It's wagging in excitement, tall and stiff in focused mode, and tucked between the hind legs when nervous about something. But what if, all of a sudden, it looks all kinked or bent where it was not before? That's right — today, we're discussing the topic of broken tails.
A dog's tail is not merely a tool of communication. Aside from conveying feelings, the tail allows our canines to maintain balance and shift direction. After all, it's loaded with blood vessels and nerve connections (no wonder tail injuries are painful!). Anything from lacerations to simple accidents can cause a tail injury and diminish your dog's well-being.
Fortunately, with a bit of common sense and awareness, you can effectively prevent tail injuries and keep your dog's tail wagging on!
A Few Words on the Tail Anatomy
A dog's tail is an extension of the spine, containing anywhere between 5 and 23 different vertebrae, depending on its length — the longer the tail, the greater the chance of injury. Right underneath the skin, the tail displays an array of nerves, blood vessels, and muscles serving various purposes in the canine anatomy, such as:
- Ensuring balance: Dogs with broken tails find it harder to maintain steadiness, especially along narrow surfaces.
- Providing direction: Tails assist dogs in guiding their movements.
- Bladder and bowel movement control: The base of the tail is lined with a series of muscles that allow dogs to control their bladders and bowels. Cases of incontinence might occur in the event of a broken tail.
- Acting as rudders: The tail is basically your dog's steering mechanism when swimming.
Furthermore, dogs use their tails to convey all sorts of information! There's a lot to learn from a simple tail wag: a raised tail speaks of preparedness, a low-hanging tail means submission, and a healthy tail wagging in a neutral position screams excitement! Some dogs are more communicative through their tails than others, so pay attention to what your four-legged partner is attempting to share with you through their wagging tail!
What Could Cause a Tail Injury?
The term "laceration" refers to any wound deep enough to reach the soft body tissue (for example, underlying muscle and blood vessels), often through cutting or blunt impact. Aside from external factors, the dogs themselves might inflict lacerations upon their tails. Emotional distress, medical conditions (for example, insect bites or impacted anal glands), and even attention seeking might result in tail biting.
2. Stud Tail
A "stud tail" refers to a condition associated with sebum overproduction. When the tail's oil-producing skin gland overproduces sebum, it causes itching and irritation, prompting the dog to chew on its tail for relief.
Stud tails are more frequent in intact male dogs, whose hormones encourage the overproduction of sebum.
3. Limber Tail Syndrome
The limber tail syndrome is a medical condition caused by overworked muscles. It frequently occurs in dogs that swim in cold water (hence its "cold water tail" moniker) or working dogs. You'll notice how the tail becomes flaccid, drooping between your dog's legs.
Although it might look like a broken tail, you don't have to worry about any severe tail injury. Most limber tail cases resolve themselves through good, ol' fashioned R&R, although some are indicative of an underlying medical condition.
Finally, broken tails can result from unfortunate accidents. Your dog might fall and break their tail while jumping to get your attention, or it might get slammed in a door or pulled by children. Alternatively, your dog could simply injure their tail by hitting it against a firm surface, causing what is often referred to as a "happy tail."
What are the Obvious Signs of a Broken Tail?
The clearest tail injury signs are discernible in your dog's behavior:
- Your dog is trying to wag their tail, although listlessly.
- Your dog is constantly licking at their tail.
- Your dog is constantly tucking their tail between their hind legs.
- The tail is sensitive to touch.
How Can I Tell if My Dog' Tail is Broken
Recognizing a dog tail injury involves staying calm and checking for signs. Look for any physical mark on the surface of the skin or in the hair, such as bumps, kinks, cuts, or bruises. Moreover, consider your dog's tail position. Is it suddenly drooping when usually held horizontally? Although not in all cases, such changes might suggest an injury.
The Tail Might Not Be Broken After All!
Broken tail diagnoses are a knee-jerk reaction among dog parents. When the tail stops wagging, they often assume it's because of a fracture, although that's rarely the case; only an X-ray can definitively confirm it. Instead, limber tail syndrome or a simple dislocation (that is, when the vertebrae separate) might be to blame.
Will a Dog Tail Injury Heal Itself?
Recovery from a tail injury is proportionate to its severity. Any injuries contained to the tip frequently heal on their own, whereas the ones occurring closer to the base require medical attention.
Consult a veterinarian to rule out any breakage or underlying conditions; otherwise, the damage could become permanent and leave your dog with a misshapen tail!
How to Prevent a Broken Tail
Preventing the most common dog tail injuries only asks for awareness and proactive behavior — your dog has a tail, and you need to be careful with it!
Dog parents must be on high alert mode when puppies join the family, as they're highly inquisitive and, therefore, more likely to get in trouble.
Many dogs faithfully follow their pet parents around, and smaller breeds are often easy to miss — the perfect equation for getting someone's tail slammed! Therefore, ensure your dog's tail isn't in the way when closing doors or moving a rolling desk chair.
One of the most important things a caring pet parent can do is to monitor interactions between their dogs and small children. Toddlers are amused by wagging tails, so they will playfully pull at them. It might be entertaining for kids, sure, but it's also an easy way to hurt your dog's tail.
Keep a careful eye on your dog while walking. Be mindful if something catches your dog's attention when out on a stroll in a wooded area, over rocky or uneven terrain full of nooks and crannies. That's where the usual chase of a squirrel might end in an accident! Thoroughly check your dog for injuries after any outdoor adventure.
Taking Care of Your Dog's Tail is About Being Proactive!
Awareness and proactivity are your handiest tools toward preventing the most common tail injuries. Sure, predicting accidents is not an exact science, but preventing them is definitely within your reach! The tail is an integral part of your dog's body, and as long as you treat it as such, it will stay healthy and happily wagging! For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!