Tag: old

18 May 2014

Dock Diving Swimmers Tail

Hi Laurie

I hope this is a quick question.   A group of labs from Edmonton went to Calgary for Pet Expo last weekend for the Dock Dog competition.   They had to jump in extremely cold water off a dock.   Almost all of them developed tail injuries by that evening.   One of the dogs belongs to an Technician in my practice.   I saw her dog and his tail was swollen, hot and painful from the Coxygeal 2-5 and he could barely lift his tail.  The ligaments all were strained and the joints were swollen and poor glides.    Had the owner traction the tail and we lasered it and put dog on NSAIDs and it is very slowly improving.

What can these labs do in the future to avoid this injury?   I've watched videos of this and the base of the tail takes an amazing hit when the dog hits the water and I'm sure with it being so cold that all muscles were extremely tense and poorly warmed up.   Would a lot of PROM on this tail in the days leading up to the event help?   What about warming the dog up for 15 minutes at a slow jog prior to its jump to get better circulation to the tail.

Appreciate your help Laurie.





Hi J,

That's amazing!  How fascinating to have such a group develop this issue!


So... as for prevention... total guess, but I would do some overall warm ups as you suggest, jogging, trotting, tug of war, short retrieves from side to side (I'm thinking of things where the dog would also use the tail to help with side to side movement navigation.  10 minutes is likely sufficient!

I would think that the owners could also do some tail pulls, and ROM as well.


Thanks for asking... it's fascinating to be quite honest!





Thanks for getting back to me so fast.  Yeah, this is such a cool injury and to have them all come down with it.   The coccygeal vertebra and surrounding tissues are so ouchy, swollen and painful - never seen anything like it.   We'll take your advise and see how it goes next time.

Thanks again


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25 May 2014

More about Swimmers Tail…

I received one e-mail with feedback about the Swimmers Tail.  So I wanted to provide that commentary and figured to find some additional background for everyone… Here we go:


According to Wikipedia:

Limber tail syndrome, or acute caudal myopathy, is a disorder of the muscles in the tail, usually affecting working dogs.

An injury occurring mostly in sporting or working dogs such as English Pointers, English Setters, Foxhounds, Beagles, and Labrador Retrievers. Limber Tail Syndrome is also known as Cold Water Tail, Broken Tail, Dead Tail or Broken Wag.

Signs & Symptoms 

The injury affects the tail of the dog, causing it to be painful at or near its base. Limber Tail can be recognized by a very flaccid tail, or a tail that is held horizontally for 3 to 4 inches, and then drops vertically.


Limber tail may be caused by lots of swimming in water that is too cold or too warm, or engaging in heavy exercise of some sort (i.e. hunting). Dogs that are under-conditioned to the activity may be more susceptible.


Recommended treatment is rest and sometimes anti-inflammatory drugs. Recovery can take a day to a couple weeks. The symptoms may recur later on.

The Whole Dog Journal did a nice article on the subject:



And here's the comment on last week's blog post on the topic:

Hey Laurie,

I read the piece about the dock diving dogs and here's my two cents. I've seen plenty of "regular" swimmers tail in labs from swimming in cold water, where the tails are just limp, but don't usually seem painful or swollen. I wonder if this is essentially the same condition taken further (the slamming of the tail base on the water combined with the cold water) or if it is something different. I would bet the former. Anyway as to how to warm up to prevent it, well "they" say dogs can't be taught to wag their tails on command because it is an unconscious behavior. However, I know people who have taught their dogs to wag on command. So that would be the thing to teach these labs and then have them wag wag wag (after all labs love to wag that is why we have the disease Happy Tail) before jumping. Because I don't think a warm up of walking and trotting is going to necessarily get all that much blood to the tail base. Jumping might be a helpful warmup because we know dogs use their tails for steering when jumping. 


Pam Mueller

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01 Jun 2014

Lastly… some abstracts regarding Swimmer's Tail

Thank you to Dr Julie Buzby for submitting these abstracts related to Swimmer's Tail / Cold Tail / Limber Tail.

Rounding out your education and thought-processing on Swimmers' tail (cold tail, limber tail, etc), here are a couple of abstracts.


What Is Limber Tail Syndrome?

Canine Pract. 1997 ;22(5-6):1. 2 Refs

Jan E. Steiss1

1Scott-Ritchey Research Center, Auburn University, Auburn, AL


Article Abstract

Limber tail syndrome typically consists of a young adult dog which acutely develops a flaccid tail. The tail either hangs down from the tail base, or is held horizontally for 3 or 4 inches and then drops down. With this low tail set, the dog is eliminated from competition. Palpation of the base of the tail may elicit a pain response. Owners of Labrador retrievers have remarked that their dogs seem very uncomfortable and appear to be in pain during the acute stages. Treatment usually consists of rest, and dogs recover spontaneously. Complete recovery usually occurs within 2 weeks, often within a few days. About one-third of affected dogs experience recurrence later in training. Various ages of dogs may be affected, with ages ranging from 6 months to 9 years. The most frequent age of onset in English pointers was 2 years. 

The cause of limber tail is not known. More than one cause may be possible. Owners and trainers report that most cases are associated with a hard workout the previous day (especially in unconditioned dogs), or cold, wet weather the previous night, or cage transport. A few people said they use grabbing of the tail as a method of correction during training, but none of them thought that this type of handling caused limber tail. In retrievers, cases of limber tail are also frequently associated with heavy hunting, as well as swimming or bathing with water that is too cold or warm. Other factors such as tail conformation (high tailed or very active tail), sex predisposition (more frequent in males), and inadequate nutrition have also been suggested. 

Without knowing the cause(s), it is obviously difficult to prescribe treatment. From what we know at this point, antibiotics, vitamin supplements, and expression of the anal sacs do not seem warranted. However, many experience owners and trainers who are familiar with limber tail do not present an affected dog to a veterinarian. Based on studies-in-progress, it appears that limber tail is associated with damage to the tail muscles. The dogs examined to date early in the course of the disease have shown elevated muscle enzymes such as creatine phosphokinase. There are certain similarities between this condition and ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ in humans. 



Coccygeal muscle injury in English Pointers (limber tail)

J Vet Intern Med. 1999 Nov-Dec;13(6):540-8.

J Steiss1; K Braund; J Wright; S Lenz; J Hudson; W Brawner; J Hathcock; R Purohit; L Bell; R Horne

1Scott-Ritchey Research Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, AL 36849, USA. 


Article Abstract


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.

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05 Feb 2017

Knee injuries & changes in the brain

Blindfolded Dog

This blog was inspired by an article that I shared on my Facebook page:  


It created a wee bit of discussion and I wanted to expand upon some thoughts.


So, firstly, the article stated that Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that regaining full function after an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is more than just physical—it requires retraining the brain.  Essentially, parts of the brain associated with leg movement lag behind during recovery from ACL injury as determined by brain activity scans while a person flexed & extended the knee (comparing normal adults and those with ACL injuries).  The brain simply didn’t process the information from the knee correctly.


The brain scans showed that instead of relying on movement or spatial awareness, people who had suffered an ACL injury relied more on their visual systems in the brain when moving their knee and didn't move it as naturally or instinctively as those who had not been injured.  It was like they were walking in the dark; less confident with their movement.  The researchers speculated that constantly relying on visual input / feedback may cause complications when participating in complex sports.  As such they suggest retraining limb-use and movement while visually distracting the patient. (They used special ‘strobe glasses’ that caused visual distractions to help the patients with their motor relearning.)


When it comes to dogs, I believe that the same can be happening for them as well.  


One of the comments on my Facebook post pertained to whether or not a dog ‘thought’ about things in the same way.  In particular, do they anticipate that their knee would hurt or give-way when they used it?  It should be noted that the article quoted the author’s presumption: "We think those [brain] changes play a big role in why people who recover from ACL injuries don't trust their knees entirely and tend to move them differently."


But there are two side to this that need to be considered when contemplating applying this study to dogs.  One person had commented that dogs wouldn’t anticipate future pain, or worry about whether movement would hurt or cause damage to the repair.  Going further to point out that many a dog has jumped out of it’s x-pen days after a cruciate surgery.  Certainly, we all know those dogs!  Squirrels too may be the ‘damnation’ of a good cruciate repair.   However, what about the dog that continue to walk with their limb externally rotated, and partially weight bearing 8-weeks post op?  Or what about that dog that has been fully rehabbed after a TPLO, has equal thigh circumference and looks great on gait analysis, but when fully resting in a stand will ever so slightly (but consistently) off-load the post-operative leg? Then there is the dog who after a TPLO will avoid sitting with their post-operative leg nicely tucked under them (despite having full ROM and full healing months later).  I think these dogs could very well fit into a category of ‘faulty brain-wiring’ as described in the article, whereas the ‘jumpers or squirrel chasers’ may well be a victim of instinct to chase or strong desire to not be confined at any cost.


What the article didn’t bring up was that the cruciate ligament has proprioceptive receptors within it, and to lose them and their ability to send information to the brain about joint position, tensions, pressures, etc, could be the other aspect of why the brain may ‘lag’ when it comes to movement awareness.  Like it or not, losing the cruciate will impact proprioception, and if you want better joint proprioception after the ligament is torn, the body will have to recruit information from other receptors near or adjacent to the joint.  This is why human rehab heavily prescribes neuromuscular rehabilitation - working on advanced level balancing skills - as a way to rehab after an injury as well as a way to prevent & reduce the incidence of soft tissue injuries in athletes.  What this study does tell us, is that we may make even greater gains in both departments (prevention & rehab) if we work on movement & balance activities while removing visual feedback as well.


So in summation, maybe try doing some (safe) activities with your canine patient blindfolded near the end of their rehab or as part of their conditioning.  (Maybe not what the picture associated with this blog is showing... but others things, blindfolded!!)


Let’s talk about that a little more in next week’s blog!


Until then!  Cheers!  Laurie


  1. Grooms D, Appelbaum G, Onate J. Neuroplasticity Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury: A Framework for Visual-Motor Training Approaches in Rehabilitation.   Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2015; 45(5):381-393.

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12 Feb 2017

Removing sight might enhance other senses

This is part two of ‘Knee injuries and changes in the brain’.  See last week’s blog on the subject.  In last week’s blog I discussed that the same findings and suggestions for humans (i.e. at end stage rehab following a knee injury, we need to retrain the brain to help with positional awareness / proprioception of joints) that we could do the same for dogs in rehab.


Since writing last week’s article, it has come to mind that the following will be good suggestions for recovering Vestibulitis cases as well.  So here are some things I played with at home on Friday!


I used a blindfold acquired from an airline when travelling overseas some time ago.  I put the fabric over my dog’s eyes, the straps over her ears, and then clipped the straps together, using a tiny hairclip, under her chin.  To my surprise, she was amazingly compliant!!!


Then I simply had her balance on flat land, then I lifted one leg, and then I added a displacement force.

Blindfold 3-Leg Balance Blindfold Displacement

She’s very food motivated, so I had some pieced of kibble to keep her focused, rewarded, eager to please!


Because she did so well, I then went on to have her balance on an unstable surface.  It’s important to note that not all people have fancy balance equipment at home – especially pet-dog people, so I looked around my basement and decided to use two pillows and have her stand on them while blindfolded.

Blindfold Pillow

She wanted to sit, and if I wasn’t doing double duty, with the camera & cookies, I would have likely had one hand under her tummy just to let her know that I expected her to stand.  (Providing as minimal support as I could get away with and still have the exercise be challenging but safe.)


She was a Rockstar at these exercises, so I tried her out with moving over an obstacle.

Blindfold Obstacle

She went up, on, and over… all blindfolded!


And then lastly, I thought, what about getting her to follow a cookie, blindfolded, walking through the snow?  Voila!

Walking in Snow

So, these were just a few things I tried.  You could make it more difficult, using inflatable balance equipment, or a treadmill.  As one person had remarked last week, any kind of backing up would be an advanced proprioceptive skill / exercise as well.


Okay folks, so see what you can come up with as well… (And take photos or videos… and share with me if you would!)


That’s it for this week!


Cheers!  Laurie


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09 Apr 2017

Turmeric & Curcumin - Considerations & Safety

Turmeric Paste

Here's what your patients are 'cooking up' for their dog at home.  But you should know more!


In this blog, I was intending to do a review of a review paper on Turmeric / Curcumin.  However, the idea was just as dumb as it sounded.  How do you do a review of a review?  Doh!  So instead, I thought I’d pass along some highlights and then direct you to the original source!  Now that’s a plan!  Thank you so much to Dr. Veerle Dejonckheere, MRCVS for directing me to this wonderful paper that she wrote for the ACPAT Journal, FourFront.


Now let’s begin:


Curcumin is a compound derived from Turmeric.    Curcumin has an excellent safety profile, but one should consider the possible interactions and side effects when advising dog owners who are supplementing with curcumin.


In Eastern Medicine (Ayruvedic medicine in particular), curcumin is used for the treatment of skin disorders, pulmonary and gastrointestinal ailments, pain, wounds and liver disorders.  Curcumin is widely being used by pet owners as an adjunctive treatment for osteoarthritis.



Turmeric is more than just curcumin, and some of the beneficial effects of turmeric are not solely related to the curcumin extract.



Curcumin is poorly absorbed.  It isn’t soluble in water.  It is rapidly metabolized and eliminated.  Dissolving curcumin in oil before ingestion allows it to be absorbed by the lymphatic system.


Piperine (a component found in black pepper) may also enhance the bioavailability. 


PLGA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLGA) may also improve the relative bioavailability and increase the half-life of curcumin.


Encapsulating curcumin in absorbable substances is important for getting any benefits from the product – read the paper for more info here!


Safety Considerations:

1.Inhibition of drug metabolism (some in particular include digoxin, anticoagulants, cyclosporine, and NSAIDS).

2.Iron Chelation – Rodents feed diets low in iron but supplemented with curcumin caused iron deficiency.

3.DNA Damage – A rodent study found more carcinogenic activity in the small intestine with the supplementation of curcumin.  However, there is a low incidence of GI cancers in India (a country with a diet rich in curcumin).

4.Gastrointestinal Inflammation – Curcumin has been associated with nausea, diarrhoea and increases in alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase.  Clinically, dogs with existing GI issues tend to suffer adverse reactions with the introduction of curcumin.

5.Gall Bladder Contraction – As such, dogs with known gall bladder issues should avoid curcumin.  However, curcumin has the potential to decrease the formation of gallstones.  So, it might be used preventatively, but not in the face of pre-existing gallstones.

6.Hypoglycaemia enhancement – which means, monitor diabetic patients who are concurrently taking curcumin more closely.

7.Anti-coagulant properties – have been reported in zingiberaceae extracts (remember when we said that Turmeric had more than just curcumin in it?), as such beware of its use in animals with clotting disorders.

8.Oxalate uroliths – Susceptible individuals may have an increased risk of kidney stones.

9.Stop the cat pee smell by adding cinnamon!


Anti-inflammatory activity

Curcumin has been shown to decrease synthesis of inflammatory mediators, demonstrates selective inhibition of COX-2 and some COX-1 enzymes, and may reduce signal transduction pathways involved in inflammatory diseases & various cancers.


Now, check out the paper for the full details, the background information, and the references!






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18 Jun 2017

The old, the fat, the black & the hairy

Old fat black dog

I’m repurposing this blog.  I just put it out on my clinic website… but I like it enough to repost it for all of you!  (Things to think about!)


This blog has been inspired by a few different experiences I’ve had lately: Three client stories, and one personal experience.  Basically, we four dog owners are concerned about the health of our dogs.  Our dogs don’t want to walk.  Our dogs are lethargic.  Something must be wrong!!!  (And since I started writing this, I’ve had this conversation with at least half a dozen more clients who are having similar concerns about their dogs.)   


I’ll start with the story of my dog.  It’s my rescue Borzoi, Syri.  She’s about ten years old, mostly black, and carries a bit of extra ‘padding’ as well.  She’s also is a bit of a ‘head case’.  She can be weird for all sorts of reasons!  Well, one day I decided to take all 4 of my dogs for a walk.  It was 9 am, there was a bit of a breeze and it was about 17 degrees C.  Perfect, I thought!  I could get all of my white dogs enthused about going, but not the black dog.  I did manage to get her out of the house, and down to the end of the drive way, but no further. There was no way she was going into the field.   I even tried pushing her for a bit!  She was standing there shaking like a leaf (and I felt like an ogre)!  I gave up and walked her back to the house and the white dogs and I went for a walk.  I’ve been noticing that she is a bit more lethargic than normal.   She’s fussy about going outside.  However, if I wait until 8:30 or 9pm, then she’s like a puppy!  Happy, bouncy, yeah-I’ll-go-for-a-walk fool! But during the day, she’s a pancake!


The first of my canine patients is fuzzy, black, well padded, senior dog.  Her owner has been noticing that she doesn’t want to walk and isn’t as enthusiastic about eating either.  The third dog is a densely-coated (not-black, she’s tan) dog and the owners are noticing she’s not so interested in going for walks.  On questioning, the 4pm walk in particular.  And the last dog was a small senior dog, and the owners have been finding him to simply be more lethargic than usual and he pants more too.


Naturally, we’re all freaking out a little bit!  Our brains go to the worst-case scenario right off the bat.  What if it C…?  And while that is always a possibility, perhaps we should think about all of the factors.  Slow down a bit, and just be rational. 


1. My black dog heats up like a frying pan when she’s out in full sun!  She will ‘hold her urine’ ALL DAY and not go outside other than first thing in the morning and then right after dinner in the evening in the Spring / Summer.  When she does go out into full sun, it takes just a few minutes before her hair coat is hot.  Not just warm, but hot!  Conversely, even if the temperature is in the 20’s but overcast or late enough in the day that the angle of the sun is different, then she’s fine with going outside!

2.Dogs (and people) that carry extra weight tend to be warmer, especially in warmer weather.  Fat = insulation, and too much insulation on a hot day is like wearing your snowsuit to the beach!  Dogs likely have it worse than people, because they don’t sweat.  They have to pant to cool down.

3.A thick coat of hair may then have the same impact as excess weight.  It may act as an insulator for some dogs, making them heat up faster and then have difficulties dispersing the heat.

4.Lastly, age can play a factor.  There are some reports in human literature that humans (45 +) may suffer more physiological strain during heat acclimatization than younger individuals.  This may be related to aerobic fitness, levels of dehydration in the older individuals, and environmental humidity.


So, what should we take from this?  There are a few things you could try.  Firstly, try going for your daily walk(s) either early or late in the day, when the sun is low.  Secondly, you may need to reduce your dog’s body weight (and we can help with our Fluffy to Fit program).  Thirdly, keep your dog well brushed out to remove dead hair, contemplate a ‘summer haircut / trim’, use a ‘cooling jacket’ (they are wetted and have gel beads that can keep the dog cool when it’s on), reflective jacket, or wet terrycloth jacket, or spritz your dog with cold water (the ‘mist setting’ on your garden nozzle) before heading out to walk might combat the heat issues.  Fourthly, the age of your dog may be a factor, so perhaps you could do some indoor exercises with your dog in your basement instead, or bring him / her in for an underwater treadmill session as a different means of exercise.   And I’m going to add in a fifth thought as my finale, maybe you need to encourage your pooch to drink a bit more fluids.  Low sodium (or home-made) broth could be provided or added to food to increase water / fluid consumption.  


You likely want to try a combination of these suggestions and see how your dog responds. And naturally, if you still have concerns or see other unusual or troubling signs in your pet, it’s best to book an appointment with your vet!



Posted in: Tags: old , fat , black , hairy , lethargy

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