Science News

Research explains canine problem known as ‘limber tail’

Occasionally, dogs lose their tail-wagging abilities. The condition is known as “limber tail,” and is more common among larger working and hunting dog breeds such as the Labrador Retriever.

A new study, published in the Veterinary Record, identifies behaviors and lifestyle factors among dogs and owners that may explain the development of a painful, limp tail.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh surveyed owners of 86 dogs, 38 of which had been diagnosed with limber tail. Dogs with functioning tails were more likely to be family dogs, whereas those with limber tail were more likely to be employed as working dogs.

Scientists also identified smaller but still significant correlations between exposure to cold and swimming to the risk of developing limber tail. Dogs diagnosed with the condition were also more likely to be related to each other, suggesting an underlying genetic component.

More research is necessary, researchers say, to identify genes relevant to the condition.

“We were surprised by how many owners were reporting limber tail to us but it meant we had the chance to do a detailed investigation,” Carys Pugh, Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and Royal School of Veterinary Studies, said in a press release. “We have been able to add evidence to a lot of internet speculation about risk factors and the new findings relating to geographical region and family links give us avenues to pursue in understanding and avoiding the condition.”