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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Flat (Swimmer) Puppies




Condition Overview

Puppies begin to stand at 14 days and have a semi-steady gait by 3 weeks of age. If this does not happen, the puppy may be a 'swimmer'.


Swimmer puppies move by making swimming motions. they resemble turtles with their legs sticking out to the sides, and are flat-chested from laying on their stomachs.


This disease is caused by a weakness of the adductor muscles tat pull the legs together. The hind legs are usually more severely affected.

The disease is more likely to occur in overweight and heavy-bones puppies. It may have a congenital basis. One theory is that puppies are infected by a viral or fungal disease in utero that results in a muscular systrophy of the adductor muscles.


Diagnosis is made by examining symptoms.


Slippery floors aggravate the problem. Keep swimmers on indoor/outdoor carpeting or some other non-slip surface that provides good traction.

Assist a swimmer puppy to stand and walk several times a day. Encourage him to sleep on his side, rather than splayed out flat.

A hobble made from tape, placed from hock to hock or elbow to elbow (picture shackles), forces the pup to sleep on his side. It also keeps the legs beneath him when he stands.

In most cases, the condition is self-correcting as the adductor muscles develop and strengthen.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian if you have questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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