Retrievers and Flaccid Tail Syndrome

Labrador Retrievers are one of the most loyal, hard working dogs you can own.  They love to hunt, swim, retrieve, and spend large amounts of time being active.  They belong to a group of dogs called sporting dogs because of their love for the game of hunting and retrieving.  Most hunters bring their Labradors with them to hunt pheasants because it is a natural instinct to retrieve the kill and return it to the owners.  These dogs are also known for retrieving from the water and love to swim.  However, after a day of heavy hunting, or strenuous exercise, these dogs can suffer from a pretty common condition called flaccid tail syndrome, where the dog’s tail is limp, can’t wag, won’t move, and looks somewhat like it has died.

Cold water tail, limber tail syndrome, broken tail, dead tail, and broken wag are just a few of the names to describe a disorder known as flaccid tail syndrome in dogs, but mainly Retrievers.  Not much is known, even among vets about what causes this disorder or how it comes about, because it isn’t that common unless you own a sporting dog.  Some vets have stated their concern that it might be related to a spinal cord defect, while others compare it to overexertion.  Usually, after a full day of hunting and after the dog has had a night of down time, they wake up the next morning unable to move their tail.  Vets compare it to a human over working a muscle to the point of soreness the next day.

According the Labrador Retriever Club, the condition is painful and occurs after a full day of hunting, swimming in cold water conditions, or baths that are too hot or too cold in temperature.  The good news is that it isn’t a permanent disorder and usually dissipates, and returns to normal in a few days time.  There are no guarantees that it will ever happen again or that it wont, but many dog owners claimed that their dog’s had never experienced it again after the initial time.  There have been other cases reported that after the initial occurrence, every time the dog is given a cold bath it triggers a relapse and the dog’s tail goes flaccid again.

At any rate, it is a very painful condition for your dog and should you notice any signs of a limp tail, a veterinarian should be seen to assess the degree and severity, runs some tests to make sure there is nothing more serious causing the issue.  During the few days your dog suffers from limp tail, they need a proper treatment plan.  One of the best ways of treating this disorder is rest, since the primary cause of the disorder is linked to overexertion.  Anti-inflammatory drugs are also a good treatment option, because in some cases the anti-inflammatory drugs seem to reduce the pain and make healing time quicker.

Attention should also be paid to what type of activities the dog was engaged in right before the onset flaccid tail.  Take into consideration whether the dog was on a long hike off leash in hot or cold water, was over worked, and so forth, so you can avoid putting your dogs in that type of situation again and thus avoid another occurrence.  A dog with more endurance has a better chance of avoiding this disorder because they are less likely to suffer from overexertion.  If your dog has suffered from limp tail try to ease the dog back into an active lifestyle, slowly building up his endurance so the chances of it happening again are reduced.

After a long period of exited tail wagging, has your dog’s tail gone limp? This may not require a trip to the vet- but rather just resting and no tampering with the tail. Google search Limber Tail for more details- watch this video to see what it may look like during the syndrome and when recovering.

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