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What is Tail Trauma?

Injuries to the tail, no matter how apparently minor, warrant veterinary attention as there is no way for the owner to know the full extent of tail damage. Before rushing your cat off the vet, however, call ahead as the vet may be able to advise you over the phone if the injury is minor.

Tail trauma in cats is usually the result of accidental injury.  A cat’s tail extends from the spine. The tail is an important part of a cat’s body as it provides them with a sense of direction and balance as well and there are nerves at the top of the tail that provide control over their bowels. There are no breed, sex, or age predispositions for developing tail trauma, although outdoor cats have a higher risk for experiencing tail trauma than indoor cats do.

Tail Trauma Average Cost

From 517 quotes ranging from $100 - $800

Average Cost

$350

Symptoms of Tail Trauma in Cats

Tail trauma can range in severity. It may be as minor as a small scrape or as severe as complete paralysis. Other symptoms may also be present depending on the cause of the trauma. In any case, seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Limp tail
  • Swelling along the tail
  • Difficulty urinating and/or defecating
  • Lack of or no movement in the tail
  • Inability to hold the tail up
  • Signs of pain
  • Fur loss
  • Skin damage
  • Bleeding

Types

Many types of tail trauma may occur in cats, including, but not limited to:

  • Abrasions
  • Abscesses
  • Fractures
  • Dislocation
  • Nerve damage
  • Complete paralysis
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Causes of Tail Trauma in Cats

The primary cause of tail trauma in cats is accidental injury. These injuries may range in severity, from the tail simply being shut in a door to being hit by a car. The tail is also a common area for cat bite abscesses to occur. 

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Diagnosis of Tail Trauma in Cats

Call your vet as soon as you can to let them know what happened; they will be able to advise you on whether or not an appointment is necessary to evaluate the damage. During the appointment, your vet will be able to make a tentative diagnosis based on a thorough physical examination and presentation of symptoms. Be sure to inform your vet of the extent and duration of your cat’s symptoms, as well as any recent accidents that may be the cause of the tail trauma.

The appearance of the tail is usually sufficient for making the definitive diagnosis. However, in more severe cases of tail trauma, blood count, urinalysis, x-rays, and other standard diagnostic testing may be utilized, particularly if the tail appears to be paralyzed.

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Treatment of Tail Trauma in Cats

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the trauma.  Your vet will be able to advise you on a treatment plan based on your cat’s specific needs. 

In minor cases of abrasions, treatment may not be necessary. For more severe abrasions, a tail wrap, coupled with the use of antibiotic ointments, may assist in the healing process. However, bandages aren't used that often as it can be tricky to get them to stay on and they minimise ventilation to the tail skin. In some extremely severe cases, tail shortening (amputation) may be required.

If there is a fracture in the tail, treatment will vary depending on the severity of the fracture. Minor fractures may not require any treatment at all. If the fracture is more severe and the bones in the tail have been crushed, amputation may be required. If the tail is broken, it may be able to heal by itself depending on the location and extent of the break. Surgery may be required, although vets tend to prefer to allow the tail to heal on its own before taking this route.

Nerve damage may require more invasive treatment. Depending on the severity and extent of the nerve damage, surgery may be required to restore normal bowel and/or urinary function. If the tail has been completely paralyzed, amputation is generally required. In some cases, full nerve function may return after a month or longer.

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Recovery of Tail Trauma in Cats

Recovery and prognosis will vary depending on the cause and severity of tail trauma. Always follow your vet’s post-treatment and/or post-operative instructions carefully. Never apply any ointments made for human use unless specifically instructed to do so by your vet. Remember, any ointments applied will tend to be licked off and ingested! A buster collar may be needed to stop the cat licking the tail.

You will generally want to limit your cat’s outdoor activity during the recovery period. You may also have to assist your cat in urinating and defecating normally if the tail has undergone nerve damage, is limp, or otherwise unable to move.

If your cat has undergone surgery or amputation, do not allow them to irritate the surgery site. Ensure they have a warm, safe place to rest for the duration of the recovery period. Your vet will be able to advise you on helping your cat adjust following amputation.

Your vet may or may not schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor healing. If you have any questions, or if the tail does not seem to be healing with treatment, contact your vet immediately.

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Tail Trauma Average Cost

From 517 quotes ranging from $100 - $800

Average Cost

$350

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Tail Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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domestic short hair

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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15 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limp Tail, Not Moving And Swollen Towards Butt

my fiance noticed yesterday that our cat hissed, growled and cried when she jumped up on our bed, which was a first. she has spent a ton of time under the bed and this morning we noticed her walking funny and that her tail was basically limp, and swollen a bit up top. She doesn't cry when we touch it or lift her, and shes still her normal self personality wise minus the fact that shes's not jumping on our bed or living room furniture. Any advice would be appreciated

Dec. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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15 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats can injure the muscles of their tails, and if she goes outside, a near miss with a car can cause trauma to the tail. Since it sounds like it is quite painful, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine her, see if there is any function to her tail, and give her any medications she needs that might help.

Dec. 3, 2020

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dog-breed-icon

Tuxedo cat

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Six Months

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Unknown severity

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15 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limp Swollen Tail

I was awoken early this morning to a yelp coming from my kitten in the living room. I ran out of bed and went to find her, she raced under the bed and I couldn’t get her out for awhile. This afternoon she came out to eat and use the bathroom. She now is coming to cuddle. Her tail is still swollen and limp. She can twitch and move it enough to use the bathroom. I do not touch it because she cries when I do.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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15 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she is able to move the tail, it may just need time to heal and rest. If she is not able to move her tail at some point, or it continues to be painful for more than a day or two, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine her and see what might be happening with her tail. I hope that all goes well for her.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Tail Trauma Average Cost

From 517 quotes ranging from $100 - $800

Average Cost

$350

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