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Swimmer Puppy
Super Dog Show Site
Mary C. Wakeman, D.V.M.

Swimmers may occur in litters of Corgis or Newfoundlands. Any breed can be affected. It is not the length of leg that predisposes a puppy or a litter to report this problem. The condition is not necessarily hereditary, even though it may occur in the litters of one bitch.

All puppy bones are little more than rubber bands in their first weeks of life. If you notice the shape of the chest of your puppies as they are born, you will see a normal oval shape, with the long axis vertical. As puppies crawl around the whelping box and nurse, often they begin to acquire a more flattened shape, with the long axis of the chest becoming more and more horizontal.

Factors which contribute to this are:

1.  A mother with great deal of milk willing to stay in the whelping box for long stretches. This is what accounts for repeated litters of swimmers from one bitch.

2.  Flat whelping box as there is no way for a puppy to alter pressure on the rib cage by crawling up onto a toy or something similar.

3.  Temperature in room too warm as puppies are content to lie in one position and not  move around looking for a warm spot.

Delayed walking and aspiration pneumonia are possible consequences of this flattened shape.

Do not have the room too warm
A heating pad under the blanket in the center of the box will give the puppies a reason to move around when the bitch leaves the box, going to the warm spot where they can use each other as ramps to get their head and chest going uphill. If your puppies are spread out all over the box when not nursing, your room and box are too warm. They should want to congregate in one area, and touch one another. If they pile up (literally) and whimper, they are too cool. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature of 68 to 72, so the bitch can be comfortable and not stressed by heat, and so that the puppies will gather in one area of the box. This has the additional benefit of keeping them from being squashed by the bitch or against the sides of the box when she enters the box and lies down.

Traditionally 'hobbling' the puppies legs has been used to help get these puppies up on their feet. In some short legged breeds this may indeed help, but generally speaking, the prevention and treatment guidelines above will be all that are necessary. If puppies have aspiration pneumonia from pressure on their stomach and lungs, cold nebulization and antibiotic treatment may be needed.

Another article about: Swimmers

Always consult with your Veterinarian for treatment, questions or before treating your dog with any medication


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