What is Swimmers Tail in Dogs?


Swimmers Tail, sometimes called limber tail syndrome or, ‘broken wag’, is the common name for the medical condition known as acute caudal myopathy in dogs. Holidays4Dogs investigates swimmers tail in dogs.

Swimmers tail refers to swelling at the base of a dog’s tail. It can occur after swimming – (especially in cold water). Exposure to cold and wet restrictsdog sitting, pet sitting blood flow to the muscles at the base of the tail.

Sometimes, the condition can be caused by being confined for extended periods in a small crate, or kennel.

While all breeds of dog can develop swimmers tail, working and hunting breeds can be more susceptible.

This is particularly so if they spend a long time working in cold water – hence the name. Some breeds commonly affected by the condition include, labradors, springer spaniels, pointers, beagles and vizslas.


The symptoms of swimmers tail usually manifest themselves around twenty-four hours after a period of strenuous exertion, particularly swimming during cold weather. 

The dog’s tail will typically hang limp or, stick out straight an inch or two from the base, before hanging limp from that point.

The dog may have difficulty in sitting and he may show obvious signs of pain, such as panting, or whining. Other symptoms may include difficulty in defecating, loss of appetite and swelling at the base of the tail.

The condition is not usually serious and doesn’t involve broken bones. However, you should still seek veterinary advice since symptoms could also indicate other conditions such as a broken, or fractured tail.


Swimmers tail will usually improve over the course of a few days. However, the dog should have plenty of rest. Applying a warm compress can help to reduce swelling and alleviate any pain.

If the dog has a tendency to develop swimmers tail, avoid exercising the dog too hard in cold weather, especially if this involves swimming in cold water.