Big Active Dogs & Their Big Active Tails

Wounded, bleeding tails are a miserable mess. Here are some answers.



I have a small problem with my chocolate Labrador. Her tail at the end is hairless and when she wags her tail and hits it on anything it bleeds. We’ve tried to bandage it but she takes it off. We are really at wit’s end on this. Splatters of blood are everywhere she goes. It’s not infected or anything like that. Can you help?


Dr. Nichol:

What a mess. You not only need help getting your dog’s tail to stop bleeding, you need some one who’s quick with a mop. Labs are wonderful dogs in part because they are so happy. They’re always ready with a tail wag. But many of them are also oblivious to pain. So when your dog whacks her tail hard enough for it to bleed, she doesn’t even seem to notice. You are not alone with this problem. Artful tail painting is common.


Before we discuss your options for treating your poor dog’s chronic tail wound let’s first explain how this happens. Labs, Great Danes, and Dalmatians are examples of dogs with long heavy tails. When they wag, blood tends to accumulate at the end of the tail because of centrifugal force. Happy dogs with no concept of pain smack their tails against walls and fences so often and so hard that minor wounds never get the chance to heal. So just about the time a good scab forms they knock it off and then pepper the place with blood again. While they appear to be loosing a lot of blood it won’t be significant unless a dog has a blood clotting disease.


To get control of these paint jobs we’ll need to stop the damage to the tip of the tail so the wound can heal. Bandaging can work fine but may take a long time. You’ll need to replace the bandage every 2-3 days and prevent your dog from chewing it off. She may be good about this or she may need an Elizabethan collar (one of those upside down cone shaped affairs that will make her look like she’s wearing a lamp shade-you know: Life of the party). This may prove too much of a hassle.


Another alternative used by folks who show  tail beating breeds is to tape an old fashioned hair roller over the end of the tail. It will protect the end of her tail and allow the wound to be exposed to the air. A hair roller usually works faster than a bandage but you still have to keep it in place.


Is there an easier way? Yes there is. It is guaranteed to work but there is no turning back. Partial amputation of the tail will reduce its length and eliminate that poor bruised and bloody tip. It will heal quickly and you can then pick up the pieces of your lives and go on. I know that many of us see our pets as extensions of ourselves. But if you can get beyond losing your tail, it will certainly solve the problem.