HOW TO Treat Limber Tail Syndrome

limber tail syndromeYou and your dog just got back from a day of play that included a walk in the park and some swimming at the beach, which is pretty typical, but you notice your dog is not wagging his tail. In fact, his tail is limp and he seems to be in pain. What happened?

Your dog could be suffering from a condition called limber tail syndrome. It is also called cold tail, limp tail or dead tail.

The good news is that limber tail syndrome is not too serious. In most cases, it will go away on its own in a day or two.

What Causes Limber Tail Syndrome?

According to, “Although it is not definitively known why some dogs develop this syndrome, it is thought to be associated with strenuous exercise, swimming in water that is either too warm or too cold, and, more recently, studies have shown it may associated with muscle damage to the tail.”

There are other causes of limber tail syndrome. “Another risk factor is prolonged confinement, such as dogs being transported in crates over long distances,” states “If competition dogs are driven overnight to a field trial and don’t have a few breaks outside the crate while they’re on the road, says Dr. [Janet] Steiss, they may arrive at their destination with limber tail.”

And finally, weather can play a factor as well. Just like exposure to cold water can cause limber tail syndrome, so can exposure to cold and wet weather.

What is the Treatment for Limber Tail Syndrome?

Luckily, the treatment for limber tail syndrome is fairly easy and mostly consists of giving your dog a rest day or two. However, there are additional ways in which you can treat this syndrome and get your dog back to wagging his tail in no time.

One of the suggestions is to use warm compresses. writes, “By allowing your pet to have a warm compress periodically placed at the base of his tail, you’ll help to stimulate blood flow to the region in a way that will encourage the tail to become normal again and to alleviate any swelling and pain.”

Another option is to give your dog a NSAID, or non steroidal anti inflammatory drug, to help relieve the swelling and inflammation that are characteristic of limber tail syndrome. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian before starting any drug routine.

Are Certain Breeds Prone to Limber Tail Syndrome?

Yes, as a matter of fact, there are several breeds prone to limber tail syndrome.

“Limber tail can occur in any dog with an undocked tail, but certain breeds, especially pointing and retrieving dogs, seem particularly susceptible to it. Among these breeds are the Labrador, Golden and Flat-Coated Retrievers; English Pointers and Setters; Beagles; and Foxhounds. Both sexes and all ages can be affected,” says

Can My Dog Get Limber Tail Syndrome More than Once?

Yes. Once your dog gets limber tail syndrome, he’ll likely get it again.

According to, “Owners should also consider what activities their dogs were engaged in prior to the onset of the condition. Limber tail will show up quite soon after the triggering event, usually within hours or overnight. If you can isolate what it was that brought on the condition, whether it was an over-long off-leash hike or a swim in cold water, you can avoid repeating the situation.”

Lastly, make sure your dog is in shape and ready for strenuous activities like swimming and hiking. Many cases of limber tail syndrome happen when a dog has been resting in the off season and then tries to go full force into an activity without any time to condition.

glucosamine and chondroitin supplement can help prevent limber tail syndrome by strengthening the cartilage in your dog’s tail while inhibiting the growth of enzymes that can break it down. It also reduces pain and inflammation.

Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

PHOTO: powdr_dayz


Sonya Simpkins

Sonya Simpkins is a contributing writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. In her spare time, she loves to take her dogs for long hikes and treks to the beach, out to eat and on long road trips across the county. She then turns those adventures into useful advice for other dog parents who also love to take their dogs with them wherever they go.

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