Have You Heard of Limber Tail?

A limber tail is one of many slang terms for a medical condition known as Acute Caudal Myopathy. Other common terms that are often used include cold tail, swimmer’s tail, dead tail, sprung tail, broken tail and many more. Retrievers, hounds and other working/hunting breeds are most commonly affected, however, any dog with a tail can develop this condition.

What is limber tail?

Acute caudal myopathy is caused by over-exercise, leading to injury of the tail muscles (similar to a sprain). Other risk factors include exposure to cold, wet weather and prolonged cage transport. Swimming, especially in cold water, can be a major risk factor. A limber tail is characterized by the sudden onset of a very limp tail, usually hanging straight down from the base of the tail. Dogs may show obvious discomfort, especially if pressure is placed at the base of their tail and are often unsettled and sit in abnormal positions. Sometimes, the hair over the top of the tail may be raised, which can be a sign of underlying tissue inflammation.

Could this be something else?

These conditions have similar clinical signs to limber tail:

  • Tail fracture
  • Spinal disease or pain
  • Anal gland infections
  • Prostate diseases

It is always best to have your dog assessed by a veterinarian to make sure your dog is not suffering from a more serious condition.

What is the treatment for limber tail?

The good news is, although this can be a painful condition for our pups, they usually recover on their own after a few days to about a week. Rest is the most important factor in recovery, as for any muscle injury. Veterinary prescribed anti-inflammatories given in the first couple of days, help speed recovery as well as keep our dogs more comfortable.

So how can you help prevent your dog from getting this condition?

Making sure your dog is properly conditioned is the biggest key to prevention. Dogs who are in good physical shape are less likely to get muscle sprains when they exert themselves than dogs who don’t exercise much during the week and then exercised heavily on the weekend. If your dog is going out in cold water or cold, wet weather, be sure to dry them off thoroughly as soon as possible.

Written by Dr. Jennifer Hanmore, DVM