Swimmer’s Tail In Dogs

On May 28, 2013 by Life In The Dog Lane

Have you heard of this? Until last summer, we hadn’t. I didn’t even think it was real. It’s very real. Our Lab, Juno, got it last year.

Swimmer’s Tail occurs when dogs swim in water that’s either too warm or too cold, or when dogs simply swim for too long and aren’t yet properly conditioned for that amount of activity.

Swimmer's Tail In Dogs - Juno

We don’t know if it was because the water in our pool was, in fact, too cold for her at the beginning of the season (our first year with a pool), or because Juno got too excited and swam too darn hard for her first time in. She loves swimming, so she knows how to do it, and we know how to read her signals for when she’s getting too tired, but she got it anyway.

She had the tell-tale signs: a tail that shoots straight out about 3 inches then hangs limp to the base, even when the dog is happy or excited.

Luckily, Juno’s swimmer’s tail only lasted 3 days and we didn’t have to take her to the vet. We could still touch and lift her tail, and she wasn’t in any visible pain. She did chase her tail more than usual and was a bit lethargic.

You can read more about Swimmer’s Tail here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limber_tail_syndrome  It’s also sometimes called Limber Tail, Cold Tail, or Broken Wag.

We just opened our pool for this year last weekend. There won’t be any swimming for a while until the water warms up! We know better this year.

You can see Swimmer’s Tail in action below. We didn’t have the heart to capture Juno’s experience on camera or in video.

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  • My dog had this too. I had never heard of it either until I gave him a bath in our back yard and sprayed him off with cold water from the hose. It also resolved itself within 3 days, but it was such a sad 3 days for me. Thought I had broken my dog. Happy to report that all is well, though.
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  • Dawn Rivait

    Who would have thought about this one!!
    Having only had Boston Bull Terrier’s, who do not have tails, was not aware. But here in Victoria, have plenty of dog owner’s who bring their dogs ( many of them Labs) down to the beach to throw the stick/LOG or ball in the water and these dogs just run in to retrieve. They are all obsessed with retrieving in the freezing cold ocean waters.The odd humans swim ,but mostly the dogs, and do they love it!!
    Many thanks again,for another wonderfully informative, and well written researched post!!
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  • I too have never heard of this! Glad you talked about it as summer starts. Our Bowser doesn’t like swimming but that makes me all more aware, in case he does hop in.
    Faith @ The Twilight Bark recently posted…We are Participating in K9 Kamp!My Profile

    • Life In The Dog Lane

      Absolutely, thanks. And if he’s not a keen swimmer, he may be in for more of a shock! With opening our pool two weeks ago, it got us thinking. We didn’t want a repeat of last year. Happy to help!

  • I wonder, if acupuncture could help with recovering from limber tail.
    Didn’t have any patient with it so far, although water around here (Scotland) is year round cold :)
    Thanks for sharing this interesting case story!
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    • Life In The Dog Lane

      I’ve never looked into that – luckily it didn’t last too long. I would imagine we’re in a similar boat – we’re not given the longest summers either!

  • I slightly remember hearing something about this in the past but I’ve never known a dog who has had it! Thanks for sharing about this!

  • Holy moly. Never heard of this. It has been too cool to think about swimming yet this year. So glad I read this first since I had no idea. Thank you!
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    • Life In The Dog Lane

      You’re welcome – glad you enjoyed it! If we recall correctly, Juno got her swimmer’s tail when the water was between 17-20C (might have been from the cold, or from straining with too much swimming all at once)…either way, this year we’ll wait until the water’s maybe 20C+, and will start with some shorter swimming sessions.

  • I am SO HAPPY that you wrote this!!!! I never knew about ‘swimmer’s tail’ or ‘cold tail’. One day, we picked up our dogs from the boarding kennels and when we got home, I was stunned to see that Charlie’s tail wasn’t wagging! It really freaked me out and I was worried that they had mistreated him at the kennels. We went to the emergency vet, forked out a lot of money , only to be told coolly that ‘I’m not sure what this is, but if it persists, his tail might have to be amputated’. I was so distraught. I got home and googled this problem and found out about cold tail, which is a benign condition that resolves on its own. It stuns me that a vet did not know what this is. Great post, it will prevent people from freaking out when they see this. It’s actually happened to Charlie a couple of times since, but now we just wait it out and before long, his tail is wagging happily as usual :)
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    • Life In The Dog Lane

      So glad you liked the post! Wow, really saddening to hear about the prospect of a tail amputation – especially when it wouldn’t have been necessary. We’re so glad everything worked itself out on its own – and you gotta love when a dog gets its wag back :)

  • Oh wow I have never heard of or even seen this! How interesting!
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    • Life In The Dog Lane

      This condition was certainly a surprise for us when our dog got it, and we’re just happy to be able to spread the word so others can prevent it, or at least recognize it if it happens!

  • Thanks for that heads up or tail down news. Hadn’t heard but will store away for future care.
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    • Life In The Dog Lane

      Ooh, good pun! Definitely one of those ‘huh’ moments right? We’re happy to be spreading the word!

  • Huh. Had no idea this was a thing. Our Rita won’t swim (unless I go in the water) so don’t think she’ll ever have this problem but good to know since lots of her pup friends swim. (We go to a dog beach 3 or 4 times/week.)
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Back to Normal(ish)My Profile

    • Life In The Dog Lane

      Exactly! Amazing what you learn as a dog owner right? It’s such a hands-on experience. Good idea – I’m sure Rita’s pup friends’ parents will be happy to know what to keep an eye out for.

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