Dog Can’t Move Tail? 3 Things to Know

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From Pets Best, a nationwide pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats founded in 2005.

Have you ever taken your dog for a swim, and afterwards their tail was limp and hung close to their body–almost as if the tail seemed broken? They may be 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.

Dog suffering from limber tail, also called broken tail, after a swim.

1. Veterinarian Explanation

Pets Best veterinarian writer 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.”

Dog suffering from limber tail, also called broken tail, after a swim.

2. Does it Hurt?

Limber tail can be painful. Dogs may yip when they try to sit down. Fortunately, a few days of rest is usually enough for the condition to heal, and your dog’s tail should be back in business within a few days. If not, your veterinarian may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help speed recovery. Our BestBenefit pet insurance plan would help cover the cost since accidents/injuries are included in our plan.

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3. Highest Risk Time

Limber tail is most common at the beginning of the season when a dog goes from being sedentary to swimming hard. To help alleviate the possibility of limber tail, keep the swim distances shorter, for instance throw the tennis ball closer to shore; make sure your dog gets lots of downtime, and keep the overall swim session short until your dog is 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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