sleep in a box.  I then put  her to  he  back with her brothers and lo and behold she stood up and shakily walked to them.  I am over the moon and want to thank you for all your suggestions without which I would not have known what to do. I will post a pic soon, again many thanks

    Annette 

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  86. Annette, I received both of your messages simultaneously.  I am SO thrilled for you!  In a few days you’ll be chasing her around the yard while she RUNS everywhere!  I’m happy you were able to find help here.  

    Please do post a photo if you can; it helps others going through a similar situation understand how to adapt the methods for their pups.  Let me know if you have any more questions or concerns; I’ll do anything I can to help you.  

    All the best to you and your fur babies!  

    LabMama

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  87. Hi
    Sorry its taken me so long to put some pics on here of my little swimmer puppy,but better late than never.  Just to let you see how I put the sock on and the box she slept in.  I really didnt believe that she could be cured, but after about 3 days she was up and walking and is now running and playing with her brothers.  In addition to putting the sock on, I have make up sponges under her belly and shoulders, I also did cycling exercises with her legs for about 10 minutes a few times every day and it worked.  Thanks again for all your help and hope these pictures help some others with the same problem.  Dont give up on your puppy, it can be fixed. My puppy was so bad she couldn't get off her belly and was having problems breathing,its like a miracle. Thanks Lab mama x

    Annette 

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  88. Hello, first of all thank you so much for this useful site & blog, all your comments and experience are very valuable to everybody is dealing with a swimmer! My litter consisting in 5 pups is very unlucky from the beginning, one of them has a cleft palate and we are keeping him alive (he will be 4 weeks on saturday) to have surgery when he will be big enough. On the other hands all other pups looked very big and healthy. We only had a H U G E girl which looked too fat and she cannot move easily. She looked to me "split"... well, since all the other puppies are walking and playing (4 weeks in 2 days), she cannot move properly and she shows a big flat chest. In addiction to this, she is not eating, she looks very weak. she is undoubtably a swimmer :( I've done something like a helper, a rounded piece of plastic (I cannot find an elastic sock!!!) full of cotton, which should be like an addictional ribcage. Can anyone see if this solution could be correct and could help too? I'm looking for a basket, at the moment, she is sleeping on her side, close to the mom :( It's a bad sign that she is not in the mood for eating, either from the mom and the weaning food? Tomorrow I will take to the vet as well, but she will be never put to sleep!! Thank you very much in advance for your replies!! Alessandra

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  89. Thanks for posting the photos, Annette!  Your babies are gorgeous and I’m so happy your little girl is thriving.

    You are SO right.... NEVER give up on your puppies!  They are worth the fight!

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  90. Ally, none of these photos show her in a ‘swimmer’ position, so it’s hard to tell... but if you are getting her to sleep on her side, that’s a good thing.  That’s the first step to healing!  Just be sure the binding isn’t too tight or rigid for her to breath properly.  I didn’t use a sock for Fudge.  It was a stretchy rib-knit man’s t-shirt I cut to size.  ANYTHING that has elastic, stretchy qualities will work.  

    I do recommend having the vet check her out if she’s not eating well.  That has nothing to do with Swimmer Puppy syndrome.  You may need to bottle feed her if she’s having problems.  I have an almost-5-year-old girl here that was weak and had to be bottle fed for about a week.  Once they build up their strength, they usually rally and thrive.

    Please keep us posted and ask for more help if you need it.

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  91. One more thing.... if she’s walking and running on her own now, you can safely remove the padding and sock for good.  She has overcome her problems and will not regress now.

    :-D

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  92. Hello,

    I have a 3-day old shih tzu, and we've jsut found out that it has a swimmer puppy syndrome.
    She's having trouble breathing. Right now, we are not yet fully decided if we are gonna do the sock method on him, since we think he is too fragile and should be at least weeks old, as we see in the stories here on your site. What we do now as a temporary solution is we massage his side from time to time, and put him to sleep on his side.
    Are we doing something wrong? Please give any suggestions, we hate to see her like this :(

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  93. Hi,
    Thank you for your informative and useful blog about swimmer puppies. This really helps. and thanks to Jacqui for posting the youtube link which inspired me to make a rig for my puppy.
    My female english cocker spaniel delivered 6 puppies on 19th Oct. After 4 days, found that of the puppy is having the swimmer puppy syndrom. Her chest is flat and is breathing faster as compare with other puppies. Thank god i found your blog and learnt so much here.
    I tried the socks method but she just can find a way to remove it.Then I decided to make her the rig as shown in this video(www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI9TVaJbhi8). And it works well! After 3 days, I can fell the rib case of the puppy became oval and she can lays on her side by herself. She is now 4 weeks old and she can walks and runs as fast as the other puppies!
    Once again, thank you very much for your blog. We really need more useful blog like this.
    p.s. How can i upload a photo to your blog so that i can share my swimmer puppy photo to everyone?

    ReplyDelete
  94. Joe, I’m very happy to hear the puppy is doing well! Excellent news!

    There is apparently a glitch in my commenting system -- you should be able to easily upload photos, but the link isn’t showing for some reason. I’m working with the company to resolve it so you can upload your photos.

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  95. Hi i have a 2 and a half week old singleton cavalier king charles spaniel. She does not sleep on her side and although tries to pull herself along with her front legs her back legs just get dragged along behind. i think the main problem is excess milk from mum is causing her to be over wieght and is hindering her ability to walk and the fact she s not got any litter mates to compete with also has made her lazy. Do you think i should rig her up now or leave her a while to see how things go?

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  96. The dragging around of her legs isn’t necessarily anything; she’s only 2 1/2 weeks old and they all do that this early on. However, since you have stated she does not sleep on her side, that is a cause for concern.

    Does she lay on her side to nurse, or ever for that matter, on her own? Normal pups should. If this one doesn’t I would begin rigging her up now. A few days of forced ‘proper’ behavior at this early stage may be all she needs to get on track.

    Please keep us posted on her progress and let me know if you have any more questions. Best of luck!

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  97. Yes she does nurse on her side but only when mum has pushed her over to clean her or mum has moved into a different position. Its never her choice but she s happy to stay there. I might just give her a couple more days to show some room for improvement as i m a little worried about getting the rig wrong and causing more problems.
    Thank u so much for the reply i ve tried everyone including 2 vets and their attitude is if she doesnt learn to walk on her own there is nothing much they can do for her. It made me cry at the time. Its nice to get some positive advice.

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  98. Oh and another quick question...do i need to rig the back legs as they seem to be the weakest? If so is there a diagram on the net i could use to refer to when doing this?

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  99. I don’t think the hind legs are a problem. Pups learn to sit by pushing up and back with the front legs; once she masters that, the hind legs will follow.

    If she does not improve with the front rig; hobbling the back legs is simple with a length of first aid tape. If it comes to that, I’ll walk you through it.

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  100. Ok thank you. I ll try the front leg rig today and see how it goes. I really do appreciate this :)

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  101. Hi there,
    just a quick update. Little rosie is doing alot better. she has improved with her front legs so much. She is bringing her back legs forward and underneath her a little now too but they seem very weak. Do you think she needs them taping or shall i let her try ro strengthen them for a few days and see if time improves the issue? She is now 3 weeks and 3 days old.
    I d just like to say again thank you so much for your advice and support. I have looked for help in various other ways and means but to no avail.
    Nicola

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  102. Today her walking is even better looks like she s just a little behind. But thanks again for all your help

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  103. This is EXCELLENT news! She’s pretty much on schedule for taking her first steps. The hind legs follow the front ones, so I think you are in the clear now for her to progress normally.

    Best wishes for her continued improvement; please let me know if you need anything going forward.

    Lab Mama

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  104. Hi there, thank you so much for sharing this information with the world. My husband is a very experienced gun dog handler and respected breeder and had never experienced this syndrome with any of his litters over the years. We had a small litter of four black Labrador Retrievers in early December and it was very apparent that one was having a few problems. She displayed all the symptoms mentioned above. After finding your blog I made her a foam vest and made sure she spent as much time as possible on her side. I found it easier to get Mum to feed her separately, then tire her out a little with a bit of exercise and physio. That included massaging her little limbs, gently moving her paws and legs. I also did a bit of a jolly jumper effect, holding her weight and assisting her to walk, of course very gently. Afterwards she would be all sleepy so we would then place her on her side propped in a shoe box under the Christmas tree! I used normal foam and made it a bit thicker. After 3 days of your treatment she was making huge progress and has made incredible progress, now at 6 weeks you would not know anything was ever wrong. I really only did the shoe box method for just over a week but for much of the day she was mainly in with the litter. Thankfully being school holidays my son was able to take over and keep her on her side and make sure the other pups didn't untie her vest, great fun for them. I'm so grateful for your blog and for helping us save this wee girl. Thank you!

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  105. That is such wonderful news! As I have said, the therapy requires a bit of intensity for a few days, but only a few... then the pups usually catch right up with their litter mates.

    I’m thrilled to hear your success story; thanks for sharing it!

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  106. Hi Thank you so much for sharing your helpful knowledge. I just realized last night that one of my puppies is swimmer. Now I put him in a sock with sponge under his chest. He's 3 week old yesterday. Is he too old to recover? Please give any suggestion about do and don't for this pup.

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    Replies
    1. No, three weeks is about the perfect age to intervene. Be sure his front legs are drawn in under his body to help support his weight (see the photos of Fudge) and get him to lay on his side as much as possible. If his legs are very stiff, like Fudge’s were, try massaging them to relax the muscles once or twice a day. It shouldn’t take more than a few days for the pup to start adjusting and doing it on his own.

      Best of luck to you; post again if you need anything else.

      Delete
  107. Hello! I just pulled a 10 week old pit puppy from the pound because they were going to put him down due to swimmer puppy syndrome. I feel angry at the irresponsible breeder who left him in a box on the street to die. His back legs are in terrible shape. He is not putting much weight on them. The front legs are better, but he can only drag himself around with them. I am afraid that it might be too late for my little guy. I have been massaging him, laying him on his side, doing swimming therapy and supporting him in a sling suspended so that his feet make contact with the ground. What else can I do? Should I hobble the back legs or would that be counter productive for a puppy who is already moving around?

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    1. Hello don't give up I have a 12 week golden that just start to run,,have the kids throw toys and let him chase it..make sure they play with him on a rug,,baths will help his legs hold him so he can swim,,i can call you if you need any help let me know..i did not tie his legs up. he is doing great now

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    2. It sounds like you are doing everything possible at this point. Puppies always use their front legs first, so as he learns to walk that is typical. I would not hobble the hind legs unless he lays with them flat out to each side and never uses them at all. If he is trying to sit up and/or walk, what you are doing now should be the help he needs.

      I would expect him to take longer to progress because he was allowed to languish for so long. Poor baby! I’m angry with the breeder, too! This is a heart-breaking story. Pups have an amazing ability to recover, so I wouldn’t write him off just yet. If you have the patience to work with him every day, you just might save his life. God bless you for trying! If you have any more questions, please post here again.

      Delete
    3. Thank you both for your advice. I love him despite his disability and I am willing to accept the possability that he may never walk. I have looked at all the options for dogs who dont walk, but I want to give him every oppertunity to learn that skill before I give in to carts and the home modifications that would come with that. My 7 month old pit puppy has been the best therapy for him. She mothers him and plays with him. I work for a rescue and I have never come across such a desperate case. The pound wasnt even willing to give his life a chance. Normally in CT strays are give 5-7 days depending on the pound. He was given 1 day. The rescue is going to try to get some publicity for this puppy so that others faced with a disabled puppy wont give up hope so quickly and put them down thinking that they are a lost cause.

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  108. Hi LabMama,

    I'm back again to say thank you for your reply. I massage his legs everyday. Sorry that I don't know how to put my name here.

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  109. Hi,

    I tried the sock method and he can walk (not very firmly) after few days. However, when I removed the sock his front legs are splayed again and his chest still flat. What can I don next? Thank you for your help.

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  110. Hi, I have a litter of Bichon cross terrier. She gave birth to 7 but one faded and another had to be put to sleep after mum stepped on him. We had another little girl who seemed to be fading but we have worked night and day to save her and now at 3 weeks she is finally getting better. So we breathed a sigh of relief...however today I noticed that my other little girl has strange back legs, they seem like jelly and when you move them they click and seem to pop inside out. She can hold herself up with her front legs but drags her back legs and they are splayed out to the sides...I am worried she has swimmers. Four of the pups are huge (except for the one we saved, she is tiny and thin) and look quite overweight to me and spend most of their time flat on their tummies...but their legs seem ok. I will be taking them all to vets for their 4 week check soon but in the meantime I don't know what to do with her. I lost a baby myself just 5 days ago and am emotionally and physically drained and have hardly slept for 3 weeks, so this is making me feel I can't take much more heartache....any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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  111. Hi, I've just saved my 4 week old spaniel puppy, thanks to your wonderful t-shirt method. She had become like a crab, with her chest compressed and her legs splayed horizontally, like a skydiver. It was so alarming.
    I found your website immediately and bought some t-shirts to cut up and after experimenting, made a rig to fit her.
    I used a 2 inch chunk of car sponge, as I thought her chest desperately needed raising up but it kept slipping sideways. My partner suggested I sewed it to the material, which I did, and when the ties on the shoulder and back were done up, it held firmly in place and didn't move. She wears it day and night, though I have a spare one, so one can go in the wash. That was about a week ago and now she is walking very well and everything seems to have gone back in place. I'm keeping it on her just a few days longer, then she won't need it any more.
    I can see why this works so well. It's the combination of raising the chest off the ground, which then straightens the legs, then tying the t-shirt ends firmly over the back puts pressure on the ribs to go back in place, ie pointing downwards rather than horizontally. And when the front legs are straight, eventually the back legs come up.
    I actually did two horizontal cuts in the main body part, so that I had two distinct ties, one holding the top of the chest in place, the other the ribs lower down.
    I gave up with the sponge wedges in the armholes as they kept falling out.
    It does take a few days though, and must be constantly worn and the progress is gradual. First my puppy took just one or two steps with her back legs straightened, then sank down exhausted.
    I would say to other people here, just persevere. I also massaged her legs and the bottom of her back.
    Thank you so much! I couldn't bear it if she had got pneumonia and died. As it is, she is once again a healthy, strong puppy.
    Julia

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  112. Hi, first of all I'm sorry for my english that is not my natural language. I'm italian and I'm trying to save my 5 weeks old newfoundland puppy.
    I noticed the female puppy had a problem around the 3rd week, but cause she was the smallest of the group, I thought she would be able to walk with a little delay.
    At the 4th week she was not walking, she was still moving as a reptile. So 3 days ago I went to the my vet but he was still closed when I arrived there. So I went to another one. It was my first time there. A young vet when saw the puppy, immediately said me that when she was at the vet university, studied a case called "Swimmer Puppy Syndrome"... She was not too sure about it and checked on her PC about the syndrome. She confirmed her theory and said me that with the right methods the puppy would be able to live without problems.
    When I arrived at home I started to do some internet researches and I found your website and the Coreen website. Immediately made the sock method. The day after, the most of time, the puppy was sleeping on the right side by herself. This morning she was able to stay on 4 legs and at by herself even if when tries to walk, she goes down. I'm doing all my best to save her and she too!!!! I will keek you informed about any progress...
    Regards, Alex

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    Replies
    1. I wrote wrong at the end: "This morning she was able to stay on 4 legs and at by herself".
      I meant: This morning she was able to stay on 4 legs and eat by herself

      Delete
  113. I have a 3/12 month old Golden and his rear legs still go out when he runs and they are very skinny from the knee down I have put 5 lbs on him since I got him Yje way he walks and runs doesnt seem to bother him His front legs are fine and he doesnot have a flat chest is it too lat to hobble his hind legs? And will he grow out of this he wobbles from side to side when he walks Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Sorry to keep you waiting for a reply!

      Hobbling his hind legs will not help; he is using the legs properly, they are just apparently weak. That is not the same thing as Swimmer Puppy Syndrome. Have you asked your veterinarian about any other possible health issues, such as hip dysplasia? Also bear in mind that 3 1/2 month old pups -- especially larger breed pups -- are awkward and uncoordinated because they are growing so fast. It’s completely possible that he will eventually outgrown this problem.

      Best of luck,

      Lab Mama

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  114. Hi,

    I have a couple of labradors and have never bred my dogs before. My beautiful lab Reni had a litter of 8 of which only 3 survived, but 2 of them seem to have very flat chests. They are 9 days old now and though seem pretty healthy and rounded, their rib cage is extended on the sides and I am concerned. I would like to try the t-shirt and foam harness, but if I use the foam on the chest, will that not push the rib case further in? Or did I get this wrong. Please advice. Thanks a lot.

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  115. PLEASE do not harness the puppies yet; nine days old is much too young. When the pups begin to sit up and try to stand, if you have one or two that can’t or don’t do that, then you will need to intervene.

    Monitor their progress and come back here if you have more questions or concerns. I’ll do anything I can to help you.

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  116. Thank you so much for your response and support. Just knowing that you'll respond and help, eases a lot of my stress regarding this. I''ll not harness them, but is there anything else I can do? Like turn them on their sides while nursing? They are always flat on their tummies, with all 4 legs splayed out.

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  117. Neelanjana, yes, absolutely turn them on their sides, especially when nursing. That is the normal and natural position for nursing pups. If you can teach them to do that on their own at this very early stage you can probably prevent more complications going forward. This may take more than a few tries. Don’t give up!

    There are other options that can be tried (easier than the foam-and-shirt method) if you are still having issues at about the two week mark. Keep us posted, okay Best of luck!

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  118. Hi, My swimmer pups are now 2 weeks and 5 days old. Though one of them is active and nurses on his side and even sleeps on his side sometimes, he's still mostly splayed and not many attempts to get up or walk. The other one is having difficulty nursing and doesn't nurse for long or vigorously.In fact, to sustain him, I have had to resort to artificial feeding..with a bottle and pup formula milk. The one normal pup has already started walking..wobbly but walks. Do you think I should start therapy now? I tried the sock method with a kid sock, but the pup was yelping and crying out constantly, so I took it out,thinking perhaps I am hurting it,maybe its too tight..Please advice. Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I absolutely would begin therapy now on the pup who nurses and sleeps on his side some of the time. Are all four legs splayed? If his hind legs are splayed, you may be able to *fix* him with a bit of surgical tape by wrapping it around the back legs. Position his rear legs so they are straight down and away from his belly at a 90˚ angle, then gently secure them in that position with the surgical tape. This will force him to stay on his side all the time and that’s often all you have to do to correct the problem. If that doesn’t help, let me know and I’ll walk you through the sock/t-shirt method. He shouldn’t cry from it.

      I wouldn’t try to tape or bind the sickly one until it gets a bit stronger.

      Delete
    2. hey. Thanks a lot. The one which nurses on its side is actually doing much better on his own and tries to get up and walk as well. Its the other one that I am worried about. Hes not exactly sickly, but I think its extreme flatness of his ribcage that's preventing him from nursing properly. He just cant compete with his siblings as hes not that flexible and gets pushed off. He also seems to have problems breathing and likes to sleep perpendicularly, in an upright position, propped on his mom or pillows. Please walk me through the sock/t-shirt or any other method. I think, once his chest is rounded a little , he should be fine. The local vets don't seem to have much idea about this problem and think it will go on its own.

      Delete
  119. I’m so sorry I couldn’t reply sooner. My husband is having surgery in the morning and we have been frantic trying to prepare everything for him. I will be able to write a detailed description for you tomorrow while I wait at the hospital. If you look carefully at the photos of Fudge, you will get the basic idea.

    Unfortunately, vets don’t seem to be much help with this problem anywhere; I hear from people all over the world who don’t get any more help than you or I did. It’s really too bad, because it’s so relatively easy to *fix* these pups. :-(

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  120. No problem at all. I wish your hubby a fast and full recovery. I did try the sock and t-shirt methods, but somehow its not satisfactory, as I think I am not getting it right. The t-shirt one especially doesn't seem to hold, the side wedges seem to fall off; I think I am doing it wrong. Right now I am using the sock one as its snug fit. Please take care of your husband, no hurries-I'll wait for your reply and in the meanwhile, keep experimenting. Thanks.:)

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  121. Hi, I hope your husband is doing better :)

    I need some desperate help here. My swimmer pup is 35 wks old now and still no improvement. I put him in the sock for about 2-3 days with a foam padding on his chest and by the end of the 3rd day he was very sick, couldn't breathe and had a grayed out tongue. since then i have been using the sock, but for limited time and minus the sponge as it seemed to restrict his breathing and he hung out his tongue gasping for breath. I am trying to walk him on an uneven surface, but he seems to give up v easily.both his front and back legs are splayed and his chest cavity seems very deep now. He turns around in a sure basket and absolutely doesn't stay on his sides, no matter what.

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  122. It sounds like the sock was either too tight or it made the pup too hot. . Let's try a simpler method for a day or two. You'll need some of the stretchy, self-adhesive first aid wrap. It can be cut both for length and width and won't stick to the pup's fur.

    Lay the pup on its side with the legs straight down and away from the belly. Use the wrap to bind the hind legs together... Not *hogtied*, but firmly enough that he can't splay out again. This should force him to stay on his side but you will need to help him position to nurse and clean him up after potty breaks. You only need to leave him this way for about two days; he should adjust and start doing it on his own after that. If you remove the tape and he splays again, bind him up for another day and try again.

    Keep me posted, please. I have my iPad at the hospital and he's out of ICU now so I should be able to reply faster.

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  123. Hi there,
    Having 2 pups here with this problem, they are 4 weeks tomorrow.
    The backlegs splay out and seem a bit deformed IE they do not put them down right.

    If I bind the hind legs together, will they be able to move and try and walk then?

    Have tried to have them in a smaller bow where they can not lie full length on their bellies but they crawl on the sides and fall asleep like that=on their stomach.
    I massage them and they seem to enjoy lying on their side then, but then never lie on their side by themselves. We also started to swim them today and they move their backlegs fine in the water, the male swims all by himself while the female needs support.

    I am worried about their backlegs not turning forward, will this change? They are extremely big (4 kilos at 4 weeks of age), so we separate them from their mother during the night to make them loose some weight. We use a womens sock with sponges at their chest and sides. Is there anything else we can do and is there hope?
    Thanks for a great blog!/Maria

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  124. Maria, are the puppies walking at all? Even if the legs are in an odd position or they splay out when lying down, if the pups can stand up and try to walk, they do NOT have swimmer puppy syndrome. That’s not to say they don’t have an issue, just that this isn’t it. Have you asked a veterinarian to check the formation of their hips and legs?

    If they DON’T walk at all, they may indeed be swimmers. Binding the hind legs will prevent them from standing or walking and is only done when the pup can’t get up and won’t lay on its side. It forces them on their sides and allows them to become used to laying that way. It’s quite remarkable how quickly they can come around with such a simple intervention.

    Swim therapy is a great idea and will help strengthen their legs; I encourage you to keep using it. You are trying all the right things and I will help you in any way I can. THERE IS HOPE.

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  125. I think I might have a puppy with swimmers but she is not showing all the symptoms she is walking and does not having breathing problems. I tried to email the Coreen lady but my email was rejected. I tried the method and she got it off do you have any advice.

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    Replies
    1. If the puppy can walk, she does not have swimmer puppy syndrome. What is happening with her that concerns you - what symptoms does she have?

      Delete
    2. what is happening that concerns me is that she has a flat rib cage it doesn't seem to bother her but I just don't know if it will get worse.

      Delete
    3. The ribs will round out on their own in time. Puppy ribs are fairly soft and flexible because they are growing so fast. Once the pups begin to spend most of their time running around, their ribcages drop and they get that round, roly poly puppy shape. :-)

      Delete
  126. Thank you so much for the response! The female does not stand up, nor walks. The male stands up and walks but very badly. We have tied the backlegs on them 5 minutes ago and the female rises her behind for the first time. We were at the vet yesterday but she never heard of this syndrome so that did not help. I live in France and the disease here is more or less unknown so seeing a vet will not do any good. The puppies never stayed on their side, always on their stomach and their chests are flat+they do not walk/stand so it is without a doubt swimmer syndrome. Can I send you a picture of them? That way you might be able to see the problem. Again tks!

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    Replies
    1. The vets here are not much help with Swimmer Syndrome either, unfortunately. I thought perhaps there was a structural problem with the hind legs causing some of complications - but only if they could walk on their own. Since your girl is not walking at all, let’s give the hobbled legs a day or two and see if that doesn’t help resolve the issue. I’ll be here to help if you need me.

      There is currently no way to post your photos here because I haven’t been able to convert to the new commenting system yet. You can e-mail them to me directly at labmama (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

      Delete
  127. The girl stood up today and walked with the help of the harness. The male even walks without the harness now. Both are swimming fine and afterwards we give them massage. I am a little worried about the frontlegs of the female, they are wide apart (from lying on the stomach) so I am concidering to tie a similar harness around the frontlegs too for her. What do you think? The male is straight now so no need for that on him. He even sleeps at his side by himself, the female needs help to stay in that position. Pictures will come during the day, that way you might be able to see more the problem.

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  128. Hi,
    Thank you for all your help. My swimmer pup is walking a few steps with the help of the tape harness on his hind legs, I have had it on for almost a week and though he still can't walk by himself, and his back legs are splayed, I see an improvement everyday. He seems to get more active each day, he manages to not dirty himself by getting up and peeing/pooping, his appetite is much better, though hes still half the size of his siblings and he sits on on his hind as much as he can. His rib cage still seems very flat, but since hes up and about almost as much as the other kids, at least tries, I am not using any wrap(sock, t-shirt) etc for his rib cage. Do you think there is anything else I should do. He manages to lift his frontal side up, his hind doesn't support him though, without the tape. Its rainy season here in India(sultry/humid-hot or clammy-cold) and we cant really get him in water for any water-therapy. Thanks again for your advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once the pup is able to walk more, the rib cage will round out by itself. It sounds like he’s doing fine with just the hobble tape, so I would continue with that for another day or two -- or three -- until he’s stronger. He will wobble and sway when you first remove it; think of how the *normal* pups topple around when first learning to walk. In a week or so he’ll catch up and no one will ever guess he had a problem.

      As always, post here if you need anything. You’re doing GREAT! :-)

      Delete
  129. I have a swimmer lab puppy...didn't know what it was until I saw you site. Thank you. Could you please post a pic of how you tape the legs? Both the front and the back. He is only two weeks old and still pretty small. I will try and make him the "rig" but not real sure how as he is still so small. But wanted to try the tape thing on his legs. I started massaging his legs just last night. Do you have a personal email address? I would like to just use that and then you can post what you want. My personal email address is hadk.3030dak@sbcglobal.net Thanks so much, Denise

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    Replies
    1. I have no pictures of the hobble tape technique because I didn’t use it with Fudge, but I will try to describe it well enough for you to do it yourself. Since you are on this so early, taping would be the preferred method.

      I recommend using the self-adhesive first aid tape that resembles an ACE bandage. It sticks to itself but will not adhere to the pup’s fur and it can be removed and reused. You can also cut it for width as well as length. Any pharmacy should have some brand of it.

      Position the pup on it’s side and straighten the hind legs down and away from the belly in a typical standing position. Gently bind the hind legs together, leaving about a hips width apart. This forces the pup to remain laying on it’s side and to really work those front legs if it wants to try sitting/standing. At such an early age, your pup may need just a day or two to get the hang of it. After he does, you will be amazed at the speed with which he catches up to his litter mates.

      I have posted a reply here to benefit others who may be reading this but I will send it to your e-mail address as well. You may contact me directly at labmama7 (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

      Delete
  130. Hi Labmama,

    My swimmer puppy is doing great. I couldn't get the tape technique to work. I just kept putting him on his side several times a day (actually just put him between two of the other pups to help keep him on his sides for a while anyway) it wasn't even a complete week and hes sleeping on his side now all by himself. He's walking around alittle now with absolutely no problems. His chest is round now also. I have a hard time picking him out of the crowd now. I think I would say my pup is normal now because of you. Thank you so much for all of your help and advice. Denise

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  131. Hi.

    It's great to see that you found a way to save your pup :) I think a few of the vets in this area have been reading this because a few of them have started selling "rigs" like yours but with straps and (small) weights instead of a old shirt and padding for swimmer pups (lol)

    You did a great thing,
    - Vet nurse in training.

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  132. Jeff,

    I have a 3 1/2 week old lab that's a swimmer. This is the first litter of puppies that I have ever had and until we found this site tonight we had no clue what we were dealing with. Earlier this week I had made a johnny jump up type thing (without the spring) for him that hangs in the door way. We put a rug under him so he doesn't slip, he runs back and forth, we get another pup out to play with him, and he sleeps in it. He has spent several hours a day in it and he is doing great.

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  133. Hi,

    We have 2 english bulldog puppies. One has started walking, still little wobbly but walking. The other is not walking at all and his legs just splay out at back. We try to put his legs under him but he just pushes them back out....not sleeping on side at all, stomach only. When you bind the hind legs to you tape them together or how do you do. Also we have them on a concrete slab. do we need to change the flooring or add something to it for better traction. Any advice would be great. They are 5 weeks old and we have been working with them but the one male is not making any progress. I look forward to hearing from you!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes a more textured surface can help, especially when they are first getting up on their feet. Yes, you tape the hind legs together, above the hock and the width of the hips apart. Using the self-sticking first aid tape is great because it won’t stick to the fur and you can cut it easily for length and width.

      How is your pup doing now? Let me know if you still need help.

      Delete
  134. Hi...We have got two four day old pups which we are hand feeding every hour or so, on demand!....Their mother is a very small Maltese Shitzu (5 yr old) first time mum...She has rejected them since a few hours after ceasarian birth...the pregnancy was accidental....the apricot male pup - Wilbur is doing very well moving around very swiftly, but his sister, Sheeba (black) is much smaller...We have noticed that Sheebas two back legs are splayed out at the back & don't move now since day 2, looking alot like frog legs. (I am trying to attach a photo). The vet said she had never seen anything like it. We have been passivley moving her hind legs to help her...Could she be a swimmer pup?....Kind Regards Jo

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  135. Hi....Jo back here...Some good news. I took the pups to my own vet (they had previously been with my sister's vet)...He took one look & said 'she is a swimmer'..thank God he recognised the condition. He has ordered thyroxine to be given twice a day to help Sheeba's growth ( also some antibiotics because of being rejected so young...He is positive that she will be OK...keep doing the passive movements!

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    Replies
    1. How is your pup doing now?

      I’m encouraged to hear there’s a vet who recognizes this; so many - most, even - do not.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for replying. She is still draging her hind legs behind her. I have been doing passive leg movements & she can move both of them now. Her eyes just opened 3 days ago (age 14 days old) I will keep you posted on her progress. I live in Bendigo, Central Victoria, Australia. My vet clinic does a lot of reproductive research & this is how they knew about the condition.

      Delete
  136. Hi- I have a 5 month old female Bernese Mountain dog I rescued through our breeder. Willow is the beautiful runt of a litter of 16 that were born last February. When we got her she wasn't using her hind legs and the label "swimmer" had been given her. In two weeks of painstaking care we got her to start walking and moving on rugs and grass without issue. One week ago tomorrow we went for a longer than usual walk and she was running out front on the leash to such a degree that I had to jog to keep up with her. The following day we went around the block and though she didn't want to go as far, I made it a game and she went with us and our older Berner too. The next day she stopped walking altogether and has basically refused to use her rear legs since. Our breeder is the best and we have kept in contact, but I am getting more frustrated and scared by the day. Willow is on great food with lots of good proteins, a multi-vitamin and tons of attention and now she just looks up at me like she would walk if she could. I have no idea what happened last Saturday and am aware of no trauma sustained in our care these last two months. I also cannot find anythign about a swimmer puppy regressing and am beginning to wonder what else her condition could be. The weird thing is that she was walking and even went up a set of steps one day unaided. I have not decided what I will do, but thougth someone may have some insight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you had a vet check her hind legs? There are other possible causes for her lameness that could be ruled out by an x-ray and/or physical exam.

      Does she lay on or sleep on her side? True swimmer pups never do this, so that is another possible clue.

      Has her status changed since Friday? Please let me know and I will try to help you.

      Delete
  137. I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for replies. My husband and I have both been dealing with health issues, but I should be back and available now.

    ReplyDelete
  138. Hi,
    I am currently treating a puppy with swimmers. I used the rig for several days and it did not help with making him lay on his stomach at all. I have tried and tried to get him to lay on his side while nursing and he fights and screams and flips right back to his stomach. The puppy is now 5 weeks old. I have been doing the water therapy allowing him to swim and he has started to walk and stand on his own the last 2 days, still very wobbly and doesnt walk all the time, but is trying. Should I still worry about him laying on his stomach? Or should I keep a cushion on his belly?

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  139. Once the pup begins to walk, you should be able to relax. Swim therapy is still a good idea for strengthening the legs, but the hardest part is over, so congratulations on that.

    He will be wobbly for a few days to a week but should quickly catch up with his peers now. If you have any other questions or concerns, let me know. I will try to help you.

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  140. Oh thank goodness. This has really been very difficult for me, and my first time dealing with this. Mom had a small litter and pups were HUGE and VERY FAT. Im assuming this was the issue. He isnt walking ALL the time an will occassionally still do the swimming crawl to move around but he is getting more mobile every day. His chest and ribs are still very flat as well and hes almost arched in the back and his back legs seem to be bowed at times? Will this correct once he gets up on his feet and moving well? Im going to continue the swim therapy every day until he is actually walking well, it wont hurt.

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  141. Hi labmama,I am so grateful for your story and all the other success stories I've read of people you've given hope to. I am 35 weeks pregnant and about to lose my mind. We breed bully pits. Almost 4 weeks ago we went through our worst experience with our female. She had 2 pups stuck in her canal and we had no idea since she delivered the amount the vet said. She became very ill and I noticed her trying to push, long story short she lost 2 pups, and one other didn't make it 2 weeks ago. Since she was so sick we bottle fed, and I think this is what went wrong. I'm the type that will sit in the whelping box to help them nurse, since I didn't have to I didn't realize the potential issue we'd have with them laying on their side. Now all of them are swimmers. I have made the t-shirt as you instructed and stuffed it with make up sponges. I don't know if I did it correctly because they seem the be in agony with the jacket on. I have made sure it's not too tight. The elbows come through a lot, aren't they supposed to be in the shirt? They can't seem to do anything in those jackets. Is it ok if they lay on their back ms? This seems as a more comfortable position for them. I give them grass time and I put them in the tub to exercise them, but they seem to freeze when they're in there. I don't even sleep at night so I can make sure they are on their side, since the box is in my room, and they cry and keep me up part of the night anyway. I don't know how ling I can last.....any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks for all your wisdom.

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  142. I had forgotten to write that their chests are flat. There is one puppy in particular that is always panting. Before realized what was going on with them I would put a wet cloth underneath him and this would help him and he would breath normally. Laying them on their side does help, but he gets so aggitated with the jacket that he breaths heavy. There are two that that are getting the hang of walking more, but still slide. They are all splayed with all legs. They seem to be doing a little better, or maybe it's just wishful thinking. Again, thanks for all your help and support to so many. Please give me as much info to help them as possible.

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  143. If the sock or shirt method doesn't seem to be working for you, let's try something else. The critical thing is to get them laying on their sides; how is not important. One poster said she had good luck with egg crate style foam. The basket or box method is easy and effective. Once they begin walking, even if they're unsteady, the worst is over. They will progress rapidly. The flat chestedness will correct itself once they are up and moving around. So will the heavy breathing.

    I hope this helps you. Write again if you need anything else. Best wishes to you and congratulations on your baby.

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  144. It is amazing how quick the shirt worked. All my babies are up and they sleep on their side now sometimes. Their breathing has definitely improved as well. I just stuck with the shirt idea. 2 out of the 4 are perfectly walking, and the other 2 can now walk and try to run, but their little legs slip sometimes and walk with them open sometimes. I have taped the back legs once, which helped, and I will do it again. We can't thank you enough for all your advice and helping us and so many more save all our puppies. I hope we never have to go through it again, but if we do, we now have so much knowledge on the subject. Thanks again for everything.

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  145. Wonderful news! I hope you never experience it again, too, but as you said, if it should happen, you have the tools to fix it quickly and save all your puppies. That’s exactly why I maintain this blog. I’m thrilled it was helpful for you. All the best to you....

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  146. Thank You, Thank You,
    My Grandpa called me tonight and said that it looks like he has to put down one of his 4 wk old Golden retreiver pups (out of ch bloodlines no less) cause his rib cage is flat and his legs aren't normal. I told him to hold off on doing ANYTHING till I do some research. Thankfully stumbled on your site and now know what to do. I think you just saved the life of a beautiful English golden pup:):) I don't think our vet would have known what the deal was so.....

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  147. I hope you are having success with the tips we've posted here, Marilyn. Please post again if you need anything; I'll try to help you in any way I can.

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  148. Goldendoodle ownerOctober 5, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    My Bella usually has 7 - 10 in her litters, this time only two. Within a few days I noticed the girl pup who nursed the most was beginning to only stay on her stomach and her chest was starting to flatten. Is it to early to start the jacket w foam inserts, she is only a week old? Also, where and what position do you place the foam for the legs? I cannot see how they are placed in your photo. I have started trying to use a sock but she seems to cry more. How long until she gets use to it. I turn her on her side to nurse which does not like. Also, now while wearing it, she sleeps more on her back than her sides, is that okay? Thanks for the help!

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  149. hello, we have a litter of three labs and one boy was a big puppy to start they are now 2 weeks and starting to walk, however this puppy doesnt see to have a problem with his front legs but his back legs seem to lay out back and stretch up off the floor he isnt very good on them and they seem abit unsterdy and not so straight, does this sound like what you or anyone else has gone through with swimmers or something else?
    thanks!
    penny

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  150. hi, we have a shihtzu with a similar case. he's currently 4 weeks old now. his front legs are very well functioning and no ribcage form abnormality. the problem is with his hind legs. the right hind leg i think. his left hind leg can support him for a few seconds to stand but just collapses after. he walks only with his front legs dragging the rear part of his body. his hind legs are laid flat spreading out perpendicular to his body. i dont really know what to do. if u can help me pls contact me through my email address. jayeearlvillahermosa@yahoo.com

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  151. Hi Jaye,

    I actually have something quite similar with two pups of mine (almost four weeks old). They can rapidly crawl using their front legs when mama is around, and they do not have any rib cage abnormality either! Have you found anything to be helpful? Our puppies seem to 'flop' around a lot, almost as if their neck is not very strong. They do not lie on their bellies either, they do indeed lie on their sides.

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  152. You have no idea how happy I am to have found this site....well actually you do. My Golden retreiver had a litter of pups on the 20th of Oct. Long story short she had three naturally, three via c-section and she lost four. The two first born natural have survived. The vet told us one of the pups he delivered via c-section had deformed ribs and back legs and it was twice as big as he should have been. I never thought anything of it afterwards as the two pups we have a girl and a boy both seemed to be doing fine. Then today the vet told me the boy (Taffy) has swimmers. I'm gutted, as any owner would be. We got so lucky to have these two pups and now little Taffy has been hit with this blow. I'm desperate to try anything I can to help him. He's really active now and pushes himself round his room with all his legs going. His back seem stronger than I've read most pups with this syndrome are. I've seen him try to push himself up on his front legs too. Hi does more often than not lie on his belly with his back legs kicked out.

    Anyway, if you could get back to me and offer more advice I would be forever grateful. Thanks so much for this site. All the best to you and your dogs.

    Jo. x

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  153. Can you give me some more info on the rig please. I can't get it to stay on my pup properly. He's only two wks old so not very big. Can it be left on him throughout the day?? Thank so much.

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  154. Hello, my names Tiarna and I have 4 English Staffordshire pups. One of them has the swimmers feet. He is 4 weeks old, and he is making no attempt to walk with the rig yet, which i think is to be expected because he is not familiar with it. At the momment I have him lying on his side, and he is fast asleep. I dont know if I have done it right, and i am worried that he may be in pain as he was shaking before, maybe because he is uncomfortable.. He is breathing loudly with the rig on. Is that normal? And also, what does the rig aim to do? Thank you, I really hope this works. My parents said they will have to put him down if we dont find anything. :(

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  155. I have a 5 week old Golden Retriever puppy that is the runt of the litter. He is about the size of a 2 1/2-3 week old puppy. He has always had problems from birth with breathing and we put down another littermate because he was not doing well, gasping for breath, couldn't keep bdy temp up, vet did x ray and though there was a defect in his diaphram and told me he couldn't be saved. This runt puppy is having trouble balancing on his hind legs. They do not drag out behind him and are not crooked or splayed. He tries to wlk and will do ok for a step or two but then he falls flat over on his side, tries to right himself and then usually falls over to the other side. His hind legs are very weak. He gets them under him but them one hind leg will sort of give out and then he falls flat over again. He sleeps more than the others. He does lay on his side to a point and his chest looks normal from what I can tell. He is very rigid though and if he looks off one direction his whole body will roll that direction. I don't know if it's a neurological issue or Swimmers? I took him to my vet and they said "sometimes you see swimmers pups but it's not a big deal", so I just dont know what to think? Does it sound like he has Swimmers since he does walk on front and back legs, but his back legs are weaker and he over corrects himself constantly and appears a bit stiff? Thank you for any help! My email is sarahcpurtell@yahoo.com

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  156. Hi I am a rottie breeder and have a litter of 8 beautiful healthy pups, they are gaining weight at the expected rate and are drinking well on their mother. One of the female pups have quite a flat chest or rib cage. The pups are now 11 days old, she is not really having problems to breath but her ribs are definitely different to the other pups'. I had a look at your site and I made a rig for her out of t-shirt material. I put the sponges on her side of the rib cage as the vet advised me that their breathing causes the sternum (breast bone) to go into the body, not like ours' that goes out. It really seems to help her and I am tempted to say it (shape of her ribs) is getting better. Can I leave the rig on her for most of the day? She is also lying now much more on her side as compared to a day ago. Please advice.

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  157. You are doing everything right! It is fine to leave the rig on most of the day; that will help her learn to stay on her side which will help her chest round out nicely. She will begin to sit up and then walk soon!


    Let me know if you have any more questions.

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  158. You are doing everything right! It is fine to leave the rig on most of the day; that will help her learn to stay on her side which will help her chest round out nicely. She will begin to sit up and then walk soon!

    Let me know if you have any more questions.

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  159. Hi

    I adopted a puppy (a choc lab like Fudge) with swimmer puppy
    syndrome 2 months ago. He was 9 weeks old when he first came to our
    home. He was completely flat and his 4 limbs were completely rigid. He
    had a family before us but they didn't treat him at all and they just
    returned him to the association where we adopted him later. The first
    days I looked for information on Internet but all I found were bad news
    as all the recovered puppies I read about where far younger than ours.
    Anyway I tried almost every method I found on your web and Coreen's. I
    used the harness, the sock, and hours and hours of massaging and rehab
    exercises but improvement was almost imperceptible. Finally two weeks
    after his arrival I build a "canyon" a little wider than the puppy with
    some wood boards and an antislip surface that is normally used beneath
    carpets to avoid people to slip in the carpet....That made him to stand
    up as the walls of the canyon didn't allow him to splay out his limbs to
    the side. Unfortunately, a month ago he suffered parvovirosis and
    almost died, but miracolously he recovered and then I bought more
    antislip surfaces to cover my whole living room, and he started to
    slowly stand up. In last 3 weeks he has gone from crawling to almost
    running. He's still not fully recovered as the still walks in a funny
    way, but he's very close to it.

    I'm not a veterinary or a
    breeder and just wanted to share this, first of all, to thank about all
    the information I found on Internet, and second to show that working
    really really hard (it has been the longest months of my whole life)
    even a 9 week puppy can recover...

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  160. What a wonderful story, Eduardo! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.


    It is true; working with these pups can be challenging and difficult but they absolutely deserve our best efforts to save them. I’m sure he will be a wonderful best friend to you for many years to come. God bless you for not giving up on him!

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  161. i need advice, i have a 4 week old shih tzu with the syndrome. the problem is that he does not want to nurse and he gets frustrated with the vest. he has problems breathing. i dont know what to do anymore!

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  162. Help! I need to know how to make a rig for a 2wk old goldendoodle pup!

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  163. Lee Ann, I’m not sure why you want to do this. Can you explain what is going on with the pup? Are there litter mates to compare this pup with?


    I’ll help you any way I can but I need to understand what’s happening.

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  164. I have had 19 litters and never heard of this until I googled the issue and found this blog. I realized 1 pup had the problem at 3 weeks of age and by the next week he was walking with hobbles on his rear legs then a few days later was all caught up with the other pups. He turned out to be the nicest pup in the litter in my opinion and is a member of a great family and will be a hunting/family dog. Thanks again for posting all the help!

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  165. What wonderful news, Bud! I found out about this syndrome the same way you did; our vet didn’t even know what he was looking at.


    I’m thrilled you found the information useful - that’s why I maintain this site. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! It will be helpful to other readers and more puppies will be saved. Thanks again!

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  166. hi my name is chris and my aussie just had a litter of 5 about 15 days ago im a little scared because all of them are healthy and growing fast but one of the pups is just a little smaller and his ribs seem to be wider than the other pups and he has trouble breathing at times and has a different whine than the others as well almost like a baby cry what can i do to help this pup out without spending lots of money at the vet?

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  167. Chris, does this pup ever lay on his side or is he on his belly at all times? Does he nurse normally or do you have to assist? Have you noticed any difference in his stool compared to the others? Is there any discharge from his nose? Does he have a fever? Have you introduced any solid foods yet?


    These are all important questions because being a little smaller or having a different ‘voice’ aren’t necessarily indicative of a problem; that could be perfectly normal for this particular pup. Difficulty breathing is a bit of a concern, though, so let’s see if we can narrow down the possibilities.

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  168. He rarely ever is on his side both when feeding and sleeping. In addition, he eats much less compared to the others as well, the pups are still nursing from their mother. When he breathes it appears as though he is gasping for air, and his rib cage is very flat compared to the other pups. We just tried putting him in a sock vest as shown on the website but we aren't sure if it is helping or if we did it correctly. We need help and don't know who to call or what to do to help him

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  169. ok well i monitored him over night and his breathing seems to be better with the rig on i dont think the hind legs technique is necessary yet he is having small improvements my only question is how long should i keep him in this rig? and here are some pictures of before and with the rig on

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  170. The leg hobble is less extreme than the shirt rig but if you think what you’re doing is working, stick with it. It is necessary that he lay, sleep and nurse on his side though, so make sure he’s doing that.

    Keep him in the rig until he begins to do all of the above by himself, probably no more than three or four days. When you remove the rig for washing, you might want to try the box technique or the leg hobble; anything to force him onto his side. It’s okay to remove him from the litter for a while, just make sure he’s nursing enough.



    Please keep us posted on his progress; your experience helps other people save their pups.

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  171. I have seen other methods on swimmerpuppy.com and I see yours the best way. Our husky will be just 3-week old next monday (July 1, 2013). We feel she is suffering from this too. Can I start this method right away or wait til I can really say that she's way a month old?

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  172. Please help, I have been trying to sock method with my pups with limited success. the are able to wiggle out really easy. Do I place the cotton balls on the inside of the front legs or the outside. I've been putting them on the outside. I'm so afraid Im losing two right now.

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  173. Linda here again. I wanted to add mama has quit nursing them. full time. she sits far enough away that she can see them but she isn;t too interested in them for the most part. Have any suggestions for feeding them?

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  174. Jeez can you tell I'm stressed? The pups are four weeks old right now. I started tying their feet together as you talked about at 3 weeks. they are Shih Tzu's . waiting anxiously for any info you can provide

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  175. You are the answer to my prayers...Thank You so much!!! I also wanted to ask, What if the problem is only with the back legs. My two 25 days old Pekignese have the same problem, they look like little seals I honestly told my mom about wrapping them as mummies (similar to what you did in the pic. So happy to see it is kind of what they need. I have been massaging their legs also for the passed week now and the legs are less tensed. I just found your blog so I would like a little help with the fact that it's only the back legs. Thank You again

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  176. Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are dealing with this right now. Our black lab gave birth to five seemingly healthy pups just over two weeks ago, and the two big males are swimmers. We were extremely discouraged by so much of the (rather limited) info on swimmers, but your article is encouraging. Our swimmer babies have been seen by a vet, and we are proceeding with an attempt at "physical therapy". We will have to try your method! With much diligence and a lot of prayer, we hope to see our little pups recover. Thank you, again!!

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  177. I am so happy to have landed upon this website! Our female just had one pup (other litters were 9, 9, & 6). He has swimmer puppy syndrome. He went to the vet today and I almost left without him. My husband convinced me to try some therapy first. After reading, I still wasn't sure, but excited I've found some uplifting articles. I know we have a long road a head of us, but I"m hoping he comes out on top. His chest is flat, with a little dip in his chest (Which the vet was concerned about it pressing on his heart as he gets older). We are forcing him to lay on his side, and are starting to keep his legs together with tape and velcro. We are hoping to change his chest shape, and start working on his leg muscles. This is our 4th litter, and our 1st puppy with issues. We are not giving up though! :-) Thank you for posting your story and pictures!

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  178. hello, tommorw we are adopting a 5 month old husky. she has been passed around by many familys and the owner said if she doesnt find a home she will put her down :( the problem is misty has a hard time walking she will walk for a bit than stop and limps. does anyone have an idea on how i can help her come through this?

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  179. I have a pup that is 4week old I puller her from mom at two weeks I noticed something different and she was sick doctor save her medicine to clear her up. But now I notice she will pull her self up with from legs and when I hold her she will use her back legs and pop but she don't seem to have stringht to walk with them. She seem to drag them behind her. Is there some kind of sling that will help her use the back legs.

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  180. i hope this treatment works'

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  181. I do too, Sandy. Please let me know if you have any questions. I'll do what I can to help you.

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