Since the day Mick was born, the odds were against him.
The little 8-week-old Boston Terrier was born with “Swimmer Puppy Syndrome,” formally known as pectus excavatum, a condition in which dogs are born with flat chests and abdomens, leaving them with splayed legs. This deformity typically causes them to be unable to stand or walk.
Mick’s breeder in Oklahoma was overwhelmed and on July 16 sent him to The Mia Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Rochester, N.Y., and focused on helping animals born with birth defects.
“The minute she handed me that puppy I just wanted to cry because I didn’t think there was any way possible to help this dog,” Sue Rogers, founder of The Mia Foundation, told The Huffington Post in a phone conversation Tuesday. “And you can’t tell from the pictures how flat [he was].”
She began doing some research and even asked a veterinarian for help, but she still knew the road would be a rough one.
“Ninety percent of all animals born with birth defects are euthanized at birth. They are a lot of work and sometimes they are very expensive, so sometimes people think it’s just easier to put them down,” she told ABC affiliate WHAM. “When he first came, I didn’t know if there was anything I could do for this puppy, but he proved me wrong.”
Rogers posted a video of Mick’s miraculous recovery on YouTube. Titled “Amazing Mick – Must see to believe!!!!,” the footage shows the pup resting flat on a blanket when he first arrives at the center. Gradually, he begins therapy — he goes for swimming lessons and hangs by a harness to get his legs used to being in the right position for walking.
Rogers did 15 minutes sessions with him four times each day to help build up his muscles.
“It was a little frustrating at first, but I’m persistent … and finally one day he just took off,” Rogers told HuffPost. “I have to give most of the credit to Mick because he was so determined. He was so anxious.”
Then something amazing happened — Mick began to move on his own. First, he started swimming. He later was able to sit up and stand. He started walking, and then he was able to run!
Each animal that comes into The Mia Foundation “is a miracle in their own way,” Rogers said Tuesday. “Each one of them fights every day of their life to recover. But you’ll see with a special needs animal that it’s almost like they’re a totally different breed. They have so much to give back, so much to offer. Just look at the smiles Mick has put on people’s faces over the past two days.”
Mick will be available for adoption within the next few weeks.
The term ‘swimmer’ is used to describe a puppy that paddles his legs much like a turtle, but is unable to stand. A puppy should be standing and walking by three weeks of age. As a result of weak muscles in the rear limbs, swimmers are generally unable to stand at the normal age.
What are the symptoms?
The only symptom of a swimmer puppy is his inability to stand or walk by the normal age of three weeks. The puppy will instead lay on his chest and paddle his feet as if attempting to swim in a turtle-like fashion.
What are the risks?
Most swimmer puppies will recover with time. The condition may, however, have an inherited characteristic.
What is the management?
Slippery floors may worsen, or in some cases, may even cause swimmer puppies. This is not always the case, because swimmer puppies are also seen when a rough surface is used for raising puppies. In any event, an affected puppy should be placed on a rough rather than slippery surface.
Puppies should not become overweight, as this may further the weakness in the rear limbs. Most swimmer puppies will develop to normal functioning by eight weeks of age, if treated early and placed on flooring with good traction.
Since there may be a hereditary component to this condition, dogs who were swimmer puppies would not be optimal breeding animals.