Limber (Frozen) Tail in Dogs

Limber (Frozen) Tail in Dogs

“Cold water tail,” “limber tail syndrome,” “damaged tail,” “dead tail,” “broken wag,” and “sprung tail” are all euphemisms for a fairly common event in sporting dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Setters, Pointers, Flatcoats, and Foxhounds. In this painful syndrome, the tail of the dog suspends from the tail base or is held horizontal for 3 or four inches then falls.

Limber (Frozen) Tail in Dogs

This sudden-onset condition seems extremely painful, however is a fairly benign condition that can happen after swimming, after a heavy hunting day and even after a bath with cold water or water that is too warm. It is not constantly related to swimming or water, but it can happen after a heavy day of work that involves a great deal of tail action. Almost all affected dogs will go back to normal within a couple of days.

Causes of limber tail syndrome

Most vets know the condition but it is uncertain what causes the condition. It can look like the tail is certainly broken. Nevertheless, the damage is not to the tail bone, but the tail muscles. The syndrome seems to be triggered by muscle injury possibly induced by overexertion, states Janet Steiss, DVM, PhD, PT. Steiss is an associate teacher at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the 1999 research study on limber tail that pinpointed the nature of the muscle damage. Researchers used electromyography (EMG) imaging and tissue testing on dogs affected with limber tail and concluded that the coccygeal muscles near the base of the tail had continual damage — it’s the equivalent of a sprain. Although the cause may not constantly be clear, overexertion is frequently the culprit. Just as with their guardians, often dogs pay for their weekend fun in pressures and sprains.

Medical diagnosis of limber tail syndrome

Sadly some veterinarians and numerous guardians are not knowledgeable about the condition and it may be misinterpreted for something far more major. While a limp tail can show an actual broken bone or spinal injury or other problem, the scientific discussion of the syndrome has a rather normal abrupt presentation: the impacted dog’s tail was fine, and then it wasn’t. This details may help your veterinarian in making a medical diagnosis. Careful palpation and radiographs will rule out a fracture.

Treatment of limber tail syndrome

Generally, the syndrome solves itself with rest within a week or so. Keep impacted dogs quiet up until the tail returns to normal. Your vet may prescribe some moderate painkillers to reduce the soreness. There is anecdotal evidence that administering anti-inflammatory drugs early in the onset can help shorten the period of the episode, but no veterinary studies have actually yet confirmed this. The condition may or might not take place again.

Avoidance of limber tail syndrome

Get your dog accustomed to energetic activity. Reduce your dog into any extreme activity to gradually enhance his condition. Many cases happen when a dog is a couch potato in the off-season then plunges back into searching or training full time.

Questions to ask your veterinarian:

  • My dog is refusing to wag his tail since we got back from a week at the lake — what might be occurring?
  • My dog was identified with “sprung tail.” Is it likely to repeat? How can I avoid it?

Also read: Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

D. Roberts (Junior Expert)
Pet Health
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  1. Joseph

    Our dog had a tail like that. We were afraid it was broken. But in the clinic, dog prescription drugs, and the tail gradually straightened. And we thought we’d need surgery.