Dog Tail Injury

What to Do When Wags Hurt?

Yellow labrador puppy chasing feather in grass
Andrew Hutchinson / Getty Images

Big breed puppies like Labradors are so happy—and so large—that happy wagging bangs the tail tip bloody. A painful tail can get in the way of proper tail talk.

Pet tails can also be shut indoors, stepped on, or otherwise hurt. Once injured, tails are very prone to re-injury and can stay sore and battered.

The condition isn’t a medical emergency but is painful for the puppy. It can also be messy when the injured tail splatters blood around the room.

With chronic tail wag trauma, medical attention is needed to speed the healing, but home care also works well.

Treating Dog Tail Injury

Benadryl has a sedative effect and is very safe. Veterinarians generally recommend giving one milligram for every pound the puppy weighs. Making your puppy sleepy can help to temporarily slow the wagging.

Hair not only hides the wound, it also collects bacteria and holds blood like a paintbrush. When the tail is very furry, carefully clip away the hair with blunt scissors. Electric clippers are a safer choice for fur removal.

Usually, infection isn’t a problem, but it’s still best to quickly clean up the tail. The simplest and most effective technique is to dip the tail in a pan of cold water for several minutes. That rinses off the wound, helps stop the bleeding and reduces inflammation. Then gently pat the tail dry with a clean cloth.

If the puppy won’t allow tail dipping, apply an ice cube to the area to numb the pain and reduce swelling.

The damage prompts the body to release chemicals called histamines that cause swelling and inflammation. Inflammation can break down the cells and cause permanent damage. Ice stops the process.

Once the injury is clean and dry, apply a thin film of antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to help prevent infection.

Your veterinarian can recommend the best medication for your pup's specific injury. Bandage the tail to contain the bleeding (and protect your furniture), and pad the injury to keep your pet from re-injuring the sore spot.

How To Bandage Puppy Tails

Pull a clean cotton tube sock over the end of the tail. It should be long enough to cover two-thirds of the length of the tail itself. For puppies, a child's size sock may work best.

Then wrap tape over the sock, beginning at the tip of the tail and working toward the body, in a diagonal crisscross pattern. Be sure to run the tape two inches beyond the cuff of the sock and directly onto the fur. Finally, run the tape back down from the body to the tail tip, again in a diagonal pattern, which makes it difficult for the puppy to pull off.

Change bandages at least every three days, or oftener if it gets wet or dirty. Apply Neosporin to the area with each bandage change. If the veterinarian recommends you leave the tail uncovered, apply the ointment two to four times a day since pups tend to lick it off to relieve the pain. Some pets may need a prescription tranquilizer to calm tail movement until it can heal.

A collar restraint also can keep him from chewing, licking or pulling at the bandage or tail injury.

Or smear Vicks Vapor Rub on the bandage—the menthol odor repels most pets and keeps tongue and teeth at bay.

Preventing Future Trauma

Some injuries require that the damaged tail tip amputated. If that happens, fur tends to grow over the end and hides the loss. Your pet will never miss the, er, missing link.

Make some changes in the dog’s environment to avoid a repeat of the tail trauma. Remember that if he injures puppy-size tails, once he grows up the potential for injury (and household damage) increases. Bigger dogs need larger areas where they can swing their tails without banging walls, or clearing off the coffee table.