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Swimmer Puppies: Puppies that have Difficulty Standing
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Race Foster, DVM
Bones, Joints, Muscles & Nerves
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The term 'swimmer' is used to describe a puppy that paddles his legs much like a turtle, but is unable to stand. A puppy should be standing and walking by three weeks of age. As a result of weak muscles in the rear limbs, swimmers are generally unable to stand at the normal age.

What are the symptoms?

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

What are the risks?

Most swimmer puppies will recover with time. The condition may, however, have an inherited characteristic.

What is the management?

Slippery floors may worsen, or in some cases, may even cause swimmer puppies. This is not always the case, because swimmer puppies are also seen when a rough surface is used for raising puppies. In any event, an affected puppy should be placed on a rough rather than slippery surface.

Puppies should not become overweight, as this may further the weakness in the rear limbs. Most swimmer puppies will develop to normal functioning by eight weeks of age, if treated early and placed on flooring with good traction.

Since there may be a hereditary component to this condition, dogs who were swimmer puppies would not be optimal breeding animals.

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