DiscussionDog Health

Limber tail syndrome what is it? Solve the mystery of a lost wag

Limber tail syndrome in dogs is called Acute Caudal Myopathy, in medical terms and can be caused by many actions of exercise in your dog. Or indeed the lack of.

Limber tail is one of several names used to describe a condition that’s causing a dog’s tail to hang limp. This can make it difficult and often painful for dogs to move. This condition has many colloquial terms such as swimmer’s tail, water tail, and cold tail. These terms can give clues about possible causes.

Limber tail affects the muscles at the base of a dog’s tail, which causes it to dangle limply between the dog’s hind legs. Quite disturbing when first noticed. Imagine you come home and your dogs tail has no wag.

Limber tail syndrome came on to my radar very recently, too recently in fact. After a day out with Saber, of which he spent quite a bit of time swimming.

Limber tail syndrome
Saber Swimming

On the way home he showed no signs of discomfort at all, in fact when we passed the beach he was ready to go again. I said enough for today Saber and we continued our walk home, much against his own thoughts.

Limber tail syndrome Signs & symptoms

  • Limber tail syndrome – also called cold water tail, limp tail, broken wag or broken tail – describes a relatively common condition in sporting dogs.
  • Cause: ischemic damage to the tail muscle, generally after swimming or exposure to cold or wet weather.
  • Signs: limp tail.

The causes it seems are over exercise especially swimming and cold, or inactivity such as being in a crate for a long time. Saber has always been an outdoor dog and we spend most of our days out and about so over doing it can’t be the cause can it?

Well it seems it can, Saber had spent quite a long time swimming that day. Dogs use their tails as a rudder when swimming and this must have been the cause.

This page goes into more depth of it than I can as this is the first time I have heard of or encountered it. The medical explanation can be found here

So we got home Saber and I, he had his food and settled down for a sleep.

When he woke up he wanted to go out for his nightly walk as always before turning in for the night.

Limber tail syndrome how I noticed it

Saber being a cross German Shepherd/Siberian Husky always walks with his tail high and curled. Not quite as much as a Husky does but very similar.

Well not this night his tail was limp and just hung between his back legs, I of course thought this very strange, he seemed his normal self except for his tail. Then when i took his ball from my pocket to have quick game of catch on the way home I was pretty shocked to see his tail did not wag, not even a flicker.

When we got back home, I searched the internet to try and find an explanation for his limp tail, hoping very much that this wasn’t a spinal injury or some kind of poisoning symptom.

A sigh of relief

The first page I came across was this one, I read it through very thoroughly and put two two together.

Limber tail syndrome
Sabers tail limp

It was the first paragraph on this page which made me stop panicking as much as I had been

What causes limber tail?

“Limber tail often is due to a muscle sprain or strain in a dog’s tail. These injuries are associated with overuse, but also can be due to:

  • Swimming
  • Prolonged crate confinement
  • Exposure to cold weather
  • Excessive exercise without proper conditioning
  • Climate changes

Swimming is the most common cause of limber tail, possibly due to chilly water conditions and abnormal exercise. While swimming, dogs use their tails to help with balance and steering, resulting in overexertion compared with their dry-land activities.”

I found it strange to think that swimming had caused this weird phenomenon when Saber swims in the sea almost everyday and I have never seen this and as I said never even heard of it.

How to Prevent Limp Tail in Dogs 

Prevention of limber tail is not likely, since play and work are common for most dogs. Common sense during physical activity should be used. For example, dogs should be allowed to rest regularly during excessive activity. This may mean shortening the length of the activity if stopping to rest isn’t possible but there is no reason to avoid things a dog enjoys doing.


Treating a dog with limp tail is a simple remedy, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Giving the dog rest and sometimes anti-inflammatories will allow the tail to heal and return to normal, in a few days to a week. Quite often rest and meds for up to a week can be needed but regardless, treatment is short and simple when you compare it to many other problems dogs have.

Before this happened to Saber I had never even heard of Limber Tail Syndrome.

But hey we learn something new every day, especially where our dogs are concerned!!

Have you ever had an experience of Limber tail syndrome? Let me know in the comments below. In the mean time I will be watching Saber like a hawk and resting him as much as possible, hoping we do not need a vets visit for this strange ailment.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.