Swimmer’s Tail In Dogs

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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  1. Thank you for the info – I noticed the Wikipedia link says it is NOT due to hot or cold water temps, but instead is a condition with the spine narrowing. Perhaps if your dog gets it again you should try the vet? Just pointing it out so you don’t accidentally wait too long. Thank you for posting – I hadn’t heard of this.

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  14. 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!!
    Dawn Rivait

  15. Pingback: Latest Updates | Dear Dog Diary

    • 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’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!

    • 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.

  16. 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 :)
    Human Rescues Dog recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Peas in a PodMy Profile

    • 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 :)

    • 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!

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

  17. 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

    • 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.