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What is Cold Tail?

Pet Health and Safety  •   Jasey Day  •   Apr 05, 2017


Droopy tail? Learn about cold tail!

One evening, my Labrador Retriever Turbo was nibbling at the base of his tail. At bedtime, he was restless and couldn’t seem to get comfortable on any dog bed (or my bed!) in the house. He even whined at me; he vocalizes when he is displeased and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted. The next day, I noticed that his tail carriage was very low and odd during our morning walk. Because I have a second dog of the same breed, I was able to compare tail postures between the dogs. I realized something was very wrong. Turbo’s tail was clearly drooping (physically – not emotionally)!

What is it?

Turbo had sprained his tail! A dog can “overuse” his tail, thereby straining the coccygeal muscles used to wag and support the tail. A tail sprain, according to, is also referred to as cold tail, dead tail, limber tail, swimmer’s tail, frozen tail, limp tail, sprung tail, and broken tail. Ouch!

What causes it?

In many cases, a dog with cold tail recently, intensely physically exerted his tail. Often cold temperatures and swimming – due to the powerful usage of the tail during water turns – are suspected culprits. Prolonged transportation in a kennel, in which a dog cannot “stretch out,” could also be a factor. also states that this condition tends to affect retrievers, hounds, and hunting dogs more often than other breeds, but potentially any dog could be affected.

Turbo had not appeared to do anything outside of or in excess of his normal routine of hiking, advanced obedience lessons, fetch, neighborhood walks, and swimming. However, he must have done one of those activities with more enthusiasm than usual. I sometimes see him just thumping his tail against a wall or the floor when he’s really happy. Joyful tail whacking can be hard to stop, but I now try to interrupt this tail whacking to prevent another injury.

What symptoms should you look for?

The states that often the tail is flaccid and hangs down limply from the base or is held horizontally for a few inches and then droops down vertically. Dogs show discomfort by whimpering, licking or chewing at their tails. Sometimes swelling may be obvious or some of the fur at the base of the tail is raised, which may indicate underlying inflammation.

What should you do if you suspect that your pup has cold tail?

Contact your veterinarian to determine the best treatment plan and to ensure that your dog has cold tail and not another tail-related injury.

Rest - at least a week - is the most important treatment. In some cases, a dog may just need rest. Your veterinarian may also choose to prescribe anti-inflammatory and/or pain medications to speed recovery and to reduce pain. In other cases, dogs are treated with acupuncture or lasering.

In Turbo’s case, he rested and did controlled, on-leash walks for three weeks. Our veterinarian also chose to do laser treatment on Turbo’s tail. Our veterinarian cautioned me that if I increased Turbo’s activity level too quickly and too soon, the cold tail symptoms could come back. According to the, dog owners may prevent this from happening the first time or from recurring by gradually increasing the amount of their canines’ exercise.

I hope you and your pooch don’t experience limp tail; but if you do, now you’re prepared with more knowledge.

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