Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Tail is Limp or Does Not Move

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you notice slow or difficult urination, or dribbling of urine.
  • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to this sign.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If the horse seems not to be passing manure normally.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If the horse seems to be moving freely, and has a normal appetite and attitude.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

You notice that your horse’s tail does not seem to move. You lift it and it feels “loose” and limp. There is no resistance as you lift it. This can be a sign of spinal injury, nerve injury or neuromuscular diseases. Horses that are very weak or ill may show this sign. This observation may also be associated with intentional tail blocking in show horses.

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) looking for other signs of illness or injury, including any hind limb weakness or wobbliness, dribbling urine, or difficulty passing manure.

The primary problem for horses with paralyzed tails is their inability to protect themselves from flies. Due to this, talk to your vet about making changes in management and insect control to ensure that fly irritation is minimized.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the tail area looking for swelling, heat, trauma or hair loss. Carefully pinch the skin around the horse’s anus. That should cause a reflex in which the anal muscles tense and the tail moves. Assess lameness at the walk- do you notice any wobbliness or weakness? Share your findings with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet may suggest that they perform a physical and neurologic exam, as well as look at the tail itself.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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