Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo

by  Krista Magnifico, DVM

I woke up in the morning to a Jekyll pup with a tail droop.

That normal breed specific cotton tipped tail was not at attention and flickering back and forth at light speed with its normal anxiously awaiting breakfast fervor.

The front half of Jek was smiling, wiggling, and sad-eyed yearning mutely for a morsel of forgotten yesterdays cat food, but the back half...well, it was pitifully just hanging from his rump.

Where had his little personality possessed white flag gone?

Well, sometime between late afternoon and morning it lost its mo-jo.

After a quick home based physical exam I quickly confirmed that everything was running perfectly.
  • he was walking normally
  • peeing/pooping normally
  • he had normal anal tone
  • no pain on tail jack, (this is moving the tail straight forward so that the tail tip is pointing towards the head). Please don't try this without a vet showing you!!
  • no pain on spinal palpation.
  • no signs of trauma around the base of the tail area.

The scientific explanation for "limber tail" (also referred to as; sprained tail, limp tail, cold tail, or swimmers tail), is a condition in which the tail acutely becomes flaccid (lacking normal muscle tone).

It is most commonly reported in working and hunting dogs. 

The tail can either hang limp from the base, or even be held out horizontally and then at some point along the length it becomes flaccid and hangs toward the ground. It is most commonly reported in Coonhounds, Beagles, and Golden retrievers.

Of the working and hunting dogs the most common predisposing factors to this condition were prolonged cage transport, swimming, prolonged periods of recent hard workouts, or exposure to cold/wet weather.

For Jekyll I can testify that it was getting colder here in Southern Pennsylvania, but he has yet to put in a full days work of doing anything short of lounging. And, of course, he would never be subjected to prolonged cage periods, or cold temperatures.

When I see a patient arrive with the same set of concerns I will first do an exam. 

I am looking for any signs of neurologic disease or injury, like myositis (inflammation of muscle), tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon), tail avulsion (pulling the spinal cord and vertebrae to the point of injury), or any other condition that could cause pain, or swelling around the tail. If any of these are found we treat for them. I will add that I also check anal glands. Any condition that can cause pain around the tail will cause the pet to not want to lift their tail.

In almost all cases I am not able to find a cause or a reason for the tail droop.

So, in all of these cases I have told owners to take a conservative approach, and watch and wait and see. In all cases the tail was back at full mast within a day or two.

There are some mentions of adding a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to these patients, but I always feel that a pet should only be medicated for a condition that justifies the risk and potential side effects that any and all drugs inherently have.

If you have any pet related questions you can find me (and a whole bunch of amazing pet care providers) at Pawbly, or on Twitter.

Here's looking at you Jekyll kid, tail wag, floppy ears, sad face or not, I can't resist you!


Krista Magnifico, DVM owns a small animal hospital in northern Maryland, where she practices everyday. She wants to make quality veterinary care available to everyone, everywhere at any time; trying to save the world 1 wet nose @ a time.  Her blog is a diary of he day-to-day life & the animals and people she meets. 

Dr. Krista is also the founder of, free pet advice and assistance.

To contact her, you may leave a comment on her blog, email her or catch her on Twitter or Facebook.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 
Parvo: Cora's Story 
Jake's Laryngeal Paralysis
The Tip Of The Iceberg: The Unexpected Dental Dilemma
The Ear Ache That Wasn't Going Away: Tottsie's Story
Cody's Eyelid Tumor
Ruger's Mysterious Illness
The Day The Heart Stood Still: Timber's Story 
Different Definition Of Comfort Food: Levi's Story 
Savannah's Pancreatitis  
Histiocytoma: Rio's Mysterious Bump
Von Willebrand's Disease: Greta's Story 
Alice's Heart Murmur 

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