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This is Bueller the Bulldog, and while this sweet puppy had a rough start, he’s up on his feet and enjoying life, in every sense of the word. At just 8-weeks-old Bueller was surrendered to the Sacramento SPCA by the person who had bred his parents. This little dog, as it turned out, had something known as Swimmers Syndrome. Lesley Kirenne of the Sacramento SPCA tells petMD, “He could not stand or walk and had urine burns on his stomach from just laying in his own urine.”
The developmental deformity known as Swimmers Syndrome is when a puppy’s chest or thorax is flattened. (This condition can also effect kittens.) Dr. Peter Falk of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association explains that because of the flattened chests in these puppies, it causes their front and hind legs to be splayed out, which keeps them in a swimming position. Rather than being able to get up and walk, they move their limbs in a paddling motion.
This fairly uncommon syndrome—which is thought to be due to genetics— mostly effects Bulldogs like Bueller, but other dogs like Schnauzers can also be susceptible. But, Dr. Falk assures, “The good thing is, with proper care, these puppies can lead a normal life.” Case in point: the spirited, resilient Bueller.
After being put in foster care with a Sacramento SPCA staff member, Bueller began physical therapy. “At first he couldn’t even stand or get his legs underneath him,” Kirenne tells us. She says that after undergoing daily water therapy and using a walker, “Bueller slowly gained strength and mobility.” Now this pup can not only walk, but Kirenne says he is “even starting to trot a little bit” and “he loves chasing the ball!”
Dr. Falk adds that in addition to physical and massage therapies—which should be started as soon as possible when it’s discovered that a puppy has this syndrome—a balanced diet is important for nutritional support. He also recommends helping puppies with Swimmer’s Syndrome eat their meals. “Because when they are flat, we want to make sure that they can swallow properly. [Try] small meals, frequently, lift them up, and pat them to help drive the food down.”
While most puppies who have Swimmers Syndrome go on to lead healthy, mobile lives, it’s important that they get the therapies they need in order to thrive. Dr. Falk explains that, left untreated for too long, these dogs can have long-term issues such as breathing and eating problems.
Luckily, Bueller had the proper care and attention he needed to thrive and get up on his feet walking. Even better, after all that hard work, he has been placed in a new, loving forever home. “His adoptive parents are committed to continued strengthening, therapy, and medical care,” Kirenne says. “We feel really great about his new family.”
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