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: 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.
HOME 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!