Blog - Acute Caudal Myopathy (Swim Tail)

A rose by any other name…

Whenever the temperature dips I make a point of putting the dogs Ezydog Thermax vests on which are perfect for keeping the organs warm but not to the point of overheating the dogs as their tummies are bare, then when it gets below -5 or so we move across to Hurtta Expedition Parkas, however, I never put vests or coats on the dogs unless it’s really cold, regardless of whether it’s raining or snowing.

We had some seriously heavy rain last month and ponds, as opposed to puddles, appeared on many of the walks. There was a day when we had no let up at all from the driving rain so I thought I’d just nip out to the field, which is about 50 yards away, and let the dogs run off a bit of steam for five minutes, and as such I didn’t put their vests on.

The dogs had a blast, bouncing about in the deep water (but not deep enough to swim in), then tearing around the field with each other, before getting their leads on and heading home. We must have been out, there and back again, for no more than about 10 minutes, but we came home drenched and bedraggled but very happy.

The next day Emrys wasn’t quite himself, he was a bit flat energy wise and was reluctant to sit when we were out for our early morning walk. It was only when we got back home and I started watching him move that I thought bugger… his tail is starting to drop… I should have put the vests on yesterday.

As the day wore on the less use of his tail he had. His naturally highly held tail was droopy, completely flaccid and unwaggable; his tail look broken and for all intents and purposes it was.

What had broken Emrys’s tail?

Well, it could have been the cold deep puddles or it could equally have been the bracing rain, both of these things, as well as overusing the tail could have caused it.

Emrys is a very waggy tail dog so being on the field, I believe, wouldn’t have had an impact and am putting it down to jumping around in the cold deep puddle.

The condition is known as Swim Tail, Swimmers Tail, Cold Water Tail, Limp Tail and Limber Tail, but it’s correct term is Acute Caudal Myopathy and is more often seen in young, adult male working breeds.

Acute Caudal Myopathy

The muscles that wag a dogs tail from side to side are located at the base of the spine and are sandwiched between the bones (the coccygeal vertebrae) and a thick layer of connective tissue.

Studies carried out propose that acute caudal myopathy is associated with inadequate blood supply due to the muscles of the tail being overused, causing the muscles to expand, and then, because of the lack of space, becoming trapped, which causes the cells to start to degenerate, triggering pain and disfunction.

When this condition is caused by heavy swimming and overuse of the tail as a rudder I completely understand and can imagine that to be the case. However, when it’s caused by driving rain, I believe (although it is an educated guess based on anecdotal evidence and experience), that it’s down to the muscles becoming trapped due to them going into hyper contraction, thereby preventing normal fluid movement as the muscles stay contracted.

It’s a miserable and painful thing for our dogs to get, and it’s been described to me as like having a dead arm… but one that can last between two days and two weeks.

How to treat

If your dog shows symptoms of Limber Tail then rest him up, apply warm (not hot) packs, wrapped in a tea towel or handkerchief, to the area around the base of his pelvis and above the tail… and phone your vets.

One of my old vets who treated Bart, my first Labrador who got Swim tail after overusing it during a hydrotherapy session, eased his discomfort enormously by expressing his anal glands, which freed up a bit of space around the muscles that were affected, allowing the blood supply to return more quickly.

first published 22 April 2023

Blog - Acute Caudal Myopathy (Swim Tail)

A rose by any other name…

Whenever the temperature dips I make a point of putting the dogs Ezydog Thermax vests on which are perfect for keeping the organs warm but not to the point of overheating the dogs as their tummies are bare, then when it gets below -5 or so we move across to Hurtta Expedition Parkas, however, I never put vests or coats on the dogs unless it’s really cold, regardless of whether it’s raining or snowing.

We had some seriously heavy rain last month and ponds, as opposed to puddles, appeared on many of the walks. There was a day when we had no let up at all from the driving rain so I thought I’d just nip out to the field, which is about 50 yards away, and let the dogs run off a bit of steam for five minutes, and as such I didn’t put their vests on.

The dogs had a blast, bouncing about in the deep water (but not deep enough to swim in), then tearing around the field with each other, before getting their leads on and heading home. We must have been out, there and back again, for no more than about 10 minutes, but we came home drenched and bedraggled but very happy.

The next day Emrys wasn’t quite himself, he was a bit flat energy wise and was reluctant to sit when we were out for our early morning walk. It was only when we got back home and I started watching him move that I thought bugger… his tail is starting to drop… I should have put the vests on yesterday.

As the day wore on the less use of his tail he had. His naturally highly held tail was droopy, completely flaccid and unwaggable; his tail look broken and for all intents and purposes it was.

Watch video on You Tube.

What had broken Emrys’s tail?

Well, it could have been the cold deep puddles or it could equally have been the bracing rain, both of these things, as well as overusing the tail could have caused it.

Emrys is a very waggy tail dog so being on the field, I believe, wouldn’t have had an impact and am putting it down to jumping around in the cold deep puddle.

The condition is known as Swim Tail, Swimmers Tail, Cold Water Tail, Limp Tail and Limber Tail, but it’s correct term is Acute Caudal Myopathy and is more often seen in young, adult male working breeds.

Acute Caudal Myopathy

The muscles that wag a dogs tail from side to side are located at the base of the spine and are sandwiched between the bones (the coccygeal vertebrae) and a thick layer of connective tissue.

Studies carried out propose that acute caudal myopathy is associated with inadequate blood supply due to the muscles of the tail being overused, causing the muscles to expand, and then, because of the lack of space, becoming trapped, which causes the cells to start to degenerate, triggering pain and disfunction.

When this condition is caused by heavy swimming and overuse of the tail as a rudder I completely understand and can imagine that to be the case. However, when it’s caused by driving rain, I believe (although it is an educated guess based on anecdotal evidence and experience), that it’s down to the muscles becoming trapped due to them going into hyper contraction, thereby preventing normal fluid movement as the muscles stay contracted.

It’s a miserable and painful thing for our dogs to get, and it’s been described to me as like having a dead arm… but one that can last between two days and two weeks.

How to treat

If your dog shows symptoms of Limber Tail then rest him up, apply warm (not hot) packs, wrapped in a tea towel or handkerchief, to the area around the base of his pelvis and above the tail… and phone your vets.

One of my old vets who treated Bart, my first Labrador who got Swim tail after overusing it during a hydrotherapy session, eased his discomfort enormously by expressing his anal glands, which freed up a bit of space around the muscles that were affected, allowing the blood supply to return more quickly.

first published 22 April 2023