Coccygeal muscle injury in English Pointers (limber tail)

J Vet Intern Med. Nov-Dec 1999;13(6):540-8. doi: 10.1892/0891-6640(1999)013<0540:cmiiep>;2.


A condition colloquially referred to as "limber tail" and "cold tail" is familiar to people working with hunting dogs, primarily Pointers and Labrador Retrievers. The typical case consists of an adult dog that suddenly develops a flaccid tail. The tail either hangs down from the tail base or is held out horizontally for several inches from the tail base and then hangs straight down or at some degree below horizontal. Initially, the hair on the dorsal aspect of the proximal tail may be raised and dogs may resent palpation of the area 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) from the tail base. Most dogs recover spontaneously within a few days to weeks. Anecdotal reports suggest that anti-inflammatory drugs administered within 24 hours after onset hasten recovery. Less than one half of affected dogs experience a recurrence. Affected Pointers almost always have a history of prolonged cage transport, a hard workout the previous day, or exposure to cold or wet weather Most owners and trainers familiar with the condition do not seek veterinary assistance. In cases where people are not familiar with this disease, other conditions such as a fracture, spinal cord disease, impacted anal glands, or prostatic disease have been incorrectly diagnosed. We examined 4 affected Pointers and found evidence of coccygeal muscle damage, which included mild elevation of creatine kinase early after onset of clinical signs, needle electromyographic examination showing abnormal spontaneous discharges restricted to the coccygeal muscles several days after onset, and histopathologic evidence of muscle fiber damage. Specific muscle groups, namely the laterally positioned intertransversarius ventralis caudalis muscles, were affected most severely. Abnormal findings on thermography and scintigraphy further supported the diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dog Diseases / etiology*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Sacrococcygeal Region / injuries
  • Sacrococcygeal Region / pathology
  • Tail / injuries*
  • Tail / pathology
  • Thermography
  • Wounds and Injuries / veterinary