When Your Dog Injures the Tip of Its Tail: A Simple, Homemade Remedy
Happy Tail is not an Easy Thing to Heal
One day, when I bent down to pick something up off the kitchen floor, I noticed a 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 couldn't find the source. I checked both dogs--their paws, faces, sides. Nothing.
Then I cleaned more blood spatter all over the house, even some 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. And that's when he noticed Remmy's tail. The tip was bright red and actively bleeding as he wagged like crazy, so happy to see one of his favorite humans, tossing more spatter all over the kitchen and flipping some about six feet high. The more excited he got, the more the room was covered in red.
Which is why it's called "happy trail" -- because the injury often happens as the dog wags with a vengeance, like our Remmy here, who runs around banging his tail like a whip on furniture, walls, appliances, doors ... ending up with a bloody stub at the end.
And talk about a tough place to bandage, not to mention a wound that keeps reopening before it ever has a chance to heal.
Well, after a few failed attempts, we finally figured out an easy way to wrap and protect Remmy's tail, which seems to have worked well and is a lot less expensive than continual trips to the vet.
First, What Doesn't Work
After basically sitting on Remmy and cleaning his wound, which he clearly noticed once he wasn't so distracted by his excitement, we tried wrapping the last few inches and the tip in gauze and securing it with medical tape.
That bandage promptly popped right off.
Then we tried wrapping from up a few inches higher with even more tape, and 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 (near the back end of the dog), it stays on, but a) we didn't have that much gauze on hand and b) we're pretty sure that either Remmy or his sidekick, Jazzy, would promptly get busy trying to pull or chew it off.
So, we began wandering around the house to see what else we might use to wrap and protect that poor, battered tip of a tail to give it a chance to heal.
Our Homemade Dog Trail Protector - This is what finally worked....
What you're looking at is actually a piece of neoprene, which once had been part of a sleeve for a Camelbak drinking tube. We had an extra one and cut off a piece about three inches long.
This flexible material is also often used in products like wetsuits, laptop sleeves, and braces for knees, ankles, wrists, etc. and it form-fits itself snuggly but not too tightly around whatever it's on. The neoprene had enough "grab" not to slip off of Remmy's fur, even when he started wagging. And as of this writing, our homemade tail tip protector -- which is open at the end, just beyond the tip to allow for air flow but still protect it -- has been on there for four days, and Remmy hasn't attempted to get it off. So, we're assuming it's comfortable and not too tight.
In the meantime, he's been his usual wagging, nutty self, and periodic tail tip checks have shown that it's still looking good despite whacking it all over the house.
This is the Neoprene we Used to Protect Remmy's Happy Tail
This is the same neoprene tubing we found in the house, which you can buy separately. Any piece of neoprene will do, but this is nice because it's already formed into a tube.
HOWEVER ... we did cut the tubing all the way open along the side. We didn't attempt to shove it over the tip of the tail.
We used the same kind of neoprene as pictured here, just a different color. While this photo is showing the black neoprene around the plastic tubing (and with different tips), the product sold here is just the neoprene itself.
Simple Steps to Patch Up a Bleeding Tail (Simple, that is, if you can get your dog to lie still for a few minutes.)
Remmy did require being lay 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 once we remove this dressing), Jazzy will be removed from the room during this short process.
- Clean the wound with either warm water and a mild soap or a wound cleanser. Let the tip of the tail air-dry for a minute, then treat with antibacterial spray and, even better, add some Bag-Balm after that.
- Cut a piece of neoprene at least three inches long. If it's tubing like we used, I'd cut the tube open rather than try to force it onto the tail over the tip. Place the neoprene around the tail, allowing it to extend roughly half an inch beyond the tip.
- Use medical tape to wrap and secure the neoprene securely but not too tightly. (Medical tape adheres well to the neoprene and is nice and flexible. It's also fairly easy to tear off once you're done wrapping and doesn't peel off easily, making it harder for a dog to nibble off.) We found we were able to get it snug without it seeming to bother our dog. The neoprene provided enough padding that the tape didn't constrict his tail. Don't tape over the open end of the neoprene.
- Check the tail daily for any sign of infection. If the tail doesn't quickly appear to be healing -- or if the wound looks "substantial" once you've cleaned it and can get a good look at it -- contact your vet. Minor tail wounds can bleed a lot, so clean it well and get a good look at it to determine the extent of the cut or split.
Remmy & His Little Homemade Tail Tip Protector
More Tips to Treat a the Tip of a Dog's Tail
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
Is it okay to cut off the dogs tail?
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.Helpful 12
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?
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.Helpful 6
At what store could I buy neoprene?
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.Helpful 5
What if my dog's tail is like a very short one that has been cut off to a nub?
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.Helpful 5
© 2013 Deb Kingsbury