Cold Tail, Dead Tail, Limber
What Is Limber Tail Syndrome?
Limber tail syndrome and "cold
water tail" while known to those who work with hunting
dogs, may not be familiar to veterinarians. It is most often
seen in working breeds like English Pointers, English Setters,
Foxhounds, Beagles, and Labrador Retrievers. Ages of affected
dogs range from 0.5-9 years old. In English Pointers the most
frequent age of onset is reported to be 2 years old.
Typically the presentation is a
young adult dog with an acutely flaccid tail that hangs down
from the tail base or is held horizontally for 3-4 inches and
then drops down.(dog on right) The tail remains in this position
even when the dog moves about.
||The puppy on the left does not have cold
tail. Some dogs which have nice otter tails hold
their tail like this while they are standing at rest.
The minute they start to move, the tail comes back up
to a normal position. Totally different than the
dog which has "cold tail".
|This is an actual picture of a dog with
cold tail. You can see how the tail is clamped to
Photo courtesy of David Larsen
Pain may be seen on palpation of
the tail base and some owners report that the dog seems uncomfortable
and painful. The best thing to do is leave the tail alone.
Rest is recommended. Complete recovery
is usually seen by 2 weeks and often occurs within a few days
although it recurs later during training in 1/3 of the cases.
Some owners and trainers feel that anti-inflammatory drugs shorten
the recovery time if given when the condition is first seen.
You might also use warm packs at the base of the tail which
will help the relief of pain.
The cause of limber tail is not
known although it is thought to be associated with hard workouts
(especially in underconditioned dogs), heavy hunting, and swimming
or bathing in water that is too cold or too warm. Some owners
reported that they grab the tail as a means of correction. Tail
conformation (high set or very active), gender (males more frequently
affected), and nutritional factors have also been suggested
as possible causes. Ongoing studies suggest that limber tail
is associaed with muscle damage in the tail with dogs examined
early in showing elevated muscle enzymes eg., creatine phosphokinase.
Links to other information on cold
Canine Pract 22[5/6]:1 Sep/Dec'97
Canine Sports Medicine 2 Refs Jan E. Steiss, DVM, PhD, Scott-Ritchey
Research Center, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Some information and pictures
contributed by Laura Michaels © Woodhaven Labradors