Flat (swimmer) puppies

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

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

The disease is more likely to occur in overweight and heavy-boned 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 dystrophy of the adductor muscles.

Treatment: Slippery floors aggravate the problem. Keep swimmers on indoor-outdoor carpeting or some other nonslippery 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 flat out. A hobble made from tape, placed from elbow to elbow or hock to hock, 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.