Dogs wag their tails to communicate with their fellow canines, said Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, of VCA, an operator of over 1,000 animals in the US and Canada. It is a critical part of a dog’s anatomy and serves as an extension of the spine. The tail’s bones are larger at the base and get smaller towards the tip. Soft discs support the space between the vertebrae and allow flexibility. The muscle and nerves make the tail move and aid in bowel control. Unfortunately, the tail structure of bone, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels is vulnerable to injury.
Tail Injuries Sustained By Working Gundogs and Terriers in Scotland (2014)
R. Lederer, D. Bennett, and T. Parking of BMJ Veterinary Record, a leading veterinary journal from the BVA, found that 70% of all dogs in the survey came from Scotland. Most working dogs were spaniels (51.8%) or retrievers (28.3%). Majority of the dogs (52.9%) had their tails docked to some extent, with 20.4% having their tails docked by a third, 16.6% were docked by half, 12.1% docked short (shorter than by one half of normal tail length), and 3.8% having a tail tip dock only.
Among the spaniels, 79.8% had a docked tail, with 35.4% docked by a third, 25.6% docked by half, 12.6% docked short, and 6.1% with a tail tip dock only. When the respondents were asked if their dog/s had any tail injuries during the survey period, 29.3% said that one or more of their canines had sustained a tail injury. Among 2,356 dogs whose owners completed this part of the survey, 13.5% had sustained at least one tail injury during the previous shooting season. Moreover, nearly 42% of these dogs had two or more tail injuries while 13.2% had four or more tail injuries during the previous shooting season.
Unlike pointer/setters, retrievers or terriers (combined 7%), spaniels (17.8%) and HPRs (hunt point retrievers) (15.6%) were significantly more likely to sustain at least one tail injury. Among spaniels, 54.7% of undocked dogs and 20.8% of dogs with tail tip dock had at least one tail injury during the survey period. Owners of 299 dogs with a tail injury provided a detailed description of their canines’ “worst tail injury” sustained during the survey period. 4.4% of canines were reported to require veterinary treatment for this tail injury. 8.3% of HPRs and 5.5% of spaniels received veterinary treatment for their worst tail injury.
Most “worst tail injuries” took place during work or training (84.6%), versus those that occurred at home in the house (2.3%) or in a kennel (5.7%). 253 work-related injuries happened predominantly happened during “rough shoots” (49.2%) or “driven shoots” (40.5%), while dogs were working in “cover” (44.3%), or in the woodland (36.8%).
What Are the Most Common Tail Injuries?
1. Happy Tail
Happy tail injuries are not something to be happy about. Some breeds wag their tails constantly, which leads to injury especially when the tails repeatedly hit solid objects like trees. Happy tail injuries lead to the development of bleeding ulcers.
Happy tail injuries expose delicate nerves that inflict pain. Hence, it is advisable to contact your veterinarian immediately. Sometimes, bandaging the ulcerated area sometimes conjunction with antibiotics and pain medication will calm the nerves and prevent infection, helping the tail heal. Severe cases of happy tail injuries involve the surgical shortening of the tail. Although surgery will change your dog’s appearance, wagging a short tail prevents your dog from sustaining more injuries.
Fractures in the tail occur when your dog gets hit by a vehicle, falls off a porch or bed, or if its tail gets caught in a door. The location of the fracture is associated with its severity. For example, if the fracture is located at the tip of the tail, the injury usually heals well without treatment, though a bump or kink may be present at the site. If the bones are crushed, amputating a part of your dog’s tail may be recommended. In severe cases, injuries sustained near the base of the tail often damage the nerves. Take your dog to the veterinarian if it was involved in a traffic accident or had a bad fall. Your veterinarian will perform a complete exam because chances are, its tail may not be the only part of the body that needs immediate attention.
3. Nerve Damage
The tail’s nerves are safeguarded by the vertebrae, but they can still sustain injuries. Avulsion injuries occur when the tail is pulled strenuously to the point that it stretches or tears the nerves. Meanwhile, breaks near the base of the tail may cut off nerves. Injuring the nerves that facilitate urination and defecation may cause your dog to become incontinent (not having or insufficient control). Nerve function may gradually return but some canines will be unable to control their urination and defecation.
Lacerations are more severe than abrasions as the latter can involve deep cuts that reveal your dog’s underlying muscle and bones. Dogs that are nervous, bored, or exhibit behavioral problems can inflict themselves with lacerations. Tail biting can be caused by flea allergies or impacted anal glands. Infection may occur, particularly with bite wounds. Some lacerations also require sutures.
How Do I Prevent Tail Injuries?
Christine O’Brien of Hill’s Pet, an American pet food company, noted that you can ensure that your house is protected against potential hazards even if you can’t change your dog’s temperament. One way to protect your dog is to know where it is located at all times to prevent accidents. Moreover, it is advisable for your dog’s bones and joints health to prevent breaks, especially when you own a senior dog. Don’t attempt to fix a broken tail at home. Instead, bring your dog to your veterinarian or to the nearest 24-hour emergency care facility. Consulting a veterinarian can help assess the injury and provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Antibiotics— whether oral or injectable— or pain medication can be prescribed to treat the injured tail. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.
The tail is an important part of dogs as they use it to communicate with other felines. Some dogs injure their tails when collided with hard objects. Broken tails and other severe tail injuries should not be fixed at home, as they require immediate veterinary assistance. Give your dog time to heal, and its tail should be up and wagging.