Home Health and Care Labrador Diseases & Conditions Limber Tail in Labradors

Limber Tail in Labradors


Dogs speak with their tails, but sometimes, they can get injured too. For a playful and lively Lab, his tail is of paramount significance for displaying friendly disposition. However, disorders, such as limber tail in Labradors, are likely to dampen their bubbly expression and even cause pain. This makes it very important dog owners to ensure their pets are free from this and other tail problems.

Limber Tail in Labradors?

Labs express their feelings through their tails, and just the sight of it wagging in delight passes on the happiness to us. But sometimes, Labs can get their otter tails injured and lose their wags. Limber tail in Labradors is the most common of such injuries that rob your dog of his greatest expression. It too results in pain at the rear of his body and causes disability of the tail for a few hours. When combined with degenerative disk problems, it can be worrisome for your Lab.

What is Limber Tail in Labradors?

Also known as “dead tail” or “broken tail,” a limber tail is what we call the dog tail that hangs lifelessly from the base. Some people also call this condition “cold water tail” or ‘swimmers’ tail,” as the problem mostly surfaces within 24 hours of your dog playing in the water of swimming.

Limber tail in Labradors is a painful condition. It affects dogs of all ages, but it is seen more frequently in working dogs that do a lot of tail work. Labradors with limber tail often look sad and feeling miserable. The pain is visible on their faces.

A dog suffering from limber tail feels pain on the base his tail. This feeling keeps the dog from wagging or moving his tail. Some Labradors with a limber tail may also feel pain sitting down and walking.

What Causes Limber Tail in Labradors?

Limber tail often occurs when your Labrador has overworked his tail while hunting or swimming. Believe it or not, your Labrador may also experience this condition for wagging his tail too much. Dogs with longer tails are more exposed to the risk of having this problem.

Veterinarians noticed that this condition is more common in dogs that do not get adequate exercise. Labradors are working dogs, who have just gotten back to work at the start of the hunting season. Or you may take them to swimming after a gap. During the gap, your dog remains almost idle with not more than a few moments of short walk daily. When he is suddenly exposed to vigorous activities involving his tail, he starts to experience pain and limber tail symptoms.

The Limber Tail Research

A study conducted in 2016 also revealed that limber tail is more common in working dogs than non-working dogs. Veterinarians add that another factor that contributes to the risk of getting a limber tail is confinement. Dogs that have been put in crates for long periods of time appear to be more susceptible.

A limber tail was once seen as a mysterious condition. Some people believed that this health problem involves damage in the bones or nerves. This theory has been debunked by a study published in 1999, which found that the cause of limber tail is muscle damage.

The study also noted that the involved in the study had a recent history of one or more of the following.

  • Hard exercise
  • Prolonged crating or confinement
  • Exposure to cold/wet temperatures or environments

A 2016 research looked at 38 cases of limber tail and found that there is a possibility that there is a genetic component to experiencing limber tail – but this finding needs further study to be confirmed.

Preventing Limber Tail in Labradors

While there is a possibility that genetics play a role in the likeliness of a dog to experience limber tail, you can help prevent your Lab from getting limber tail. Here are some tips to prevent limber tail in Labradors.

  • Build up your Labrador’s fitness for weeks before going hunting – especially if you expect your Lab to retrieve in cold water.
  • Keep your Labrador healthy by giving him plenty of exercises.
  • Do not let your Labrador work or retrieve for very long periods of time.

Treating Limber Tail in Labradors

Once the limber tail is diagnosed, your veterinarian may prescribe medications for the pain.

Treating limber tail in Labradors may include giving pain reliever and plenty of rest. Limber tail usually goes away on its own after a week.


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