Why Has My Dog's Tail Gone Limp?
Understanding Dog Limber Tail Syndrome
Also known as "cold water tail", "limp tail" or "broken wag", not many dog owners are aware of the fact that dogs may develop tail problems until one day the dog's tail becomes limp, lifeless, and flaccid as seen in dog limber tail syndrome. If you've never heard about this term before, don't be surprised—many people are not aware of it and even some vets are not very familiar with it as it is not very common. Common scenarios that may bring a bout of limber tail syndrome are as follows:
- You bring your dog camping with you and decide to allow your dog a pleasant swim in a nice pond. After sleeping under the big starry sky, your dog awakens with a lifeless, flaccid tail.
- You take your dog hunting with you and after chasing pheasant for several hours, your dog displays his tail horizontally and drops down totally flaccid. Concerned your dog somehow broke his tail, since he is no longer able to wag it normally, you take him to the vet.
- Your dog rolls in the mud on a pleasant outing in the woods and once home you give him a nice bath. You dry your dog with a few towels and put him in the crate for the night. The next morning, your dog's yowls in pain upon hitting his tail against the chair. You notice your dog cannot move the tail as usual.
Did You Know?
This condition seems to most likely prefer dogs of a particular breed. However, virtually any dog can be affected. Common breeds affected by this condition are:
- Labradors and Golden Retrievers
- Flat coat Retrievers
- English Setters
- English Pointers
Symptoms of Limber Tail Syndrome in Dogs
Most owners are concerned upon settlement of symptoms. They are often worried because they cannot recall their dogs having any recent injuries. The most common symptoms of limber tail syndrome are quite obvious to the eye. Affected dogs will display the following symptoms:
- Limp tail
- No wagging
- Tail that extends horizontally for 3-4 inches and then suddenly drops flaccidly
- Hair standing up at base of tail
- Pain upon palpation
- Local swelling
Causes of Limber Tail Syndrome
Causes of limp tail in dogs are yet to be really understood, but they mostly follow a pattern. Most common causes seem to be caused by the following:
- Climate changes
- Being crated for a long time
- Inappropriate crate size
- Exposure to cold weather
- Warm or cold bath
- Overuse of tail
- Excessive exercise without proper physical conditioning
Sporting dogs are particularly prone to this condition. It is vital that if you own a hunting dog or a sporting dog that you gradually introduce your dog to exercise. Sudden bouts of prolonged exercise especially after long periods of rest are potential triggers. Avoid crating your dog too long and ensure the crate is large enough to allow your dog to stretch and turn around. Avoid your dog's exposure to cold drafts especially if your dog is wet and do not allow contact with wet bedding.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Limber Tail Syndrome
Limber tail is usually confirmed by physical examination. Upon visiting the dog, most normally exhibit a painful tail upon palpation. Veterinarians may, therefore, order x-rays to rule out any fractures. If blood work is done, the results show an increased level of a particular muscle enzyme called "creatine kinase" often abbreviated as "CK". This particular enzyme is associated with muscle damage.
Treatment for Limber Tail Syndrome
Treatment luckily is pretty straight forward and when diagnosed correctly will often consist of the following:
- Warm packs at the base of the tail
- Anti-inflammatory drugs recommended by vets (NSAID's). Please keep in mind that many over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs for humans can be potentially toxic and fatal.
Most cases resolve pretty quickly. More often than not the pain seems to subside within 24 to 48 hours, but it may take up to 2 weeks to resolve completely. In some very rare cases the tail may never return to its normal position, but again this is pretty unusual. Do not be alarmed if at a certain point during recovery the tail may seem to be kept a little to the side. This should resolve shortly.
Whether you call it limber tail, cold water tail, frozen tail or simply broken wag, rest assured that your dog's tail will very likely go back to normal and you will get to enjoy your dog's tail wagging lively once again and in no time!
Other Possible Causes for What Appears to Be a Painful Tail
Not all tails carried low or held in an abnormal position are always due to limber tail. If your dog did not do anything that could have caused limber tail or if the problem appears to be elsewhere, consider the following possibilities:
- The tail got injured after being caught in a door or being stepped over
- A problem in the anal glands(impacted or infected) may cause a dog to carry its tail in an unusual manner
- A dog generally not feeling well or anxious may keep the tail low between its legs
- Back problems or any spinal injury can cause a tail carried low.
Disclaimer: This article is not to be used as a substitute for veterinary advice nor a diagnostic tool. Please see your vet for a hands on assessment and proper diagnosis. By reading this article, you accept this disclaimer.
© Alexadry all rights reserved
A Video of a Dog Affected by Limber Tail Syndrome
For Further Reading
- Giving aspirin to your dog
Aspirin for dogs Medically better known as Acetylsalicylic Acid, Aspirin has been used by humans for a very long time for the relief of many painful conditions. Nowadays, even our canine companions may benefit from its many advantageous properties...
- The truth about dog tail docking
When I first starting working at an animal hospital I was given a booklet with all the prices and services our animal hospital offered. As I read through the extensive list, I noticed the term 'tail docking"....
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I'm trying to adopt a 12 year old female Chihuahua. I noticed that her tail is always between her legs and she has a curved lower back. The Association that currently is in possession of the dog told me that their vet said she's ok. I would adopt her anyways because she looks that she didn't have any easy life. I would like to know what can cause a Chihuahua to always tuck up its tail? She weighs 6 lbs.
When a dog is "tucked up" this way it can be indicative of either abdominal pain or back pain. Sometimes, it can be an issue with the anal glands. I would discuss with the association your concerns.Helpful 2
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli