Saving Lucy's Tail
Diagnosis: Happy Tail
Lucy's was the first case Dave and I had seen of what's often called Happy Tail. There are some dogs who wag their tails so hard and so indiscriminately that they open a bleeding wound. It can be quite impressive. Dave and I came home one day to find that our foyer looked as though someone had just filmed scenes from a slasher movie. We washed blood off the walls, door frames, floor, carpet, and furniture. Every time we looked at Lucy, she wagged her tail; each time, she'd send blood flying. Vets usually wrap the tail. In my experience the dressings they apply seldom last. If the condition becomes chronic, tail amputation is recommended.
I wanted to find a way that I could protect Lucy's tail while allowing it to heal. That meant protecting it while still allowing for air circulation. I decided to improvise. I fashioned a dressing using an empty toilet paper roll and surgical tape. Much to my surprise, Lucy left the roll alone. The early versions lasted two to five days. The last one she needed lasted two weeks. And they worked! Lucy wore a toilet paper roll for several months during her first bout of happy tail. When it recurred about a year later, I used it again and only needed it for two weeks. It's been over a year and a half since the her second episode, and her tail has remained unscathed. In the meantime, I've applied the roll to two more Labs threatened with amputation. Both still have their tails.
When the wound first occurs, I apply pressure until bleeding stops, then I go straight to the toilet paper roll dressing. To prevent the sore from reopening, I leave the dressing on until the wound heals, the scab is gone, and the new skin has a chance to toughen up. That means leaving it on until the tail looks completely normal (except for the attached toilet paper roll.) If the skin is still tender, one whack on a door frame can open it right up.
Here is a step by step description of the way I apply the Happy Tail wound dressing:
Obviously, if your dog has a persistent tail wound, you'll need to consult your vet. Don't be afraid to show her your innovative dressing, though; my vet thought it was ingenious, and it's saved at least three Lab tails in the past 2-1/2 years. You'll see some loss of tail fur, but it's a small price to pay for saving a tail!
If you have questions or comments about this method, please e-mail me. I'm NurseBobbi and my domain is cox.net. I'm not providing a link in the hope of avoiding spam.
Lucy, my yellow Lab, was adopted from Lab Rescue of the LRCP, Inc. Save a life; adopt your next canine companion! For more information on Lab Rescue, please visit www.lab-rescue.com.
Last updated 12 December 2004
E-mail Bobbi at NurseBobbi AT cox DOT net.
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