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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.

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:

Overexertion

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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Holding His Tail Down Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Pain

She's got her tail down between her legs whimpering and she can't stay comfortable

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is not feeling good. It sounds like she has hurt herself somehow, and without being able to see her, it is hard for me to say what might be going on. If she is not able to get comfortable, and is crying, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine her, see what might be going on, and see what medication she might need. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Tibetan Terrier

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tail To The Side

my dog has been holding her tail to the side for about a week now. she is showing no pain or discomfort when we move it or poke around her back area. i dont know if this is related or not but the day it started she randomly yelped incredibly loudly and then acted normal. we took her to the vet twice to try and find some answers, but they had no answers for us. she is a very pain tolerant dog and does not express pain often, so im worried that she is in pain and is not showing it. basically she just woke up one day with her tail to side. she wags it, and is playing and barking as usual.

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. This may be some nerve damage or inflammation in his back end. See if your vet will give you some pain medication or even steroids to see if the inflammation goes away and your dog improves.

July 26, 2020

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Chihuahua

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9-10

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limp Tail (Yelped When I Lifted It)

What can I do to help her until Monday when vet opens

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. If she seems painful when you lift her tail, but is okay otherwise, it would be best not to touch her tail. If she's able to urinate and defecate okay, you may be able to wait until your veterinarian is open. If she seems painful when defecating or can't get comfortable, it would be best to have her seen at an ER. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 25, 2020

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Pitbull mix

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limber Tail / Very Warm

My dog all of a sudden has a limber tail and it isn’t wagging. We swam in a lake all day yesterday and he was fine until we came inside I noticed he was instantly in pain

July 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Dogs will sometimes strain the muscle in their tail, and it can be painful for them. If rest over the night doesn't help and he is not back to normal tomorrow, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. Often, a little bit of time and rest will help, and sleeping through the night may make things better. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 21, 2020

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Beagle

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation, Tail Tucking

Hi, we have a beagle who is holding his tail straight down and has not moved his bowels the last few times we have let him out. This is very out of character for him as he is always waging his tail. It seems to be tender to the touch-triggering a yelp and defensive lunge at contact- and discomfort when he sits. We are not sure what to do.

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello It sounds like your pup may be having some lower back pain or pain at the base of his tail, making it uncomfortable to get in the position to defecate. It is recommended that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam and diagnostic testing. They may want to take an x-ray and give pain medication. Hope he gets to feeling better soon.

July 9, 2020

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Ceaser

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Maltese mix

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Tail Down, Crouching

Rescue Ceaser, walks the past few days he smells something, looks around and appears to be scared and wants to get away. Tail down, crouching down and looking around, smelling.

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Rylee

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Chow Min Poodle

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

I took my dog into the groomers today, which she looks good. But, when I got her home she was holding her tail down. when I tried to raise it to look underneath she yelped and ran away from me. What could be wrong? She wags her tail normally but down. We have some Rymadil left over, should I give her some?

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luna

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German Shepherd

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Tail Down,Hard To Get Up

my dog is 11 years old. SHe has some difficulty getting up. she was sliding on the floor so we put a rug underneath her. now she has her tail down between her legs but she does wag it when we talk to her. she has difficulty lying down

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Jack

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Poodle

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Vomiting
Tail Down
Warm And Dry Nose

I woke up to my dog throwing up bile and he was panting really hard until I took him outside. I didn’t see him use the bathroom but I checked his butthole and there was some stuff leftover and I could tell it was liquidy and yellow. I brought him back inside and after a while he put his tail down. He’s laying down right now, I just hope this isn’t something too serious.

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Samson

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Lab mix

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18 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Uncomfortable
Distressed
Whiny, Vocal
Tail Is Tucked

My dog has been keeping his tail tucked (even when wagging, which he barely seems able to do). He is usually very excitable and wags his tail often. He has also been whining and seems distressed, though he's always fairly vocal. He has been very careful with it when laying down or sitting. We noticed it yesterday after a long walk in the cold (almost an hour in 4º F weather). He gets a walk like this at least twice a week and is a pretty active dog in general. However, we don't usually walk so long when it's that cold out. He was wearing a fleece lined jacket that covered most of his back, sides, chest, and neck, and also waterproof booties. We are planning to go to the vet in a couple of weeks to update his shots, but are unsure if maybe we should go in now. From what I've read, it seems like it could be limber tail. But I'm not totally sure and am starting to worry. He doesn't whine when his tail is examined and touched, but does lick our hands and tries to grab them.

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