Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cold tail, limp tail, beagle tail: What is it? What should you do about it?

Lulu has not been well.

It also started at Barkworld (which was lots of fun and I'll have a recap up soon!). On Friday afternoon, her tail came down, and it hasn't been up right since.

We tried to take some fun Star Wars pics Friday, but she wasn't in the mood.
What's wrong? Well we heard all kinds of ideas from other attendees, especially from veterinarians. The general consensus -- a tail issue. Either she hurt herself at the tail base, or pulled something. That's what my vet thinks as well. She saw the vet Tuesday, and she prescribed anti-inflammatory meds.

Some beagle owners, however, suggested something even my vet didn't know about -- cold tail.


Not a lot of people know about it. It's not even mentioned on PetMD. And we're not even sure how it happens.

Basically, the condition occurs in dogs who are hunting dogs -- that includes beagles. The tail goes numb or limp at the base. It normally happens after a strenuous day of work, or after swimming or bathing in cold water.

The condition is known by many names, such as cold tail, limp tail, broken tail, even beagle tail.

Janet Steiss and JC Wright at the Sports Medicine Program at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University studied the condition, and I found this article about it AKC Labrador Retriever website. They found many of the dogs who were examined early on had higher levels of serum creatine phosphokinase, which is a muscle enzyme. It's why the muscles around the tail base will seem sore.

But if you don't know to look for that, or catch it early on, there's no way to know that's the cause.

So what can be done? The best medicine is time. But anti-inflammatory meds, according to beagle experts, can also shorten the duration.

Right now, I'm happy to report Lulu's tail has come up every once in a while. She is just not holding it up. But other than this, she is totally fine.

On Saturday at Barkworld, we tried to take a group picture of my #petchat peeps. Mom's dog Cappy accidentally stepped on Lulu's back. Lulu yelped and then snapped at Cappy.

But today I can pick up Lulu's tail without a yelp. So she will be fine. This is not a permanent, dangerous condition. Just give your dog some rest. And get some anti-inflammatories from your vet.

How did it happen to Lulu? We're not sure. The vet thought that maybe her tail was stepped on or something. I'm wondering if she wagged it a little too much during Friday's training session with Petco. She could have gotten waglash! 

I can make jokes now, but I can tell you I was near tears over the weekend.


  1. I've occasionally seen it in pets that had a shower or bath recently too. I've also heard it called "Limber Tail" or "Swimmer's Tail"

    You did the right think checking in with your vet though because tail pain can sometimes be something more serious like a broken tail or a spinal cord issue.

    Weirdly it's one of those topics that sometimes seemed to get skipped over in veterinary schools. Maybe because we know so little about why it happens? I'm not sure.

    Thanks for sharing this though, it's great thing for owners and vets to think about!

    1. Thank you very much! I had never heard of it before myself. I wish I could find more info, but at least I know it's a not a serious situation right now.

  2. One of our obedience instructors has a cattle dog that gets swimmer's tail. She takes him for adjustments at the canine chiropractor. I'm glad it seems to be getting better!

  3. Ohh Lulu sorry to hear about your tail. Hope your tail is wagging high soon!

  4. Feel better soon Lulu! I just read about Swimmer's Tail at another blog recently. Wonder if that's the same thing. I had never heard of it until I read that.

  5. I never heard of this - thanks for taking the time to inform. WOOF WOOF

  6. I thought of Swimmers Tail immediately, but I only know about it because a friend cautioned me about it earlier this summer when we were introducing Rosie to swimming. A few of my blog readers had dogs that experienced it. All were retrievers and all said it went away. Paws crossed that Lulu will be wagging her tail soon.

  7. Wow, great info to know.

  8. Hoping that Lulu feels better very soon. What an odd condition...and how weird that many vets don't know about it. We know you are a great dog mom so I know Lulu will be well taken care of and will get better right-quick!

  9. Mom Kim here - haven't had a chance to read other comments so may be a repeat. Is her tail sensitive? The first time this happened to Shiloh (many years ago) I had not heard of cold tail so off to the vet we went. Long story short - after the vet started to check for impacted anal glands )someone told me that might be a cause) and Shiloh and the vet almost went thru the ceilin, the vet decided to do some xrays. Turned out Shiloh had degenerative disk disease -> intervertebral disk disease along with one disk being totally absent. It took an anti-flammatory and pain med plus a couple of weeks before he started to even mpve the tail. Now it appears the problem may be migrating up his spine - when this first happened it was just his tailbone involved.

    There is a Facebook page for IVDD altho it is a Dachshund one - also checout Beagles On The Web - both on the web and Facebook-
    they also have info. Might want to have an xray just in ccase unless she starts showing improvement.

    I know - nothing sadder than seeing a Beagle with his/her tail down :(
    Mom Kim

    1. Thanks Kim! Right it doesn't look like IVDD. She was doing better even before the vet appt. But I will keep an eye on her.

  10. Poor LuLu hope her tail is wagging happy again soon, poor thing.
    The other day the storm door shut on poor Diamonds so far she seems good but boy what a yip she gave out. I felt sooo bad.

  11. Oh wow. I'm so glad that you've found the source and that it's remedied with time, not potent medication. Hugs, Lulu!!!

  12. Whew, I am glad Lulu is on meds and starting to feel better. I know you were very worried. We all were. We don't like to see our pals in pain.

  13. That's the strangest thing I've ever heard of! My parents have a Beagle, so I'll have to pass this bit of information along to them just in case.

  14. I have to agree that she may have a touch of waglash. I hope my friend is back up and wagging soon. I know pain isn't fun. My back started bothering me while I was there but thank dog ma had my medicine with her.
    Get better Lulu. Sending lots of poodle power to you.

  15. This happened with Charlie when we went on a kayaking trip together. He would occasionally jump off the kayak and swim around (so glad I was wearing a bathing suit) by the end of the trip his tail hung limp and was sore when I touched it. 2 weeks later, he had completely recovered! The most curious thing I've found is it is only in hunting breeds, you would thing there bodies would be more adjusted to the conditions that could cause it!

  16. So sorry to hear about this! I've had a couple lab friends who have had this condition after too much swimming, and my black lab brother actually broke his tail playing too much. I've heard it can be very painful but luckily it doesn't last that long. Hope it's getting better and better and better soon!


  17. Had this open in my browser and finally getting around to reading it! I think I heard of something similar with a friend's Lab. Think she called it swimmer's tail. I like "waglash". Hope she's all better now!

  18. Our Beagle - Sam has the exact same symptoms Lulu is/was experiencing. So far it has been ~7 days. His tail is now at 1/2 staff and seems to be improving.

    Sam is our first dog and we are overly protective/smothering parents. You put our worries at ease.

    THANK YOU!!!!!

    Mir Soto/Austin Weaver

  19. Is Lulu's tail back to it's upright position? If so, how long did it take?

    Proud parents of Sam the Beagle,
    Mir and Austin

    1. Hi!

      It only took a couple days once she got on the rimadyl.

  20. dogs will also hold tail down when they need anal gland drained.


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