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Why do Dogs Stop Using Their Tails?

My Golden Retriever has stopped wagging her tail. She is acting like it hurts. Can they break their tails? She was fine Saturday and on...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Jan 14th 2009


My Golden Retriever has stopped wagging her tail.
She is acting like it hurts. Can they break their
tails? She was fine Saturday and on Sunday the tail stopped.
We took her Saturday to the river
where she found water and it was cool just not
sure what to do.

Gene
Milton FL

It sounds like your dog has suffered soft tissue trauma to her tail. By this I mean that she may be suffering from a strain, sprain, or pulled muscle in the tail. It is a common problem. I see it most often in Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Almost all dogs with the symptoms you describe recover completely within a week.

Dogs may suffer soft tissue trauma to their tails in a number of ways. Big-time waggers can pull the muscles in their tails if they wag to excess during especially happy times (these dogs tend to be happy most of the time). Other dogs have been known to strike their tails against hard objects, causing bruising and pain.

Also, I should note that a very large number of dogs see me with painful tails after they have been swimming. Dogs use their tails, as well as their feet, to swim. This can lead to sore muscles and limp tails the next day. Based your question, I suspect that your Golden injured her tail while swimming.

The good news is that almost all dogs with painful tails make complete recoveries. In some cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help dogs feel better faster. Be should be sure to discuss the side effects of these medicines with your vet before you use them.

If your dog does not start using her tail normally within a few days, a veterinary checkup is in order. Although they are rare, other conditions (including broken tails) can cause the symptoms you describe.

Photo: Miga has no known tail problems.