Foster Friday – Reggae has Swimmers Syndrome

On October 4, 2023, Spotify (momma cat) was surrendered to SHS. This beautiful cat is a one-year-old domestic shorthair feline; she enjoys playing with toys and scratching on cat posts. When Spotify arrived at SHS, she was sent into foster care because she was pregnant, foster homes provide a quiet and safe space for mamas to give birth. On October 16, 2023, Spotify had 5 kittens and was doing well post-partum. However, foster mom Michelle noticed that one little kitten was much smaller than his siblings. Reggae weighed about 3.2oz while his siblings weighed about 7oz.; with his smaller size, staff were suspicious that he was the runt.

On November 9, 2023, Reggae was brought to the SHS clinic for assessment. He was still smaller than his siblings and his foster mom was concerned about his size and his inability to get around like his siblings (he was wobbly when walking). SHS Lead Veterinarian, Dr. Megan completed the assessment and diagnosed Reggae with Swimmer Syndrome. The SHS clinic team used medical tape to tape Reggae’s legs so that they no longer splayed outwards enabling him to properly use his limbs.

Foster mom Michelle provides extra attention and support for Reggae to ensure his tape is changed often and that he has physical rehabilitation such a as range of motion exercises and planting the feet properly.

What is Swimmer Syndrome?

“Swimmer syndrome is a congenital condition that can occur in young kittens, causing the legs (typically the hind limbs) to splay laterally. The kitten may have a frog-like posture, with the hips jutting out to the side of the body and the feet facing sideways, rather than placed underneath the body. Kittens with swimmer syndrome will find it difficult or impossible to stand and walk.” – Kitten Lady

What causes of Swimmer Syndrome?

“It’s unclear as to how a kitten develops Swimmer Syndrome, but most specialists believe that there is a genetic component. Since it’s a pretty rare condition in cats, there isn’t much research or data related to it. However, there have been cases of Swimmer Syndrome in a litter of cats born from a Devon Rex and a crossbreed cat. In most cases, only one kitten in a litter will develop Swimmer Syndrome. However, it’s not impossible for an entire litter to have it. Some researchers also believe that diet may trigger Swimmer Syndrome. Excessive protein in the pregnant cat’s diet may put her kittens at risk of malformed limb muscles. However, more research needs to be conducted to further investigate this possible correlation.” –PetKeen

Is there a treatment for Swimmer Syndrome in cats?

“If you think that your kitten suffers from swimmer syndrome, your veterinarian will want to carry out a physical examination. Vets primarily diagnose the condition by visual means. Early intervention is very important, so once your veterinarian provides a diagnosis, they will likely suggest a course of physical therapy to help correct the condition. Your vet might suggest taping and wrapping your kitten’s legs in a manner that will help to realign the legs. Vets often use medical tape to achieve this goal. If your vet advises you to tape your cat’s legs for treatment, then you must follow their directions precisely, as inappropriately bandaged legs could make the issue even worse. Along with taping a cat’s legs, your vet might also suggest undertaking daily physical therapy activities and exercises to help strengthen the legs. These might involve a range of motion exercises and massages that your veterinarian can show you how to conduct safely.” – Cat Time

Reggae will have his legs taped for 30 days and will then come in for reassessment to see how he is progressing. The SHS clinic team has already seen some progress!