When the weather gets warm, the Labrador Retrievers want to swim. As hunting and sporting dogs, water is there life. Their oily double-layered fur and Ottertail make for the most enjoyable of swimming buddies but when your buddy wakes up the next morning and can no longer move her tail, you know something is wrong.
It’s called “Swimmer’s Tail” and although it is not permanent or life threatening, it is quite painful for any dog to suffer.
Limber tail, cold water tail, or swimmer’s tail, is an excruciatingly painful condition that seems to affect swimming breeds of dogs such as Labs. Usually the day after they are swimming or have had a bath with cold water, their tails are extremely painful, usually at the base. They will react painfully if you attempt to lift their tail, or touch them near the tail base. Often they will walk with their tail tucked. (Jon Geller, DVM)
Swimmer’s Tail Symptoms
When our own Dakota woke this morning, we noticed some significant changes in her body and personality:
- Tired, bloodshot eyes (she didn’t sleep the night before)
- Excessive panting
- Moving from place to place to lie down only for a few seconds and then getting up to find a new place (not comfortable at all)
- Going in circles in order to bite her tail
I finally realized that I read about this same thing on a Labrador Retriever Chat Board years earlier but had never witnessed it in person. Dakota had “Swimmer’s Tail” and there was only one way to prove it. I had to find a way to get her to raise her tail and telling her that her best friend, Katie the St. Bernard, was outside would make her raise her tail. Here’s what happened:
As you can see, she did not raise her tail all the way. Normally I would be straight up in the air in a more dominant or aggressive pose but she couldn’t even lift it straight out. The significant dead drop at the base of the tail is exactly what you see in dogs that have swimmer’s tail.
Swimmer’s Tail Treatment
Although she is very uncomfortable and surely in pain, there is no quick fix for this ailment. The only fix is NSAIDS (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) such as Metacam and Rimadyl. We already had both in the house and have started Dakota on it right away and will be keeping her away from water during the next few weeks.
Rest and recuperation take about 2 weeks to finally get back to normal.
If you suspect that your dog has limber tail, cold-water tail or swimmer’s tail, and she has been in the water recently, please contact your veterinarian to discuss treatment options. Although canine swimmer’s tail is easy enough to diagnose, there could be other ailments that mimic the symptoms of this condition and could be quite devastating if left untreated. Always seek the advice of your vet whenever you notice significant health or behavior changes in your pup.