A dog’s tail does more than you might think. This extension of the spine can help to balance a dog that travels over uneven terrain. The tail’s position and movement can also convey a wide range of emotions to owners, from fear to joy. However, a variety of health challenges can impair the tail’s function and cause pain for your dog.
Thankfully, you can recognize these potential tail problems and pursue the proper course of veterinary care once you understand their causes and symptoms. Take a look at four problems that can affect your dog’s tail.
1. Fractures and Lacerations
A dog that gets hit by a car or falls on its tail may break the small bones in its tail. A heavy object that falls on an outstretched tail (or a human foot that accidentally treads on the tail) can also produce a fracture.
The bone fragments in a fractured tail may or may not pierce the skin. Either way, you may notice that the tail’s curve now includes an odd angle and that your dog can’t wag it as usual. Other possible symptoms include whining, incontinence, an aversion to having the tail touched, and changes in your dog’s gait.
Your veterinarian can confirm a fracture by viewing X-rays of the injured tail. Minor fractures to the smallest bones in the tail may require no treatment. The bones may heal normally on their own, although they may leave an odd kink in the tail. Severe fractures may call for amputation of the tail to ensure optimal healing.
2. Soft Tissue Damage
Fractures and soft tissue often go together when a dog suffers an acute tail injury. However, your dog’s tail can also develop abrasions and lacerations due to fights with other animals, obsessive licking or biting at irritated skin, or through everyday encounters with walls, floors, and foliage. Redness and loss of hair often accompany abrasions.
Lacerations count as a more serious type of soft tissue injury because the damage involves underlying muscles and connective tissues as well as the skin. A deep laceration may even expose the bones of the tail. When you notice a laceration, apply pressure with a towel to get any heavy bleeding under control, then take your dog to the vet for emergency care.
3. Happy Tail
A wagging tail generally indicates a happy dog, but in some cases this display of happiness can produce less than happy results. A dog that constantly thumps its wagging tail against hard surfaces may develop split areas of skin that hurt or bleed. Veterinarians refer to this problem, appropriately enough, as happy tail.
Early diagnosis and treatment can keep a case of happy tail from leading to serious complications. Your veterinarian may prescribe enforced rest, pain medication, sedatives, and antibiotics. Your dog may need to wear a tail bandage as well as a cone collar to keep them from licking or biting the tail as it heals.
4. Acute Caudal Myopathy
Acute caudal myopathy, also referred to as limber or limp tail, dead tail, or rudder tail, involves the muscles that make your dog’s tail move. Intense, prolonged activities such as swimming, hunting, and even wagging can cause this form of muscular strain. The affected tail typically droops and hangs lifelessly.
Acute caudal myopathy can resemble other problems such as a tail fracture, so you’ll want to get it properly diagnosed by your veterinarian. Treatments usually include prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Your dog may also need to refrain from the activities that caused the injury for a few weeks.
1st Pet Veterinary Centers can examine your pet’s tail, determine why it no longer looks or works as it should, and provide the necessary treatment to get that tail wagging happily again. Contact our animal hospital today.