Cold Tail/Dead Tail/Limber Tail

Oh noooooooeeeees!  My poor boy woke up from a nap yesterday afternoon and his normally happy waggy tail was hanging limply.  I recognized the affliction immediately as he had a similar episode last Summer while vacationing on Cape Cod.  The verdict?  Cold tail.  The cause?  Unknown.


The above are photos of Miles’ tail last night.  Notice how loosely his tail is hanging down in the first picture and how sad he looks in the second. 

From Woodhaven Labs:  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.  The tail remains in this position even when the dog moves about.  Linky.

The first occurance of this in Miles was last July while vacationing on Cape Cod.  Miles had been running several days in a row along with lots of visits to the beach.  We also were renting a house near a pond which he also swam across while following us in a kayak (what can I say–he likes the water).  The evening after his marathon swim session he looked as he does in the photos above.  I immediately thought he broke his tail or something worse was wrong.  Miles uses his tail a lot to express himself so to see it limply hanging there was quite disconcerting.  I had heard of cold tail, but had never seen it.  I did some research and found that there was really nothing to be done but rest and the tincture of time.  By the next day he was back to his old self.

This time is different.  There were no marathon swim sessions.  We went for an 8 mile trail run Saturday morning (yup still planning on doing that blasted race) followed by a 45 minute woods walk with both dogs.  Miles is used to running, but probably hasn’t gone that distance since early August although we had been consistently running 6 or so.  Yesterday, I took the dogs for a walk along a creek for about 2 hours.  Miles was in and out of the creek, but not really swimming.  When we got home, I gave Rue a bath and then crated her with her lunch while I gave Miles a bath.  Both baths were done inside with warm water.  His bath was followed by some fetch before taking Rue out to play.  Miles was completely dry and acting normally before coming inside for a snooze.  It was when he awoke from that snooze that I recognized the limp tail.  He appears to be in a lot more pain this time around as well.  I’m giving him Ascriptin and he’s currently snoozing with a heating pad under his butt.  Oh I hope this resolves itself soon. 

Several things have been postulated as the cause of cold tail, although nothing has been proven making it a difficult thing to prevent.  Some frequent occurences that could predispose to cold tail are:
1)  Spending a long time in cold water
2)  Increase in physical activity especially for underconditioned dogs
3)  Long hunting sessions expecially in cold weather
4)  Bathing with cold water especially if not dried and immediately crated

Unfortunately, dogs that are afflicted wtih it have a much greater chance of getting it again–great.


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