How To Treat This Common, But Relatively Unknown, Condition In Dogs


Known by many different names, dead tail is a common syndrome that primarily affects sporting breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and their crosses. However, the condition can affect any breed of dog, whether they are purebred or not. It can be painful for dogs. In addition, when a dog owner first experiences it, it can be alarming. While it is common, it is something that few people are aware of. In this article, let’s look at dead tail, what it is, how it occurs and how to treat it.

What is Dead Tail?

A Labrador Retriever with dead tail starting a few inches down from the base of the tail. ©River Road Veterinary Clinic

 As mentioned, dead tail is a common condition that is known by many different names. These include:

  • Limber Tail Syndrome
  • Broken Tail
  • Cold Water Tail
  • Sprung Tail
  • Swimmer’s Tail
  • Limp Tail
  • Rudder Tail
  • Broken Wag
  • Acute Caudal Myopathy

As you can see, there are a lot of names for this condition but they all describe the same thing.

Dead tail is when the tail of the dog hangs straight down from the base of the tail. It can start right at the base of the tail, or up to three to four inches from the base. However, when it is further down the tail, it will be held horizontally before doing a 90-degree drop towards the ground.

 The condition occurs very suddenly and can affect all dog breeds. It is a painful condition; however, some dogs do not show any outward sign that they are in any pain.  Some breeds are more prone to dead tail, especially those that work or spend a lot of time in water.

Find out the cause of the condition next.

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