Looking for Signs of Limber Tail

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After a vigorous day in the field, you may notice your dog’s tail hanging limply, as though it may be broken. Damaged tail muscles can cause this condition, known as limber tail syndrome.
 
Relatively common in pointing and retrieving dogs, has also been called cold water tail, limp tail, broken wag or broken tail. This condition affects the muscle at the base of a dog’s tail, which plays an important role in balance and body movement.
 
After a heavy day of work involving a lot of tail action, the tail can become so flaccid the dog is unable to raise it. The tail appears to be painful to the touch and dogs can act as if they are in pain for the first 24 to 48 hours. Hair around the base of the tail may also stand up, likely due to swelling of the muscle tissue at the tail base. Exposure to wet, cold weather, under-conditioning or overexertion after being confined in a crate for long periods of time can all contribute to limber tail.
 
Experienced owners and trainers say that rest is the best management, though non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also are commonly used to help manage limber tail. Usually dogs recover within a few days though during recovery, the tail may hang to one side. In rare cases, a dog’s tail posture may be permanently altered. Dogs that recover are likely to experience limber tail again in their life.
 
Limber tail is not often seen in the dog population as a whole, but is a relatively common condition in sporting dogs, including the Labrador, Golden and Flat-Coated Retrievers, English Setters, Pointers, Beagles, and Foxhounds. Males as well as females are affected.
 

CONSIDER THESE POINTS TO PREVENT LIMBER TAIL IN THE FUTURE:

  • Make sure your dog is properly conditioned prior to hunting or field trial season. Gradually get your dog into condition so he doesn’t experience stress or fatigue in the first few outings.
  • Regardless of the season, but particularly in wet, cold conditions, be sure to keep your dog’s bedding dry.
  • Make sure your dog’s crate is appropriate for his size. A dog should have enough room to move around. When traveling, make sure to get your dog out frequently to stretch his legs, at least once every two hours.