How to Identify Limber Tail Syndrome in a Dog

Updated November 21, 2016

Limber Tail Syndrome, also known as “broken wag,” “cold water tail,” and “limp tail” is an ailment in both working dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, English Setters, Flat-Coated Retrievers, English Pointers and Golden Retrievers. It is also common in hounds still used to hunt such as Beagles, Coonhounds and Foxhounds. Although fairly common in working dogs, few dog owners are familiar with this problem. Dogs between the ages of one and nine years old are most likely to suffer from LTS. Both male and female dogs can suffer from this, although male dogs are more likely to have it. There are several ways to know if your dog has Limber Tail Syndrome.

Notice that your dog’s tail will suddenly be bent a few inches from its body. It will look much like a pencil that is not quite broken into two pieces. If you notice this in your dog, take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The onset of Limber Tail Syndrome generally follows hard workouts in dogs that are unconditioned, have been hunting and exposed to cold, wet conditions.

The veterinarian will probably x-ray your dog to make sure the tail is not actually broken. Most dogs do not need to be sedated for this simple procedure, but some dogs may require sedation. This depends on how well your dog will hold still for the X-rays to be taken.

Blood tests can be done if the X-rays show that the tail is not broken. These tests will check for elevated levels of “creatine kinas,” a muscle enzyme. If the test proves your dog has Limber Tail Syndrome, the veterinary can apply warm packs to the base of the tail as well as ant inflammatory medications known as NSAID’s. Rest for the dog will also be recommended.


Always consult a veterinarian is you suspect your dog has Limber Tail Syndrome or any other health concern. Avoid overly-strenuous workouts, hunts and swims; exercise your dog gradually to increase endurance.
Keep your dog’s bedding dry.


Do not crate your for more than two hours without allowing him out to stretch. Do not allow you dog to be exposed to cold, wet weather for extended periods of time. Do not attempt to diagnosis this condition yourself.

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