I had not heard of limber tail until about two weeks ago. Limber tail is also known as:
- Swimmer’s tail
- Cold water tail
- Dead tail
- Limp tail
- Rudder tail
- Broken wag
It’s correct term is Acute Caudal Myopathy. It is a medical condition. It is not a broken tail although has been referred to as such because it looks like it’s no longer working and therefore assumed to be broken.
Summer Bath Time
We gave all three of our Golden Retrievers a summer bath out on the patio on a very warm July summers day. We filed up the new water trough with water from the garden hose, which is quite cold. I added a couple of buckets of very hot water from the house which took the edge off, but the water was still cold.
Makenzie was first. She was easily persuaded into the new trough. She did not like the hose spray much so we resorted to a smaller bucket to get her soaking wet, shampooed her and rinsed her off. Makenzie sat down in the water a few times. She got out but kept coming back.
Fletcher was next, not quite as easy to persuade in but he complied and had his bath. Finlay just walked in like this was no big deal and was the easiest to do. They all spend the next hour or so rolling in the grass, shaking off the water and in a short amount of time were dry enough to come inside.
I got pretty wet too! Personally I prefer to bath my own dogs and we only do it once a year. Golden Retrievers fur is very good at keeping clean. Even with wet mud it dries off and falls out. So the summer bath is it, it’s fun for them as well. If they get muddy in the summer I’ll hose them off as needed. They get plenty of brushing to keep the shedding fur to a minimum, this also gets rid of any stuck mud.
Limber Tail Strikes Makenzie
The following day I had notice Makenzie was holding her tail low. After a couple of times watching her outside I realized it looked odd. It was indeed hanging limply behind her. Normally when she runs it flies horizontally behind her. It was not.
Time to do a little research! I learned about limber tail and decided it must be that. What I did not learn was how easily this can be caused by cold water, especially after swimming or bathing in cold water. I decided I needed my vet to explain why she had limber tail. I also wanted to be sure it was not a broken tail because that is far more serious.
A quick trip to the vet clinic the next day, my vet felt Makenzies tail and the good news was it was not broken. Limber tail is what she had and most likely caused by the cold bath and the fact that she kept sitting in the cold water.
Causes & Symptoms of Limp Tail
In addition to swimming and cold water, limber tail can also be caused by strenuous activity and over exertion. It does seem to be more common in hunting and working dogs.
The bony vertebrae, ligaments and muscles are affected. The tail no longer functions correctly and pain may magnify the lack of use. Your dog’s tail may hurt to extend or even raise to use the potty. He may not be able to sit well and jumping may be out of the question.
Of dog tail problems it’s not as bad as a broken tail but it should be taken seriously.
Helping A Limp Tail Revive
Once you know the diagnosis is limber tail and not broken, your vet will likely prescribe some anti-inflammatory meds and rest. Makenzie started taking her meds the same day and as quick as the following day we could see it was starting to improve. Seven days later her tail is back flying when she runs.
Makenzie may never get limber tail again. Then again it may get her every time she gets into cold water. If she does, we’ll deal with the treatment again. If she loves to go swimming when we get to our lake in Wyoming maybe she’ll get used to the cold water and it wont happen. Either way if she wants to swim, we’ll let her.
If your dog’s tail is down all of a sudden it could be a broken tail but it might be limber tail.