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What is Caudectomy?

Caudectomy is a surgical procedure which involves amputating all or part of a cat’s tail. There are two types of caudectomy: partial and total. If a cat undergoes partial caudectomy, only part of the tail is removed. In total caudectomy, the entire tail is removed. There are several conditions that may warrant caudectomy in cats, particularly those caused by traumatic injury or infection that do not respond to conservative treatment. 

Caudectomy should not be confused with “tail docking,” a common procedure in dogs performed for cosmetic reasons. Although both procedures involve removing part of the tail, caudectomy is performed by a veterinary surgeon for medical reasons.

Caudectomy Procedure in Cats

The exact procedural steps will vary based on how much of the tail needs to be removed and why. The general procedure is outlined below.

  1. The cat will first be anesthetized.
  2. An x-ray will be taken to visualize the extent of the injury, if present.
  3. The tail will then be shaved prior to surgery.
  4. The cat will be draped and prepped for surgery.
  5. The surgeon will determine the best place to make the initial incision, usually between two intact vertebrae.
  6. The skin will be separated from the tail bone.
  7. The surgeon will then cut through the bone, completely removing the tail.
  8. Cauterization may be used to stop bleeding.
  9. The wound will then be sutured.
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Efficacy of Caudectomy in Cats

Caudectomy is generally very effective at treating conditions and injuries to the tail that would be unable to heal on their own or do not respond to other types of treatment. Although cats will have to adjust to the absence of their tails following the procedure, caudectomy does not generally have any long-term effects on the cat’s behavior. A cat’s balance may be slightly offset by the removal of the tail at first. However, this does not typically have any detrimental consequences for a cat’s overall health.

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Caudectomy Recovery in Cats

Owners should follow their vet’s specific recovery instructions carefully. The vet may prescribe a combination of analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics on an as-needed basis. Cats will normally need to wear an Elizabethan collar to ensure they do not irritate the surgery site. If swelling, drainage, or bleeding occurs at the surgery site, owners should consult their vet immediately. 

Cats that have undergone caudectomy will have problems getting in and out of their litter trays for a few days following surgery. Owners should consider leaving the lid off the litter tray if there is one, or helping their cat into the litter tray when needed. Litter trays should be kept clean throughout the recovery process to avoid contamination. Owners should ensure their cat gets plenty of rest and does not go outside or engage in excessive activity during the recovery period. The vet will schedule a follow-up appointment within two weeks following surgery to remove sutures. 

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Cost of Caudectomy in Cats

The average cost of caudectomy will vary based on standards of living as well as additional costs incurred, including medications and laboratory tests. The cost of caudectomy typically ranges from $300 to $1,200. The national average cost of caudectomy is $600.

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Cat Caudectomy Considerations

Because caudectomy is a commonly performed surgical procedure, complications are typically minimal. However, complications are possible with any surgical procedure. Complications of feline caudectomy may include, but are not limited to:

  • Postoperative infection
  • Delayed healing of soft tissue of the tail
  • Anesthetic death

Infection and delayed healing are the most commonly seen complications of caudectomy. This is because the tail is prone to contamination following surgery. Anesthetic death is rare with most surgical procedures, particularly in cats that have been examined and approved for anesthetization prior to surgery.

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Caudectomy Prevention in Cats

It is imperative that owners prevent their cats from engaging in activities which may cause significant trauma to the tail, such as slamming a cat’s tail in a door, which is one of the most common causes for caudectomy. Do not pull cats by their tails, as even a slight pull can cause trauma. If the cat is sexually intact, owners should consider having it spayed or neutered. Sexually intact cats are generally more aggressive and likely to fight one another, which could result in tail trauma.

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Caudectomy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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