Help – My Dog Can’t Move Her Tail!

Posted on July 16, 2013 under Dog Topics

Limber tail or cold tail affects swimming dogs

by Chryssa Rich, Marketing Programs Associate and Pets Best Insurance policyholder.

Recently after taking my dog Jayda to fetch tennis balls in the lake, I noticed she seemed really uncomfortable. Instead of snoozing on the couch, she was pacing around the living room trying to get comfortable. A couple of times, she yipped suddenly and jumped off the couch.

I was baffled. I checked her rump and feet for stickers, and I checked the furniture for bugs. It didn’t make any sense. She and I stood in the living room staring at each other, then I realized – she can’t move her tail!

Jayda’s tail was limp and hanging close to her body (top photo). I asked a number of tail-wagging questions to see if it was just my imagination. “Wanna go for a walk? Should we go? Squirrel!” Jayda’s ears perked up and her front legs danced, but her tail didn’t budge. I started to worry that maybe she’d injured her spinal cord in the lake.

It was late on a Sunday evening, so I did some quick online research. I learned pretty quickly that she was mostly likely suffering from limber tail. Also called dead tail, cold tail, broken tail or broken wag, it’s a common condition in working dogs and hunting dogs right after swimming.
A normal tail position for a Carolina Dog.
Veterinarian Explanation

Pets Best veterinarian blogger Dr. Caldwell explains, “Limber tail is a condition where dogs can suddenly develop a flaccid, droopy tail. The tail either hangs down from the base or is held out for a few inches then hangs straight down. The first time the condition was described was in hunting dogs, primarily Pointers and Labrador Retrievers, however it can happen with other breeds as well.

Pathophysiology is not fully understood, although this tends to happen after a hard workout or swimming, especially in cold water. Studies have shown there may be mild muscle fiber damage as an underlying cause.”

Does it Hurt?

Limber tail can be painful, which explained Jayda’s yips when she tried to sit down. Fortunately, a few days of rest is usually enough for the condition to heal, and Jayda’s tail should be back in business within a few days (second photo). If not, I’ll take her in for an appointment and Dr. Caldwell may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help speed recovery. Our pet insurance from Pets Best Insurance will help cover the cost since accidents/injuries are included in our plan.

Limber tail is most common at the beginning of the season when a dog goes from being sedentary to swimming hard. Next time we swim, I’ll throw the tennis ball closer to shore, make sure Jayda gets lots of downtime, and keep the sessions short until she’s in top shape.

Please note: If you suspect your dog has limber tail but hasn’t been swimming, get to a veterinarian immediately. The condition could be caused by paralysis or loss of blood supply to the area, and delaying treatment could put your pet’s life at risk.

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