Swimmer syndrome

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Characteristic posture of a pup with swimmer syndrome due to severe pectus excavatum[1]

Swimmer syndrome is a congenital disease of young pups characterized by weak limb development.

Clinically affected newborn pups classically present with turtle-like or walrus-swimming movements and may be associated with whelping onto smooth surfaces. There may be dorsoventral flattening of chest when only fore limbs are affected.

This condition has been reported in chondrodystrophic breeds such as the English Bulldog but also occur commonly in the German Shepherd and other breeds.

It may occasionally be associated with pectus excavatum but can be found in otherwise healthy pups.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs and exclusion of other causes such as lysosomal storage disease, distemper, toxoplasmosis and neosporosis.

Physiotherapy, particularly hydrotherapy, is recommended to develop full joint movement[2].

In most cases, euthanasia is not recommended as restoration of normal movement eventually occurs as the pup grows, provided the walking surfaces are firm such as carpet, grass, soil, etc.


  1. Today.com
  2. Verhoeven G et al (2006) Swimmer syndrome in a Devon rex kitten and an English bulldog puppy. J Small Anim Pract 47(10):615-619