Editor’s note:  This post was written by Lanre Hassan of Woofline Kennels, this topic is particularly important to us because we once had a pup with swimmer puppy syndrome; we thought to share our experience in hopes that you find it helpful.

After being present at the birth of my Rottweiler puppies on the 11th of January 2013, I made some observations and there was nothing unusual about any of the pups at birth, everything seemed okay. The puppies (two of them) grew and developed normally for the first few weeks; I saw nothing to cause any particular concern. It wasn’t until they began to sit up, stand, and walk, that I realized I had a pup with a problem.

At 24 days old, Ariel was unable to stand, let alone walk. Her brother Ares was walking, playing, fighting and generally behaving as puppies do. Ariel, on the other hand, was not doing any of these things (a healthy pup should stand/walk around 3/4th week of birth). She laid flat on her belly at all times, with all four legs splayed out to the sides.

When I held her, I could feel how flat her rib cage was, but I thought it normal, only to be convinced by my sister that it wasn’t. We both searched through the internet to find an understanding of Ariel’s condition, and we discovered it was Swimmer Puppy Syndrome/Flat Puppy Syndrome. Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is the flattening of the abdomen and thorax from top to bottom after birth for unknown reasons. At the time, I had never seen a case in person. The following were the symptoms that we took note of

  • The inability of the puppy to  stand up or walk
  • The pup moved around by making swimming motions
  • The pup was flat-chested and laid mostly on her belly.

My vet and friends seemed to think I was overreacting; they assured me the puppy would outgrow it. I refused to accept that, since the poor baby was already over four weeks old and couldn’t walk, so I kept searching for solutions.


The earliest way of determining if any of your pups have a problem is to pick up every single one of them so you know what is normal and what is not. If you notice a pup that is always on its belly or beginning to show signs of a flat chest, what you do is lay the mother down and put this pup on a good nipple, full of milk, take the pup and turn it on its side, holding its entire body and head down. Make it lie on its side until its done feeding, if the pup lets loose of the nipple anytime during this process, start over. Do this several times a day until the pup returns to normal and lays on its side.

Unfortunately, I didn’t detect the abnormality soon enough so along with this treatment I had to do other forms of therapy to support the puppy and help it stand. My sister and I came up with an idea, we got a piece of foam and cloth tied it around the pups’ chest to help support it. This worked pretty well, she slowly began to walk, however, she could never really walk or stand normally.


I have read a variety of theories on the cause of the anomaly, but they are mostly speculations. Some people think that it might be a result of a congenital anomaly, while others think it might be a muscular disorder or muscle weakness. Whichever the cause maybe the condition is treatable, the key is to be observant. Sadly, we had to give Ariel up for adoption after considering that her condition might be congenital (I advise that dogs with this condition should not be bred).

Photo Credit: www.thedogplace.org