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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Painful cold tail- what a fright! Just a moment ago your beloved four-legged friend was frolicking in the water and swimming happily around, and then suddenly this: the tail seems to be paralysed. The dog’s tail hangs limply, not even the slightest back and forth can be seen. Only the base of the tail is stretched a few centimetres away from the body. What has happened? 

How does a cold tail develop in a dog?

The exact cause of a cold tail which is also called “coccygeal myopathy” in veterinary medicine, has not yet been adequately researched. However, experts generally assume that the local muscles are overstrained (usually in combination with cold water). 

Also a compression of the tail joints, or an inflammation between these joints, as well as temporary circulatory disturbances of the tail muscles can cause water rutting.

Especially dogs that are worked intensively (sport and hunting dogs) have an increased risk due to the high activity of the tail. 

What are the symptoms of a cold tail?

The main characteristic is the appearance. The base of the tail is stretched horizontally away from the body, the rest of the tail hangs down motionless and seems to be paralysed. In addition, dogs suffering from a so-called cold tail usually have severe pain. Pain either in the entire back or “only” at the base of the tail.  

The following symptoms are also often described by concerned owners:

  • Sensitivity to touch.
  • Wagging is no longer possible.
  • The fur at the base of the tail becomes bristly.
  • Swelling at the base of the tail.
  • Problems with defecation and urination.
  • Sitting down is avoided, so-called “puppy sitting” occurs.
  • Behavioural changes and/or vocalisations.

If you suspect that your darling is suffering acutely from a cold tail, consult a veterinary clinic immediately!  

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Is a cold tail dangerous?

When you hear the word “cold tail”, you might not think of anything alarming at first. But it is in fact a serious condition, and one that is accompanied by severe pain. If left untreated, it can cause severe muscle and nerve damage, as well as chronic pain and inflammation. 

What can help against a cold tail?

If your furry friend shows one or more of the above symptoms, it is important to act quickly. As a rule, veterinarians prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as consistent rest for the animal. In addition, heat pads or similar and light massages can help your pet. Physical therapy can be supportive.

How can you prevent a cold tail?

However, prevention is more important than acute treatment! Here are a few helpful tips to prevent this painful illness in dogs:

  • Warm up before going for a romp. A “warm-up” promotes the absorption of oxygen in the muscles. This makes your dog’s entire musculoskeletal system more resilient. 
  • A “cool down” is also important and promotes regeneration.
  • Avoid very cold water.
  • Do not let your dog swim for too long.
  • Always dry your dog well afterwards. 
  • Take frequent breaks. 
  • Do not use air conditioning, especially with wet dogs.

How long does a cold tail last?

How long this painful episode lasts varies from dog to dog, of course. The duration also depends on how quickly action was taken, or how quickly the dog receives medication, physiotherapy and/or similar treatment.

The quicker the treatment, the quicker your dog will recover. In most cases, a cold tail lasts less than a week. 

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Cold tail syndrome is a serious and extremely painful condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible if it is suspected. Fortunately, there are a few things owners can do to prevent this from happening in the first place.