Should you be concerned that your dog’s tail is down? Is it a sign of a severe medical issue? Before you panic and run to the vet, do a thorough assessment first.
There are seven possible causes why your dog’s tail is down — limber tail syndrome, overexertion, cold weather or water exposure, prolonged confinement, medical issues, tail injuries, anxiety, relaxation, and submission.
To identify which of the aforementioned causes might be affecting your dog, continue reading! Here, we also answered what to do when your dog’s tail is down and when you should bring it to the vet.
What Does It Mean When a Dog’s Tail Is Down?
A dog’s tail is one of the ways in which they communicate with us humans. Thus, when it is suddenly down and limp, some owners go into panic mode.
To shed light on why a dog’s tail is sometimes down, below is a list of its possible causes.
Taking your dog for long walks or jogs after being inactive for a while can cause muscle injury to its tail.
When this happens, its tail hangs loosely, and it won’t be able to wag. The base of their tail would also swell, which is really painful.
2. Cold weather or water exposure
Some dogs are super sensitive to cold temperatures. That’s why when exposed to freezing weather or cold water, their tail goes limp and down.
Some of the breeds that are sensitive to cold are Boxers, Dobermans, Great Danes, and Mastiffs.
3. Crate is too small
If you keep your dog in a crate that is too small for it for an extended period, its tail will eventually go down.
This is because the tail is stuck in only one position, similar to how our limbs fall asleep when we don’t move for some time.
4. Medical issues
Dogs with longer tails, such as the Akita, Havanese, Irish Setter, Whippet, and Mastiff, may hold their tails more often than other breeds when they experience these medical issues.
5. Submission, anxiety, or relaxation
Sometimes, a dog’s tail is in a downward position because of what they’re feeling.
When approached by their owner, some dogs intentionally hold their tail down to show submission. They also do this when they are relaxed and comfortable.
But there are also cases when they mean exactly the opposite. Anxious dogs are also seen to hold down and tuck their tail. The more they tuck or hold it down, the higher their anxiety is.
6. Tail injuries
There are some types of tail injuries that cause the tail to be consistently down. Cuts or bites, for example, result in bleeding that doesn’t immediately heal. This prevents the dog from raising and wagging its tail.
Most of these injuries are actually self-inflicted. If a dog is nervous or has a flea problem, it tends to chomp on its tail to calm itself or relieve itchiness. These types of injuries can be easily resolved.
However, if the dog’s tail is down due to the muscles used for peeing and pooping near the base of the tail, a vet consultation is already necessary.
Once this injury coincides with other conditions, the dog would have a downward tail for a longer period.
7. Limber tail syndrome
Dogs with tails that aren’t wagging or are down and limp may be suffering from limber tail syndrome.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, limber tail results from a muscle sprain on a dog’s tail. This is caused by overuse, climate change, prolonged crate confinement, excessive exercise, and swimming.
Among all these possible causes, swimming is tagged as the most common. In fact, the limber tail syndrome is also called the swimmer’s tail and cold water tail.
When dogs swim, they use their tail to steer and balance, which results in overexertion. Thus, dogs often in the water are more prone to this condition than those that do more land activities.
Also, even if any dog can be targeted by the limber tail, certain breeds are more predisposed to this condition due to their lifestyles.
For instance, hunting dogs that weren’t adequately conditioned could develop a limber tail at the beginning of the season or after a long day’s work.
Hence, it is common for hounds, retrievers, pointers, setters, and Beagles to have a limber tail.
Only a vet examination and x-ray can identify whether or not the reason your dog’s tail is down is a limber tail syndrome. The symptoms mentioned above can occur without causing a limber tail.
In most cases, however, if your dog is also lethargic, licking or chewing on its tail, whimpering or whining, its tail has probably already gone limp due to this condition.
Watch this video to see a dog with a limber tail:
What to Do If Your Dog’s Tail Is Down
If your dog’s tail is down, there’s no need to call the vet immediately, especially if they’re intentionally doing it as an emotional response.
As we’ve mentioned, it may be because they’re anxious, showing submission, or comfortable. Do a thorough assessment first to save you time and effort in driving to the vet.
If you’re really concerned, you may want to put a warm pack at the base of your dog’s tail to ease any pain or discomfort they’re feeling.
Give it plenty of rest, and don’t let it do extraneous activities, even if it’s pleading with you.
In case your dog’s tail is down and showing other signs of anxiety, find a spot in your house where it can stay and won’t feel overwhelmed. Ask your housemates not to approach it so it can rest.
For dogs that are stuck in a small crate, let them walk freely inside your yard for as long as they want to and buy them a larger crate.
Eventually, the blood circulation in their tails would normalize, and they’ll be able to wag it again.
When to See a Vet
If your dog continues to show discomfort over its downward tail and it is also showing signs of possible medical conditions, it is time to bring it to the veterinarian.
Expect your dog to be x-rayed and given anti-inflammatory drugs if they suffer from a limber tail.
If the scans turn out fine and the cause of your dog’s downward tail is minor, most vets just recommend letting the dog rest. They’ll also teach you some home treatments so you can better assist your dog.
Always trust your instinct when deciding if your dog needs help from a veterinarian. Although not deadly, a downward tail can significantly affect your dog’s quality of life, so it should be addressed properly.
Other Dog Tail Positions and Their Meanings
We may not be able to decipher barks, but our dog’s tails can give us a good understanding of their feelings. That said, here are other dog tail positions and what they indicate.
- High and Tilted Upwards: A dog with a high tail tilted upwards feels confident and dominant. This is usually seen when they are brought to the park and surrounded by other dogs.
- High and Curled Over the Back: If your dog has a straight tail and is curled over the back, it means he’s super confident and feels in control. They do this to show off.
- High Position and Relaxed Wagging: A high tail that exhibits relaxed wagging typically occurs when a dog sees its owner after a long time. They are not overexcited, but they feel happy and relaxed.
- High Position and Fast Wagging: When accompanied by joyful body movements, this means your dog is extremely excited. In some cases, though, they may get super excited that need some calming.
- Horizontal and Stiff: When a dog’s tail is stiff and still while horizontal, it indicates it is being cautious. They do this when meeting new people and canines.
- Horizontal and Relaxed: A relaxed horizontal tail means your dog pays attention to what’s happening in its surroundings. Dogs take this neutral position when they don’t want to miss a moment.
- Raised With Slow Wag: This tail position means your dog is confused. Usually, their ears are also perked up while their tail is slowly wagging.
- Raised and Alert: This is a warning sign before your dog goes to attack mode. This is accompanied by erect hairs on their tail and back as well as a lowered head.
- Stiff With Slight Quiver: This means your dog is feeling nervous and need some comfort from you. In some cases, however, this may be a precursor to aggression.
Note that some of these positions may also indicate serious health issues. Always be observant of how your dog acts, along with how it carries its tail.
A dog’s tail in a downward position is indicative of many things, but the most common are anxiety, limber tail syndrome, and overexertion.
If you’re unsure whether your dog’s downward tail is a cause of concern, always check with your trusted vet. They can rule out any major issues or give your dog the proper medication if they are really in pain.
Got any experiences to share or reactions on this blog about a dog’s downward tail? Feel free to leave a comment below!