How on earth could a wagging tail be a problem? Have you ever been around a large, muscular, happy dog who upends flower vases and knocks over beverages on coffee tables with his long vigorously wagging tail? People living with such dogs literally have to “tail-proof” their homes! Ever been repeatedly slapped across the thighs by one of these wagging whips, and the more you react to the pain the more the dog wags? Ouch!
Such vigorous tail wagging can also be problematic for the dog. By repeatedly whacking his tail against a firm surface such as wall or a table, an open bleeding sore can develop on the tail tip. The dog’s response is to lick and chew at the site resulting in more inflammation and bleeding. This tail tip trauma isn’t typically terribly painful for the dog so, of course the tail keeps right on wagging. Only now it’s a live paintbrush spattering speckles of red at the walls, furniture, kitchen appliances, and even nearby humans! The result is as graphic as a CSI crime scene.
One might imagine this would be a simple problem to fix. The fact of the matter is, a bleeding tail tip poses a significant medical challenge. In order to heal, the tail must be immobilized, but how in the heck can you make a dog quit wagging his tail? You can’t. And it’s almost impossible to keep a bandage secured on the tail tip. Most dogs are happy to chew off (and ingest) their tail bandages, and there are no Elizabethan collars large enough to prevent the tongue from reaching the tail tip. I’ve seen other things tried such as temporarily bandaging the tail to the dog’s hind leg so he can’t wag, or 24-hour supervision until the tip heals (a certain way to create a tired and pissed off client). Besides, even if the tail tip does heal, the dog is going to re-whack it and the bleeding will start all over again.
So, what’s the solution? Partial amputation of the tail is the treatment of choice. The tail revision need not need be as short as a Rottweiler look. Rather, the length should resemble an Airedale or Vizsla tail; still some tail, but short enough to prevent the wagging tip from coming into contact with hard surfaces. As with any surgery, there are potential complications and it is important to discuss them with your veterinarian. Yes, the look of the dog is forever changed, but the wag will continue as vigorously as ever without altering the color of your wallpaper.
Best wishes for good health,
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.