Dogs in the north may lose their wag because it is colder than in the south, a new study suggests. A team at the University of Edinburgh has carried out the first large-scale investigation of limber tail, an illness that causes the tail to become limp and painful.
The condition mostly affects larger working dog breeds such as labrador retrievers and the study compared 38 cases of dogs with the condition with 86 which had no symptoms. Swimming also raises the odds of 'limber tail', suggesting that cold temperatures help trigger it.
‘Dogs are more likely to suffer a painful condition that prevents them from wagging their tails the further north they live.’
But a study of dozens of dogs with limber tail suggests that cold conditions are behind the illness. The chance of a dog developing the condition rose by 50 percent for each additional degree of latitude further north.
Working dogs, who spend more time outdoors and those who had been swimming were also around five times more likely to develop 'limber tail' which is also known as cold tail. Symptoms include a tail that is stiff at the base but limp at the end, making it seem paralysed.
"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," said Dr Carys Pugh, of The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
"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."
The study was conducted as part of the Dogslife project, which follows the health and wellbeing of more than 6,000 labradors across the UK.