Limber Tail

Limber tail is one of many names used to describe a condition that’s known by vets as Acute Caudal Myopathy.

Limber tail is one of many names used to describe a condition that’s known by vets as Acute Caudal Myopathy.

It causes a dog’s tail to become limp, making it hard and often painful for the dog to move.

The ailment has several colloquial names including swimmer’s tail, water tail and cold tail. All these names give us a clue about the possible cause.

How to spot Limber Tail:

The most obvious sign of Limber Tail, will be that your dog’s tail will be limp, unable to wag or move as it normally does.
Other indicators or side effects can include:

  • Problems standing or walking – dog’s use their tails for balancing
  • Reluctance or discomfort while going to the toilet, particularly ‘number twos’
  • Lack of desire to go outdoors
  • Struggling to get comfortable lying down or sitting
  • Vocal signs of pain such as whimpering

Limber Tail was first reported in veterinary journals in 1997, relatively little is known about this disorder.

Common explanations for why it occurs include:

  • Swimming in cold water / in cold weather
  • Being confined in small spaces for extended periods of time
  • Overexertion, in particular, due to swimming

Are Working dogs more at risk?

Results from studies show that working dog breeds and dogs who’ve been swimming for long periods of time are up to five times more likely to suffer from Limber Tail.

Cold and wet weather conditions seem to increase the risk, however, don’t let this put you off walking your dog in these conditions. Your dog still needs enough exercise to stay fit and healthy! Just make sure to get your dog warm and dry as soon as possible after the walk. Avoid long and strenuous walks if your dog isn’t used to them. Build up slowly.

Limber Tail Treatments

  • Get checked by your vet: in order to make sure there isn’t any bone damage or other health issues. Vets may take an x-ray and conduct a blood test to look for an enzyme that will be present if there is muscle damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: your vet may prescribe these – however do not self-medicate your dog, especially with ‘human drugs’ – Always let your vet prescribe medication!
  • Heat packs: just like when we humans have hurt our muscles, a warm pack can help restore the muscles. Placing a heat pack at the base of your dogs tail can help with recovery. Do not use ‘deep heat’ rubs, however!
  • Rest and relaxation: your dog may want to chill out and recover, but if they’re the boisterous type a little encouragement to take some rest might be needed.

With some basic treatment to help your dog stay comfy and well rested, the condition should resolve itself after a week or two.
If you still have concerns, it’s time to check in with your vet.