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What is Holding His Tail Down?

Tails are a big way in which dogs communicate with humans. Because they can’t use words, dogs use their tails to tell us when they are happy, sad, scared, and even injured. When determining how your dog is feeling, pay attention to the height of his tail. If it is held high then the dog is excited and alert, while a tail tucked close to the body shows fear and anxiety. It is important to remember that all dogs have different tail height depending on their breed. If your dog has a very loose and flaccid tail, there may be a few reasons why. 

  • Overexertion
  • Exposure to cold weather or water
  • Prolonged confinement 
  • Muscle injury
  • Medical issues

All of these issues can be resolved over time, but it is best to visit your vet in order to diagnose exactly what is causing your dog’s limp tail.

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Why Holding His Tail Down Occurs in Dogs

There are many reasons that can cause a limp tail and most can be grouped into a term called Limber Tail also known as “limp tail”, “broken wag”, or “dead tail”. This is a condition where a dog’s tail experiences muscle injury due to:


If you take your dog for a long walk or jog after being inactive over an extended period of time, your dog may show signs of limber tail. The tail will be flaccid and loose without the ability to wag. These symptoms are often accompanied with swelling at the base of the tail. 

Exposure to Cold Weather or Water

If your dog is sensitive to temperatures, being exposed to cold weather or even cold water can trigger the effect of limber tail. Some dogs are much more likely to have this occur, such as Retrievers who seem particularly prone to showing symptoms. 

Prolonged Confinement 

Keeping your dog in a crate that is too small for him over a long period of time may cause limber tail. This is due to the tail being in one position much too long and is similar to the way out limbs can fall asleep after being laid on over an extended amount of time. 

Muscle Injury

 In some cases, limber tail can be confused for a sprain, but this is not entirely true. A sprain is categorized as an injury to a joint and the area surrounding it. But when it comes to limber tail, the problem is entirely within the muscle. An acute inflammation occurs due to some irritation of the muscle and the tail goes limp. After a few days, the tail will slowly recover to the point of being normal once again. 

Medical Issues

Conditions such as prostate trouble, anal gland inflammation and osteoarthritis may cause your pet to hold his tail down to counteract pain and discomfort. While any dog can be affected by a limp tail, it is important to remember that some are more affected than others. A few examples would be:

  • Beagles
  • Fox Hounds
  • Golden Retrievers

What to do if your Dog is Holding His Tail Down

If your dog has a limp tail it will most likely recover within a few days. It is always advised to seek veterinary counsel any time a pet may seem injured or unwell. A few home treatments you can discuss with your vet would be: 

  • Use of a warm pack at the base of the tail to ease any pain
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by your vet
  • Plenty of rest

When in doubt it is always best to speak with a veterinarian about any concerns you may have while you monitor the recovery period. If your dog continues to show tail discomfort, your veterinary caregiver may decide x-ray imaging is required for further evaluation.

Prevention of Holding His Tail Down

Considering that one of the major reasons dog’s experience limp tail is overexertion, it is extremely important to ease your dog into any exercise after a period of low activity. In doing so, you will ensure that your dog has a chance to get back into shape before pushing him too hard. 

Always provide the right size crate for your dog and do not keep him crated for long periods of time without a break. This will give your dog the chance to stretch his limbs and keep his tail from locking up. Finally, pay attention to your breed of dog and the condition that his tail is usually in. Some dogs are more susceptible to limber tail than others, so if you notice anything concerning, be sure to speak with your vet about it.

Cost of Holding His Tail Down

Treatment cost will vary depending on the cause of your dog’s limp tail. For instance, if your dog is diagnosed with a muscle tear or injury the average cost will be $1400. If your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, treatment will vary depending on the severity and can rise as high as $5000.

Holding His Tail Down Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Mini jack russell
11 years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Tail down,

My dogs tail is down and slightly under , any idea as to why, she normally gets very excited and with a waggling tail, ( she walks every morning, although sleeps quite a bit during the day,

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2142 Recommendations
Holding the tail down may be behavioural (submissive behaviour, scared etc...), medical (pain from anal glands or another issue), muscular or spinal issues among other causes. If there are no other symptoms, I would keep an eye on things, try to look around the anus and vulva for any signs of trauma, swelling or discharge which may indicate some issues. If you are concerned, have you Veterinarian give her a checkup to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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