Yes, Dogs Can Sprain Their Tails
As a whole, we really don’t talk much about causes and treatment of sprained dog tails–that is until it happens to your dog. I stumbled upon an article this week about the matter and became completely fascinated. I didn’t know exposure to cold water could cause a sprained tail. So I dug deep, as I wanted to know everything. Interestingly, much of what causes a dog’s tail to break is a complete mystery. “The X-Files” should do an episode on cold tails in dogs. I want to know more!
Before we go further, it seems this phenomenon is referred to by other names. You’ll hear references, such as limber tail, cold tail, broken tail, swimmer’s tail and even dead tail. While the terms are interesting, let’s discuss what cold tail looks like as well as causes and treatment. As always, prevention is the best treatment!
How to Tell If Your Dog’s Tail is Sprained
While researching, I noticed sprained tail issues are openly discussed among sporting breed enthusiasts, as the injury is common in Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Pointers and other hunting breeds with long tails. However, this issue most certainly can affect other breeds too, such as Great Danes, Chihuahuas and, my favorite breed, Miniature Bull Terriers. Even more fascinating, curled tailed dogs can sprain their tails too.
Usually a dog will either hold his tail straight down or hold his tail one or two inches from his body while the remaining 90 percent drops straight down. A painful tail is void of any movement–the dog is trying to hold it still. Now, don’t get painful tails confused with a fearful dog’s tail, which can drop or tuck under the body. Painful tails are limp and motionless–they almost look like a straight line pointing to the ground. With curly tailed dogs, you’ll notice their tails are hanging straight down, as it hurts to curl their tails up and over their backs.
Having a sprained dog tail is very painful for your dog. Not only will you notice a hanging tail, but it will also probably be extremely painful when touched. When dogs are in pain, they’ll hide, pant, pace, drool, widen their eyes and become restless. Some injured dogs even refuse to eat or move.
Causes of Sprained Dog Tails
Most sprained and broken tails are caused by excessive exercise. This usually affects weekend warrior dogs that overexert themselves a couple days per week. A dog’s tail contains muscle, which can easily become overworked, especially during long and rough play sessions or while swimming long periods and distances. Dogs use their tails for balance during play and as rudders while swimming, both of which can easily cause muscle exhaustion.
Cold tail happens when a dog’s body is exposed to water and shakes off excess water to air dry. This can happen right after a bath or swim. Veterinarians are still scratching their heads when it comes to the exact reason cold tail happens. I wonder if a long appendage has a harder time keeping warm, especially when wet and exposed to cool temperatures, which in turn causes muscles to become rigid and tightened. That’s my personal thought and by no means a theory. 🙂
Crating for Too Long
Crating a dog for long periods of time can cause a sprained dog tail, especially if the dog had just completed a tough workout or rough play session. It’s recommended to let your dog stretch his legs every two hours or hire a pet sitter to let your dog out several times a day if he’s crated.
Sprained Dog Tail Treatment
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, I highly recommend scheduling a veterinary visit immediately. Even though many causes are unknown, your vet can treat your dog’s sprained tail quickly. Usually anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed along with one to two weeks of rest. Within a few days, you’ll notice your dog feeling much better.
While it’s tempting to overwork our dogs during the weekend, it’s important to slowly build their endurance over time. After a long workout, allow your dog to cool down in a large area. Perhaps, have a picnic for 30 minutes or chat with a friend while your dog stretches out and relaxes.
As for cold tail, thoroughly dry your dog with a towel after a bath or swim. Make sure your dog’s tail and rear end are completely dry. Even better, blow dry your dog’s coat on a low heat setting, keeping the hair dryer at least 12 inches away from his skin. Run your fingers in between your dog’s fur and skin to check for moisture. If your dog isn’t completely dry yet, keep him warm until he’s fully dry.
Ping, ping, ping (“The X-Files” theme). Has your dog experienced a sprained or cold tail before?