When your dog is happy, his tail is likely wagging. When he’s feeling threatened or aggressive, it might be rigid. When he’s scared, he could tuck it between his hind legs. His tail helps him stay balanced when he’s moving around on land, and it works as a rudder when he’s swimming.
A dog’s tail is useful in a variety of ways. So, what does it mean when it suddenly stops working?
What is limber tail syndrome?
Limber tail syndrome, a painful medical condition that makes the tail look like it is broken, has a number of euphemisms: limber tail, broken tail, dead tail, cold water tail, and more. If your dog develops limber tail syndrome, his tail will likely hang down from the tail base or will be horizontal for three or four inches before dropping down.
What causes limber tail syndrome?
The condition, which most commonly occurs in sporting dogs, including golden and Labrador retrievers, pointers, foxhounds, and setters, occurs suddenly and most often after a dog goes swimming, takes a bath in water that is too cold or too warm, or enjoys a long day of tail-action “work,” like hunting.
Although limber tail syndrome is still somewhat of a mystery to the veterinary profession, researchers have determined that it is usually caused by overexertion that leads to muscle damage. Just like you and I might sprain a muscle while exerting ourselves, your dog can do the same with the muscles in his tail.
How can limber tail syndrome be diagnosed and treated?
Because a limp tail can also be a sign of something far more serious than limber tail syndrome, it is important that you provide as many details as possible to our health care team. Was the onset sudden, seeming to come out of nowhere, or did the tail become limp immediately following some type of injury? The more we know about the situation leading up to the limp tail, the quicker we’ll be able to make an accurate diagnosis. We may use X-ray to rule out a more serious condition, like a broken bone or spinal injury.
Although it is painful, limber tail syndrome is relatively benign and usually heals itself within a week with a little R&R. For some dogs with limber tail syndrome, we might prescribe mild pain medications to help ease the pain and discomfort.
If your dog’s tail suddenly seems “broken,” call our office as soon as possible.