Also called flat chested puppies.
A swimmer puppy will have a flat chest and the front legs will become bowed to accommodate the change
in the shape of the chest wall. You can literally feel the bend in the ribs. Instead of being the normal U shape
chest it feel more like a square shape like this ; I_I. These puppies will often paddle around like a swimmer or turtle
does. Hence the name.
If this is not corrected a puppy will suffer lung damage, decrease in ability to breath due to the
lungs inability to expand due to the change in chest shape, aspiration pneumonia due to difficulties suckling and death.
NO: this condition has nothing to do with a puppy having worms!
It used to be thought that this problem had a genetic cause and that a female with swimmer puppies
should be spayed immediately. After researching articles and talking to numerous breeders of different breeds this
is no longer thought to be true.
It was also thought that placing the puppies on a slick surface would increase the risk of getting
swimmer puppies. I can vouch for certain that you can still get swimmer puppies if placed on a rough surface.
Some came to the though that improper nutrition in the pregnant bitch would cause this
problem. Most of these old theories have been thrown out the proverbial window.
Some things that can lead to SWIMMER PUPPY SYNDROME.
*Having the whelping box too hot. This leads the puppies to become lazy and not move around
much. All they seem to want to do it suckle and lay on their bellies. Keeping the whelping box around 70 degrees
is a nice warm but not too hot temp for the puppies.
*Momma having too much milk. Once again the puppies want to nurse too much. This can
be solved by getting mom out of the whelping box for a period of time several times a day. This causes the puppies to
have to move around and cuddle up with each other for warmth.
*The whelping box being flat. Creating hills and valleys will help the puppies to develop
muscles and give them a way to vary the pressure on their chests. I found that a wedge shaped egg crate pillow did wonders
Key to reversing this problem is to catch it early. Be sure to handle the puppies daily and
feel the chest to assure they are normal. If you feel any flattening TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY. I caught it within
the first 24 hours and with the use of the above stated pillow reversed the condition totally with 24-48 hours on the less
severe puppies and 2-4 days on the severe puppies.
It CAN occur to ALL the puppies in a litter if the conditions are prime for it or it may just
be one or two puppies.
Be sure to be vigilant and keep the puppies laying on their sides. It is true a puppy that
has Swimmer syndrome will reflexively right itself back to its belly and search for a nipple. But you must work with
the puppy to get it over this reflex. The more the puppy will lay on its side the more the chest will reshape itself.
Some breeders will tape the front legs or make a sock harness with something between the front legs
helping to reshape the chest and make the puppy lay on its side. I did try this and found it not as effective as the
pillow. You also can have issues with the puppies not wanting to nurse while in this tapped up position. I found
that my puppies were more willing to lay on their side to nurse when on the wedge pillow then they were being tapped up.
Remember this condition CAN occur in almost any breed. Usually it is more common in larger
breeds than toy breeds. But as I have found over years of breeding to never say that will never happen to me.
Some more links about swimmer puppies.