Looking for a home treatment for dog limber tail? You are at the right place. Also known as swimmer’s tail, cold water tail, dead tail, rudder tail, frozen tail, sprain tail, broken tail, limp tail, broken wag, or the more technical, acute caudal myopathy, limber tail is a condition affecting the muscles of the dog’s tail. Before taking a look at home remedies for a dog’s limp tail, it’s important to firstly recognize if you are indeed dealing with a case of limber tail or perhaps something else. This is important because there may be other conditions that may mimic limber tail. So let’s take a look at what limber tail exactly is and what predisposes a dog to it.
Understanding Limber Tail in Dogs
As mentioned, the technical term for limber tail is acute caudal myopathy. Let’s take a closer look into what this term really means, shall we? Acute, means that the condition happens suddenly, one moment your dog was wagging his tail normally, the next it’s flaccid and your dog can’t move it as usual. Caudal instead is just the medical term for tail. Finally, myopthy means that the muscles are negatively affected from some medical condition. Put all these terms together and you will have a rough idea of what limber tail entails.
What dogs get this condition? The most affected dogs are dogs who have a recent history of being bathed, exposed to cold water or rain, or have undergoing physical exertion or excitement, explains veterinarian Dr. Laura Devlin, DVM, DABVP. Sometimes, limber tail can also be seen in dogs who were crated for long periods of time or dogs who who were recently groomed. It is mostly seen in working and hunting dogs such as pointers, setters, beagles and retrievers, but any dog with a tail can get it. Affected dogs typically exhibit a flaccid, wag-less tail that is carried limp or it may extend horizontally a few inches from the base and then drop vertically.
Affected dogs will show pain especially when they are sitting, lying down or having a bowel movement. In some cases, the pain may be severe enough to cause dogs to whimper, become lethargic and even refuse food. The tail may appear broken to dog owners, but there is no history of injuries to the tail such as being hit by a car, the tail getting stuck in between a door, somebody pulling the tail or the dog falling to the ground landing badly. Some owners report a swelling site by the base of the tail or the hairs by the tail area being raised.
Home Treatment for Limber Tail in Dogs
If your dog seems to match the profile of a dog with limber tail, this may be likely what you are dealing with. However, if your dog shows these symptoms but he doesn’t have a recent history of being bathed, swimming, over-exerting himself or being crated, make sure to see your vet immediately. There are chances your dog may be suffering from something serious such as nerve damage to the tail or some loss of blood supply to the area. There are also various other conditions that can mimic limber tail. For instance, a dog with anal gland problems may keep its tail tucked reflexively due to pain. If you have ascertained through your vet that your dog indeed has limber tail, you can try these home treatment for limp tail in dogs.
Use Warm Compresses
As soon as you notice the limp tail, you should use warm compresses on the area. To help the loss of muscle tone, warm compresses can help out. According to Grey Bruce Pet Hospital, an animal hospital located in Owen Sound, Ontario, warm compresses applied at the base of the dog’s tail help increase blood flow to the area while helping reduce the swelling and pain associated with this condition. Place the compress on the tail area several times a day, making sure the compress is not too hot. Alternatively, heat pads applied at the base of the tail may be helpful, but again, be very careful to prevent scalding.
Limp tail occurs as a result of overexerting the muscles of the tail. When dogs swim, they use their tail as a rudder and since dogs do not swim every day, those muscles may not be used to certain movements so the tail gets sore. Same with dogs who have led a pretty much sedentary lifestyle and then when hunting season is around the corner they overexert themselves. So what is the best treatment for sore, painful muscles? You got it. Rest. It’s not easy to rest a tail, but generally, the dog will be reluctant to move it if it’s painful. If you have a dog who is pretty stoic though, you may want to discourage running around and engaging in rough play for at least the first 48 to 72 hours. Many dogs get better after this time frame.
A Word About Medications
Veterinarians tend to prescribe non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs for limp tail. Dog owners must refrain from the temptation to give the dog an over the counter medication for pain, as many pain killers for humans can be harmful to dogs. Veterinarians offer anti-inflammatory drugs made specifically for dogs which are safer, but must be given carefully under the guidance of the vet. Small animal veterinarian Krista Magnifico in her blog though suggests her clients take a conservative approach by using the “wait and see approach.” She claims that in the case of limber tail, there are chances that the tail goes back to being carried “at full mast” within a day or two. Its her belief that a pet should therefore be medicated mostly for those conditions that justify the risk and potential side effects as seen with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.
“Complete recovery generally occurs within 2 weeks with some dogs recovering within a few days. About one third of dogs can experience a recurrence. ” ~Dr. Debra Primovic