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How to Protect Your Dog’s Wagging Tail

Posted November 06, 2014 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

Dog wagging it's tail

Have you ever been around a large, muscular, happy dog who upends flower vases and knocks over beverages on coffee tables with his vigorously wagging tail? Ever been repeatedly slapped across the thighs by one of these wagging whips, and the more you react to the pain the more the dog wags? Ouch! People living with these happy waggers must often “tail-proof” their homes and protect their guests!

Can tail wagging be a canine health issue?
Such vigorous tail wagging can indeed result in problems for the dog. By repeatedly whacking his tail against a firm surface such as wall or a table, an open bleeding sore can develop on the tail tip. The dog’s response is to lick and chew at the site — resulting in even more inflammation and bleeding. This tail tip trauma isn’t typically terribly painful for the dog so, of course the tail keeps right on wagging. Only now it’s a live paintbrush spattering speckles of red on the walls, furniture, kitchen appliances, and even nearby humans! The end result can be as graphic as a CSI crime scene.

Medical therapy for a damaged tail
One could think this would be a simple problem to fix. The fact of the matter is, a bleeding tail tip poses a significant medical challenge. In order to heal, the tail must be relatively immobilized. There are some clever ways to secure the tail between the hind legs or adjacent to the outside of a hind leg; however, most dogs (and most clients) don’t tolerate this well. The same holds true for bandages applied to the tail tip. Most dogs simply chew them off, and Elizabethan collars aren’t large enough to prevent the tongue from reaching the tip of the tail. Besides, even if the tail tip does heal, the dog is likely to re-whack it and the bleeding will start all over again.

Behavioral therapy to stop the wagging
Behavior modification may provide an effective solution, particularly for dogs who are wagging exuberantly because of anxiety or a strong desire to appease those in their environment. The goal is to create a calmer, less anxious dog and it requires patience, consistency and help from a knowledgeable dog trainer.

Surgical therapy to stop the wagging
Radical as it may sound, surgical removal of the end of the tail is often the treatment of choice, particularly if behavior modification

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Nancy has more than 30 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified veterinary specialist in internal medicine as well as a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2014.