New research conducted by the University of Edinburgh suggests that genetics and geography factors could increase the risk of limber tail in dogs.
What is Limber Tail?
Limber tail is one of several names used to describe a condition that’s officially known as Acute Caudal Myopathy. It results in a dog’s tail hanging limp, making it difficult and sometimes painful for dogs to move. This condition has many colloquial names including swimmer’s tail, water tail, and cold tail; names that give clues about possible causes. The disorder affects the muscles at the base of a dog’s tail, which causes it to dangle limply between the dog’s hind legs.
How to Spot It
The clearest sign will be that your dog’s tail will be limp, unable to wag or move as normal. According to the report, owners of dogs suffering from the condition said dogs were at a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale. Other indicators or side effects can include:
- Trouble walking or standing – dog’s tails are useful for balancing
- Reluctance or discomfort while defecating
- Unwilling to go outdoors
- Struggle to get comfy lying down or sitting
- Whimpering or other vocal signs of pain
First reported in veterinary journals in 1997, relatively little is known about this disorder. Common explanations for why it occurs include:
- Cold weather
- Swimming in cold water
- Dog confined in small spaces
- Overexertion, especially due to swimming
Working Dogs Are More at Risk
The results from the study show that working dog breeds and dogs who’ve been swimming are up to five times more likely to suffer from the disorder. But the Edinburgh University study sheds new light on geographical factors, too. The chance of a dog developing the condition goes up by 50% for each additional degree of latitude farther north, which translates to roughly the distance from London to Liverpool.
Cold, wet weather conditions seem to increase the risk, however, don’t let this put you off walking your dog in less than balmy weather. Your dog still needs enough exercise to stay healthy and stimulated – be sure to get your dog warm and dry as soon after the walk, and avoid strenuous walks if your dog isn’t accustomed to them, why not build up slowly.
What Treatments Are Available?
- Get your dog checked by your vet: to make sure there isn’t any bone damage or other health issues. Vets can take an X-ray and conduct a blood test to look for an enzyme that will be present if there is muscle damage.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: your vet may prescribe these – but please do not self-medicate your dog, as this can cause further problems! Always get your vet to prescribe the correct drugs and dosage.
- Warm packs: just like when humans hurt our muscles, a warm pack can help restore them. Placing a warm pack at the base of your dog’s tail can help aid recovery
- Rest: your dog may want to kick back and recover anyway, but if they’re the boisterous or just resilient / stoic / tenacious type a little encouragement to take it easy might be needed.
With some basic treatment to help your dog stay comfy and well rested, the condition should resolve itself after a week or two. If you still have concerns after this time, check in with your vet.