One day, I came home to find blood splattered all over. Turned out, it was from my happy dog's wagging tail. This is what we did.
My Dog's Injured, Wagging Tail Bled Everywhere
One day, when I bent down to pick something up off the kitchen floor, I noticed red splatter across the refrigerator. What is that? I wondered. Ketchup?
Then I noticed more splatter on the cabinets, across the front of the oven, along the wall and more on the pantry door, which is next to the entry where we usually come into the house. I cleaned it up, realizing then that it was actually blood, but I couldn't find the source. I checked both dogs—their paws, faces, sides. Nothing. I cleaned more blood spatter all over the house, even in areas high on the walls. What was it doing up there? I had visions of a horror movie.
Soon, my husband came home and, as usual, was jumped on and licked by two excited pooches. That's when he noticed Remy's tail. The tip was bright red and actively bleeding as Remy wagged like crazy, so happy to see one of his favorite humans. In his excitement, he tossed more blood all over the kitchen and even splattered it six feet high. The more excited he got, the more the room was covered in red. That's when we learned about a condition called "happy tail."
What Is Happy Tail Syndrome in Dogs?
It's called "happy tail" because this type of injury occurs when a dog wags its tail with a vengeance. Like our Remy, who runs around banging his tail like a whip on furniture, walls, appliances and doors, a dog with happy tail ends up with a bloody stub after repeat trauma. Talk about a tough place to bandage, not to mention a wound that keeps reopening before it ever has a chance to heal.
Managing Happy Tail at Home
After communicating Remy's condition to our vet, we finally figured out an easy way to wrap and protect Remy's tail, which worked well and was a lot less expensive than continuous trips to the veterinary clinic. Keep in mind that veterinarians treat happy tail, but for some owners, managing the condition at home is more sensible.
Trial and Error: What Doesn't Work
After basically sitting on Remy and cleaning his wound—which he clearly noticed once he wasn't so distracted by his excitement—we attempted first aid by loosely wrapping the last few inches and tip of the tail in gauze and securing it with medical tape. That bandage promptly popped right off. Then we tried wrapping from a few inches higher with even more tape. That lasted for only a few wags before the bandage "cone" was flipped across the room.
I've read that if you wrap the tail from the tip to the base (towards the body), it stays on, but:
- We didn't have that much gauze on hand.
- We were certain that either Remy or his sidekick, Jazzy, would promptly get busy trying to pull or chew the bandage off.
So, we began wandering around the house to see what else we might use to wrap and protect that battered tip of a tail in order to give it a chance to heal.
Using Neoprene to Protect a Bleeding Tail
What you're looking at (pictured above) is actually a piece of neoprene that had once been part of a sleeve for a CamelBak drinking tube. We had an extra one and cut off a piece about three inches long.
Neoprene is a flexible material used in products like wet suits, laptop sleeves, and braces for knees, ankles, wrists, etc., and it form-fits itself snugly but not too tightly around whatever it's on. The neoprene had enough "grab" not to slip off of Remy's fur, even when he started wagging.
The Neoprene We Used
How to Bandage Your Dog's Tail
As always, communicate and work with your veterinarian before proceeding with any type of non-emergency first aid bandaging on your dog at home. In some states, only licensed medical professionals are allowed to apply bandages, splints and casts under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
Incorrect Bandaging May Result in Amputation
Incorrect bandaging may result in limb or tail amputation. Bandages that are too tight or wrapped incorrectly can cut off blood supply to tissue and may lead to slow wound healing, tissue death and necrosis. This is why it's important to work closely with your veterinarian.
What Is Correct Bandaging Technique?
Any type of bandage in a first aid situation should immediately resolve active bleeding and be applied on the most distal point of the extremity (the furthest point on the extremity) and wrapped towards the body (up the limb or extremity).
Bandages are applied in this manner to aid circulation and drive blood and lymphatic circulation towards the core of the body. If not wrapped in this manner, limbs, toes, etc. may swell painfully, leading to tissue trauma, infection or tissue death.
Tips for Success
Our method is fairly simple if you can get your dog to lie still for a few minutes. Remy did require being laid upon to get him to calm down and hold still long enough for us to take care of the wound, but even once he was relaxed, canine nurse, Jazzy, got in on the action. So, next time (and we're pretty sure there will be a next time), Jazzy will be removed from the room.
We definitely recommend working in a distraction-free area with your dog. Also, proceed with caution if your dog is fractious (or overly wiggly)—you may opt for assistance from an experienced animal handler in this case to avoid injuries to yourself and others.
First Aid: How to Treat a Dog's Bleeding Tail
- First, we cleaned the wound with warm water and gentle soap (wound cleanser works too).
- We let the tip of the tail air-dry for a minute, then used an antibacterial spray and applied Bag Balm after that. Whatever you use, make sure it's veterinarian-approved.
- We cut a piece of neoprene at least three inches long, and since it was tubing, we cut it open rather forcing it over the tail tip. When we placed the neoprene around the tail, we allowed it to extend roughly half an inch beyond the tip.
- We used medical tape to wrap and secure the neoprene (but not too tightly). (Medical tape adheres well to neoprene and is nice and flexible. It's fairly easy to tear off once you're done wrapping, and it doesn't peel off easily, making it harder for a dog to nibble off.) This method allowed us to get the neoprene fairly snug without it bothering our dog. The neoprene itself provided enough padding that the tape didn't constrict. We also made sure not to tape over the open end of the neoprene in order to let the injury "breathe."
- We checked the tail daily for any sign of infection. Minor tail wounds can bleed a lot, so we cleaned it well and watched it daily to determine the extent of the injury and whether or not it split.
It's highly advised that if the tail doesn't appear to be healing quickly—as with any wound—or if the wound looks "substantial" once you've cleaned it and can get a good look at it, to contact your vet.
A Happy Tail Syndrome Success Story
At the time of writing this, our homemade tail tip protector—which is open at the end just beyond the tip to allow for air flow in addition to tail protection—has been on there for four days, and Remy hasn't attempted to get it off. This indicates to us that it's comfortable and not too tight. Remy too has been his usual wagging, nutty self, and periodic tail tip checks have shown that the wound is still improving despite him whacking his tail and the neoprene sleeve all over the house.
Happy tail syndrome can be a frustrating condition to work with, but there are solutions. I hope this article can be of help. Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.
Another Method of Tail Bandage Application
- Specified Duties of Non-Veterinarians 2019
- Tail Bandage for Minor Wounds | Grand Avenue Veterinary Center
- Tail Injuries in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital
The tail is an important part of the canine anatomy and is actually an extension of the spine. This complex tail structure of bone, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels can easily be injured.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: What if my dog's tail is like a very short one that has been cut off to a nub?
Answer: Then I would expect this would never be a problem. "Happy tail" injuries happen to dogs with long (natural length) tails hitting objects or even walls when the dogs wag. With a cropped tail, that would not happen. If a cropped tail is bleeding, I would definitely seek veterinary attention.
Question: Is it okay to cut off the dogs tail?
Answer: While this question may be sarcasm, it's not something I would ever do and of course never without a veterinarian in a surgical setting. Of course, some people have their dogs' tails docked, particularly certain breeds, but that's not a practice I'm personally in favor of. If "happy tail" bleeding is a persistent problem with your dog, I most definitely consult your vet.
Question: Have you had any more incidents after putting the Neoprene on your dog's tail? Has it healed completely? Have there been any more bloody incidents?
Answer: Remy, the Golden Retriever/Lab mix in the photos is no longer with us. He died of cancer at a young age, sadly.
Once his bleeding "happy tail" healed the first time with the Neoprene, it was probably the better part of a year before it ever bled again, but not as badly. After healing a second time, again with the Neoprene, it seemed to have calloused over enough, if that's the right word, that it never bled again, even when he'd whack his wagging tail on walls and furniture and other things.
Question: At what store could I buy neoprene?
Answer: You can find it on Amazon online. In person, you could try an outdoor store if you have any nearby. They may sell the neoprene tube "sleeves" separately from the drinking tubes and bladders (e.g. Camelbaks). But ordering it online may be your best bet.
Question: Did you tape the top of the neoprene to your dogs tail to help it stay on? Also did you have to change it frequently or reapply medicine to the tip?
Answer: The neoprene extended a little beyond the tip of his tail, so we didn't need to tape that part. That also allowed air to get in there. We did open it up to add more ointment but didn't have to change the neoprene. We just changed the medical tape after applying new medicine.
Question: What should be done with a dog's tail that is splitting, but not bleeding?
Answer: I would have to defer to a veterinarian to give that kind of advice.
© 2013 Deb Kingsbury
Have you ever had to treat a dog's tail wound? If so, how did you do it?
Julie Valentine on August 07, 2019:
A couple years ago our dog, Misty, got happy tail and we took her to the vet and he told us it wasn’t going to heal and she’d end up getting her tail docked. We went to a few websites like this and tried various bandages, but they all ended up falling off or getting chewed off by our dog. That’s why we developed the happy tail saver, it saved our dogs tail from being amputated, saving us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The happy tail saver will still allow let your dog wag their tail while they heal. it is guaranteed to stay on any dog.
Visit the link below to check it out.
Monique Hagler on November 20, 2018:
My dog split the very tip of his tail, making it incredibly difficult to bandage and heal. The only approach that worked was this:
1st, make the plastic tail protector... Take a syringe tube/case (also called "portable sharps container") and cut the tip off of the short end. The tail will go through the wide mouth of the tube, and the open tip will allow for ventilation. More on this later..
Take the dog to the vet and have them shave down the hair around the wound. Clean it. Put a generous amount of neosporin (or any antibiotic cream) in a 3x3 inch non-stick gauze pad. Gently wrap that around the wound. Then wrap around the gauze with vet wrap. Cover a good 4 inches of tail with vet wrap.
Place the wrapped tail through the wide mouth of the plastic protector tube. Try to leave 1/4 inch of space between the tail tip and the end of the platic tube. Then, wrap Elastikon (2 or 3 inch) around the wide end of the tube and continue up towards the dog's bum. The Elastikon will need to actually wrap around the dog's tail hair. This is the only thing that will keep the bandage in place.
Remove, clean, and re-wrap the wound 1x per day for the first couple of days. I recommend keeping your dog on antibiotic meds during this time to prevent infection. Once I was sure that the wound had started to heal and that the bandage apparatus wasn't making the situation worse, I started to leave the wrap on my dog for 2-3 days between clean/re-wrapping.
The tube will help prevent re-injury, but it also helped to keep my dog crated while guests were at the house and during the night. If the plastic tube appears to be "damp" inside, remove from the tail and cut to make the ventilation hole wider. You do NOT want moisture to linger around the wound.
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on September 30, 2018:
We did the same thing. We'd try to be really calm and not even make eye contact with Remy when we'd first come home. We'd walk to the middle of the room first, where there was nothing for him to whack his tail against, and THEN greet him with our usual enthusiasm, and he'd go bonkers. The little delay definitely helped prevent happy tail.
Tracy on September 29, 2018:
I am dealing with the "Happy Tail" now and let me say it leaves quite the murder scene. I have gotten to where when I get home I don"t immediately speak when I walk in the door and also tell him to watch his tail when I let him out of his crate and believe it or not, he apparently understands because our blood spatter has lessened, but please don't think I am being cruel by not speaking to him immediately because he is spoiled rotten, it just makes him less excited. Or I think it does anyway.
Paul on June 13, 2018:
Very fortunate. Our dogs tail was injured somehow at the pound. She could wag it so fast it was never going to heal. We used 3 bandades at a time which she tolerated and changed them every 2 to 3 days. It took about 3 weeks for it to fully heal. It also took a village. Everyone in the family and friends helped shield her tail whenever in high wagging situations. The dog seemed to appreciate the help and attention.
Wade on April 26, 2017:
Also I know you should not use duct tape because it won't allow the tail to breath. I have changed it every other day for a week. I only put the duct tape half way up over the gauze onto her tail meaning the end if her tail has the exposed breathable gauze. So please never wrap the complete tail with any non breathable tape.
Wade on April 26, 2017:
I tried it all for 2 days but it all came off and blood everywhere. So I took liquid bandage after trimming her hair near the tip with scissors. Do not shave the hair or it will itch when growing back making a whole new issue. Yes I blew hard as I applied it 2 separate times within an hour, stuff sucks because it has alcohol but it also has medicine to help prevent infection and healing. Then I wrapped gauze. I than used duck tape wrapping it loose and than when I was at the center of her tail I squeezed it so it would stick to her hair. The tape just went over the gauze except up top where it is here tape against her hair. She's a 70 pound lab with a 90 mile per hour tail swing. It will be 7 days tomorrow and I will unwrap it. She has no fever nor do I feel any heat near her tail end so I pray no infection.
Chris Anderson on December 18, 2016:
I bought the tail bandit also. My dogs tail was at the point of amputation before I tried it. This product will give you a chance to get your dogs tail to heal. My only complaint with it is the velcro only lasts about a week or so until you will need to replace it. As of this writing, my dogs tail is almost completely healed. Definitely use this product.
Laurie on November 26, 2016:
Giving it a try, thank you.
PKillian on November 02, 2016:
There is a new product to help with Happy Tail. I do not know if I can post links here but you can find it by searching for "Tail-Bandit".
Millie A on April 15, 2016:
The groomer cut the end of my Shih Tzu dog's tail. It's only been about a week but it's been a stressful week for mostly the human owner. Due to the injury being almost on the very tip of the tail it's been a challenge to figure out how to protect the tail and keep it from bleeding. What I finally found a solution that I think works. I treated the tail with an antibiotic, secured it with a small piece of cotton and cut a soft plastic straw in half and fit it to the size of the tail and secured it with a band aid. So far so good. In reading about happy tail I am amazed that healing may take weeks to months and in some cased years!
Penny UK on March 12, 2015:
This is fantastic, have just ordered some tubing on ebay and will look forward to doing 2 of our 3 dogs. So looking forward to not washing walls and even ceilings!!!! Thanks
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 10, 2015:
Thanks for your comment, Roger, but our vet (and another that we know) said what we were using was just fine. This is the type that came from a drinking tube hose. Also, neoprene is used for dog toys: http://leashandpaws.com/tag/neoprene-dog-toys/
Roger Duquette from Kingston, Ontario, Canada on January 09, 2015:
A nice tip. However, I'm a little bit wary about using neoprene as certain classes of it are highly toxic to animals. Especially dogs.
Laura Hofman from Naperville, IL on April 24, 2014:
Remmy is so cute! I hope his tail is back to normal now. We've never experienced this, but thanks for the tips. Good to know!
marsha-kirby-22 on March 31, 2014:
my boyfriend cut the tip of my pups tail off lastnight....omg what a mess with blood the tail wags and blood flys! It was awful...I couldn't find tubing but I got the blood to stop and got it wrapped! Wow...so sad for her! thanks for the tips!
QuizSquid on February 21, 2014:
Maria Burgess from Las Vegas, Nevada on May 23, 2013:
I haven't had that issue yet, but am glad you shared this solution. That was smart recommending Bag Balm as it is great for healing needs for both pet and human. Beautiful doggies!
lesliesinclair on May 18, 2013:
I was lucky not to have had to treat such a wound. I like your quirky solution!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on May 13, 2013:
I guess we haven't had to treat a tail wound, thank goodness. I'm amazed that Remmy (bless his heart) left the tail protector on, but maybe he did realize it made his tail feel better. You're such good dog parents! Thanks for sharing this really great tip. (Definitely no pun intended.)