Problems with Dogs' Tails

Problems with dogs' tails can usually be easily identified by symptoms and a dog's body language. Many different things can cause a problem in or near the tail area. Dogs use their tails as an important form of communication with all other species, and if a problem is present, such as an infection or fracture, it should be fairly easy to identify.

Break, Sprain or Fracture

Slamming doors, heavy footing and roughhouse play can all lead to unfortunate problems with dogs, and injuries to the tail often occur during these events. If a dog's tail is broken, it will usually, but not always, droop right at the position of the break. Swelling may occur and the area will be sensitive and painful to the touch. Your dog may whine or yelp if you try to maneuver the tail in any way, and you may notice other symptoms as well. A dog's tail is made up of both bone and cartilage and is a continuation of the spine.

A break or fracture can hinder balance and coordination, Often, a partial or full amputation of the tail will be recommended in this case, but you may also wish to research other possibilities, such as splinting or surgery. A dog's broken tail must be tended to immediately, as bones will begin to regrow and reposition within days. If a dog's tail heals with a permanent bend, this can create additional problems in the future.

Sores or Hair Loss

There are many problems with dogs' tails that are indicated by sores, hair loss or infection. These symptoms may be the result of excessive biting or rubbing of the tail due to itchy skin, parasitic infection or bacteria. If your dog has a problem with fleas, they may be congregating in the tail area, especially near the underside. If excessive irritation has developed, use an appropriate antibacterial cream or powder to heal inflammation or sores.

Dogs also have glands at the underside of the tail that occasionally produce fluid. This fluid can cause soreness and inflammation. Keep the area clean and dry as often as possible, especially after a bath or a swim. Oil, fluids and moisture are breeding grounds for bacteria, and the underside of the tail is a primary location for bacteria to grow.

Limber Tail Syndrome

One of the problems with dogs' tails that is considerably difficult to diagnose is a condition referred to as "limber tail syndrome" or "broken wag". This condition can affect all dogs, but certain breeds are more susceptible, especially sporting or hunting breeds. This condition usually causes the tail to suddenly hang flaccidly and become painful. The dog may lose the ability to wag or otherwise move the tail, and may develop swelling and a pattern of hair that stands up at the base.

Causes of this condition are not fully understood, but generally develop due to overexertion, climate changes, swimming, excessive exercise or improper crating. Testing will determine that a certain muscle enzyme is producing at increased levels, confirming this diagnosis. With proper rest and antibiotics, this condition usually resolves in a day or two.