Dog Tips

Limber Tail Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

July 15, 2021

Limber Tail Syndrome

Limber tail in dogs is not as uncommon as you may think, and there are certain symptoms, causes, and treatments pet owners should know about.

A dog’s tail is an expression of its mood and happiness. After all, what’s a better feeling than your puppy running up to the door excitedly wagging their tail?

But, what if one day you noticed your dog’s tail was limp or had stopped wagging?

If you notice this, your dog may be experiencing something called cold tail syndrome, also known as limber tail.

This article reviews everything to know about limber tail in dogs, including symptoms, causes, treatment and more.

What is limber tail syndrome?

Limber tail is a condition in dogs that makes their tail appear as if it is broken. It is often called “swimmer’s tail” because many affected dogs had gone swimming before their tail became limp.

Other names for limber tail include cold water tail, broken wag, broken tail, limp tail, or the official name “Acute Caudal Myopathy.”

Limber Tail Symptoms

Here are a few of the most common signs of cold tail syndrome to watch out for:

  • Limp tail (from base to tip)

  • No tail wagging

  • Raised fur on the top of their tail

  • Whimpering or whining

  • Partially limp tail, where the tail is pointed from the base, but the rest is hanging.

  • Licking, chewing, or scratching at the tail

  • Yelping if you touch their tail (2)

What Causes Limber Tail in Dogs?

Limber tail is typically caused by overworking the tail muscles. Large dog breeds, especially working breeds, are particularly prone to this condition. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Pointers are a few of the most at-risk dog breeds.

Possible causes of limber tail in dogs: 

  • Overworking or overusing the tail muscles via strenuous workouts, hunting, or swimming

  • Being in water that is too hot or cold

  • Climate changes, especially to wet and cold weather

  • Tail positioning (high set tails are more prone to limber tail)

  • Gender (males are more commonly affected with limber tail syndrome)

  • Confinement in a cage for prolonged periods (3)

Treatment of Limber Tail 

Cold tail syndrome that affects dogs sometimes goes unnoticed by pet parents because it will frequently heal on its own.

The typical treatment for a limp tail is rest, with most cases healing within a few days to two weeks.

Still, if you notice that your pup has signs of a flaccid tail, it’s essential that you bring them to their veterinarian. Some health issues, like intervertebral disc disease, tail cancer, or impacted anal glands, can appear to be limber tail syndrome but are more severe conditions. 

You never know when your pup may need to see a veterinarian. Set up a pet insurance plan to give yourself peace of mind knowing that you will have support caring for them.


  • The Bark

  • American Animal Hospital Association

  • Vet Lexicon

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