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Dog Tail Injury? When Wags Hurt & Dealing with Tail Wag Trauma

by | Feb 27, 2013 | Dog Training & Care, Emergency Help | 12 comments

We love it when our happy dogs wag-wag-wag with joy. Dogs talk with their tails, but too much wagging can result in dog tail injury. Tail talk expresses emotion and communicates so much, but what do you do when wags hurt? Labradors are notorious for dog tail injury. Here’s how to deal with tail wag trauma.

dog tail injury

Dog Tail Injury: Why Tail Trauma Happens

That tail is one of the most expressive parts of the dog–or cat–body. It’s not unusual for a friendly flail to clear tabletops. But what can you do when the wagging wacks walls, and there’s trauma to twining tail tips? (say THAT fast five times!)

Big dogs like Labradors are so happy—and so large—that happy wagging bangs the tail tip bloody. Pet tails can also be shut in doors, stepped on, or otherwise hurt. Once dog tail injury happens, tails are very prone to re-injury and can stay sore and battered.

The condition isn’t a medical emergency but is painful for the dog or cat. It can also be messy when the injured tail splatters blood around the room. With chronic tail wag trauma, medical attention is needed to speed the healing, but home care also works well.

dog tail injuryHOME FIRST AID FOR DOG TAIL INJURY

Benadryl has a sedative effect and is very safe. You can give one milligram for every pound the pet weighs to temporarily slow the wagging. That can help keep your dog tail injury from becoming worse, and give it a chance to heal.

Hair not only hides the wound, it also collects bacteria and holds blood like a paintbrush. When the tail is very furry, carefully clip away the hair with blunt scissors. Electric clippers are a safer choice for fur removal.

Usually infection isn’t a problem, but it’s still best to quickly clean up the tail. The simplest and most effective technique is to dip the tail in a pan of cold water for several minutes. That rinses off the wound, helps stop the bleeding and reduces inflammation. Then gently pat the tail dry with a clean cloth.

If the dog or cat won’t allow tail dipping, apply an ice cube to the area to numb the pain and reduce swelling. The damage prompts the body to release chemicals called histamines that cause swelling and inflammation. Inflammation can break down the cells and cause permanent damage. Ice stops the process. Once the injury is clean and dry, apply a thin film of antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to help prevent infection.

HOW TO BANDAGE A DOG TAIL INJURY

Bandage the tail to contain the bleeding (and protect your furniture), and pad the injury to keep your pet from re-injuring the sore spot. Learn more about pet first aid in the book, The First Aid Companion for Dogs  Cats.

Cat’s tails are particularly difficult to bandage, but for dogs, pull a clean cotton tube sock over the end of the tail. It should be long enough to cover two-thirds of the length of the tail itself. Then wrap tape over the sock, beginning at the tip of the tail and working toward the body, in a diagonal crisscross pattern. Be sure to run the tape two inches beyond the cuff of the sock and directly onto the fur. Finally, run the tape back down from the body to the tail tip, again in a diagonal pattern, which makes it difficult for the dog to pull off. This bandage technique (and others) are illustrated and described in pet first aid books.

Change bandages at least every three days, or oftener if it gets wet or dirty. Apply Neosporin to the area with each bandage change. If the veterinarian recommends you leave the tail uncovered, apply the ointment two to four times a day since dogs and cats tend to lick it off. Some pets may need a prescription tranquilizer to calm tail movement until it can heal. Antibiotics may also be needed. Check with your vet to be sure any medication doesn’t cause diarrhea or other issues.

A collar restraint also can keep him from chewing, licking or pulling at the bandage or tail injury. Or smear Vicks Vapor Rub on the bandage—the menthol odor repels most pets and keeps tongue and teeth at bay.

Some injuries require that the damaged tail tip amputated. If that happens, fur tends to grow over the end and hides the loss. Your pet will never miss the, er, missing link.

Make some changes in the pet’s environment to avoid a repeat of the tail trauma. Bigger dogs need larger areas where they can swing their tails without banging walls, or clearing off the coffee table.

Has your dog (or cat) ever suffered a tail injury? How did it happen? What treatment was required? Do tell!

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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

12 Comments

  1. Debbie Doglady

    Fortunately, none of my dogs ever sustained a tail injury, but, a few of my clients’ have. I remember a Golden Retriever who banged up his tail so often, it lost function and just hung there, limply. You had to lift it up when he needed to poop, otherwise it got messy. Another client accidentally slammed the door on her Lab’s tail and broke it. Ouch! 🙁
    Thanks for the good advice about this subject.

    • Amy Shojai

      Yowie…poor dogs, that does sound painful. This happens with cats, too, but not as often.

  2. Karyl Cunningham

    I think I’m commenting on the right one. 🙂 Anyway, I remember when I was volunteering almost daily at the shelter (at least my unemployment a few years ago did something good, eh?) we had a few dogs in that had to be docked because they wouldn’t stop breaking their tails. One of them had a sign up for a little bit beforehand, saying “don’t be scared if you see blood in my kennel – I am just so very happy to see you, sometimes I wage my tail too hard!” Up until then, I had never actually considered that as a reason for tail docking.

    • Amy Shojai

      Yay! Yes, you’re on the ‘new’ blog. *s* It’s interesting that the dog fancy uses “tail injury” as a justification for docking many of the dog breed tails…yet labradors are one of the most common tail injuries and is NOT a docked breed. Ah, but that opens up a whole other discussion. Not…going…there, at least not tonight. 🙂

      • Karyl Cunningham

        I wonder if perhaps they mean “tail injury in the line of work the dog was originally bred for”… in which case it only makes sense to do it if you’ve got a working dog. Sometimes I think they arbitrarily hold to those standards without really thinking about or explaining the history of why they were done. :\

        • Amy Shojai

          That’s exactly how it’s meant. But most of these dogs aren’t doing their historical work these days now anyway. It’s a matter of taste more than safety or function anymore. In Europe, quite a lot of the cropping/docking is now illegal. *shrug*

  3. Eyrline Morgan

    When I was a child, my Dad brought home a toy fox terrior, a terror to my mother. She refused to have anything to do with it and would have let it starve if we didn’t feed and water it. We learned fast we had a responsibility to this dog. Once when she was exiting the door, it slammed on her tail, breaking it so it had a kink in it. We tried bracing it, but to no avail. It seemed happy enough, so we just let it alone. We love out Mitzy, but Mother banned it to outside. She would plant a bulb, only to find it dug up. She gave up a garden in the back and made a beautiful rose and dalia garden in the front yard. We had an outdoor cat, a good mouser, Mitzy would drag the poor cat around the yard by the nap of its neck. We’d rescue the cat and she went back for more. go figure.

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Eyrline, I’m so glad that you had the chance to have a special relationship with Mitzy despite your Mom’s opinion. *s* Those terriers can be a handful–bet the kinked tail gave Mitzy even more character. 🙂

  4. Pamela King Coyte

    We have been having to wipe down walls and cabinets for the last two weeks. We couldn’t figure out what happen to our Catahoula’s tail. Found this article very useful and I believe he wags it so hard he may have just injured it and keeps hurting it every time he hits something with it. Going to try the sock thing with padding to protect see if we can get it to heal. Thank you for the advice!

  5. Amelia

    My 1 month husky has a somewhat hole on its tail and vet wont be open till next week i tried cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide alot of pus came out but i still feel a little ball there i think its swollen dont know if its still puss or how he got it but he had it the day i got him ,went home rinsed it out and saw wound dont know what to do or how to help the poor little guy

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Amelia, So sorry your puppy has a tail injury. Hydrogen peroxide is a bit harsh to put on the wound directly. He really does need a veterinary check up. Meanwhile, simply washing with warm soapy water, and then rinsing thoroughly, can help keep the area clean until the doctor can attend to him.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pet Tail Talk: How to Understand Cat & Dog Tail Communication - […] Remember that tail shape and display (conformation) also influences how and what dogs say. Northern breeds such as Alaskan…
  2. First Aid Medicine Chest: Home Remedies to Save Pet Lives - […] Neosporin: to help prevent wound infection (helpful for tail injuries) […]

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