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Dogs can get limp tail, or limber tail, from too much swimming

What limber tail, cold tail and swimmer’s tail really means.

Some pups are natural swimmers (think: goldendoodles). And if you’re no stranger to watching your dog enjoy countless hours in the pool, you may have noticed their tail go limp after finally climbing out. 

Or maybe you haven't notices, but it's something you want to keep an eye on — it’s always good to be in the know. Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Aliya McCullough, is here to explain the ins-and-outs of limp tail, aka limber tail. 

What causes a limber tail in dogs?

According to Dr. McCullough, the cause of limber tail, or caudal myopathy syndrome, isn’t fully known, but it usually happens after a dog uses their tail a lot. “It’s thought to be a type of compartment syndrome in which there’s increased pressure from swelling or blood flow in a non-expandable space, like a muscle,” she adds. 

Certain breeds, like young, large-breed, working dogs, are more susceptible to limber tail, Dr. McCullough says. So pay attention to your pup’s tail if you’re a parent to a Labrador Retriever, English Pointers, German Shepherds, beagles, Golden Retrievers or Dalmatians.

This condition is also called “cold tail,” “dead tail” or “swimmer’s tail,” she adds.

What are the symptoms of a limber tail?

Check-in with your veterinarian if you think your pup has a limber tail. Conditions like trauma, a fractured or broken tail, anal gland infection and intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) present symptoms similar to a limber tail, so it’s important to rule out any underlying conditions.

You’ll likely be able to tell if your pup has a limber tail because there’ll be a significant difference in how they hold their tail. Often, dogs can’t wag their tails, and it’s generally stiff or limp. Sometimes, the base of the tail is rigid and the rest of the tail is limp, Dr. McCullough adds. 

Other than a limp tail, dogs may experience swelling at the base of their tail, pain, lethargy and may not let you touch their tail altogether, Dr. McCullough says. 

RELATED: Why do dogs wag their tails?

Limber tail treatment

Usually, limber tail symptoms resolve on their own in a few days to a couple of weeks, Dr. McCullough shares. “Veterinarians may treat the condition symptomatically by recommending rest and restricting the affected dog’s exercise,” she adds. “Anti-inflammatories and a warm compress to the tail can help improve comfort.” 

How to prevent swimmer’s tail in dogs

A limber tail can affect dogs multiple times throughout their lives, Dr. McCullough explains. However, gradually increasing the amount of exercise or strenuous activity your pup does may help prevent the condition. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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