Splay puppy syndrome, sometimes called Swimming Puppy Syndrome because the movements of the puppy resemble a swimming motion, is a condition of unknown origin affecting puppies at approximately 2-3 weeks of age. The signs of this syndrome are splayed legs, either front legs, or all four legs, about the time the puppies should be learning to walk. The syndrome also causes aspiration of food, due to difficulty in swallowing and possible deformities of the chest area, due to the puppy's continually being upright on their chest.
How to Make a Hobble for a Puppy with Splayed Legs
The good news is that 90% of puppies with this syndrome recover quickly (often within several days) and go on to live a normal life expectancy and have happy lives.
The fastest, least complicated method of creating a "hobble" for a puppy with splay feet is to use 1/2 inch bias tape or gauze to gently pull the puppy's legs together.
Cut the material you choose into a 2 foot length. Place the center of the strip against the inside of either of the puppy's affected legs. Wrap the ends to the outside, cross them and then bring them back in to the inside. This wrap keeps the puppy from pulling his foot out of the hobble. Wrap securely enough to keep the hobble on, but not so tight it restricts circulation to the puppy's feet. Bring the ends together on the inside of the puppy's leg, and tie a very loose knot to help keep the hobble in place.
Extend the long ends towards the other leg, and tie an overhead knot in the center of the long ends. Although very rare, it may be possible for the puppy, or a litter mate, to get their head through the opening of the two strands and get the hobble around their neck. Tying a knot in the center makes the openings too small for this.
Take the long ends past the center knot and wrap them around the puppy's other leg, again tying a loose knot on the inside of the puppy's leg. On this side take the tails of the hobble around to the outside of the leg, tie a knot and then cut the ends short enough so litter mates can't chew on them.
Splay leg puppies rarely lay on their sides, so try to position the hobbled puppy on it's side. This helps them avoid the deformed chest so many splay legged puppies can develop and also helps puppies from getting aspiration pneumonia, when swallowed liquid is brought back up and then inhaled.
A more complex harness can be constructed by using an old t-shirt and make-up sponges. Cut the body of the t-shirt into a square, large enough to wrap around the puppy's body and be tied, and cut two holes in the t-shirt, about shoulder width apart (the puppy's shoulders) large enough to accommodate the puppy's legs without constriction.
Put the puppy's legs through the holes and center a wedge shaped make-up sponge between the puppy's legs, inside the t-shirt, over the chest area. Pull the shirt up against the puppy's body. Place a rectangular sponge lengthwise down the outside of both the puppy's legs, using the t-shirt to hold them against the body of the puppy and using them to push the "elbows" of the dog towards the body.
Take the two corners closest to the head of the dog and tie them into a knot. Repeat with the second set, tying the knot around the puppy's mid-section. Make sure the knots are not constricting the puppy in any way, but are tight enough to keep the sponges in place.
The harness works best for front leg splay, although a modified version, minus the wedge shape, can be constructed for the rear legs; however it's not really workable for male puppies, as it can become soiled with urine quickly.