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What is Tail Trauma?

Everyone knows that a wagging tail on a dog is a means of communication -- usually a positive thing.  However, when that spastic tail isn’t wagging, we owners should view that as a signal that something is amiss in our beloved family member.  This behavior change can signal injury as well as illness in your dog. Causes for this condition can range from a muscle strain to a fracture. Any time a canine’s tail appears to be injured, a veterinary visit is warranted without delay.

Tail trauma is defined as basically any injury to the canine tail or its supporting structures.  This can include injuries emanating from breaks, abrasions and chewing as well as sprains, fractures and more serious spinal or genetic anomalies or injuries.

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Symptoms of Tail Trauma in Dogs

Symptoms you might see that would suggest tail trauma in your dog:

  • Swelling
  • Abrasions or bleeding or ulcer type lesion which bleeds
  • “Out of joint” appearance anywhere along the length of the tail signalling a break or fracture
  • Unusual tail set - Tail is limp, or more rigid either in its entire length or only a portion of the length
  • Droopy tail
  • A tail that doesn’t wag
  • Changes in the canine’s gait


There are several types of tail trauma which can afflict your beloved canine family member.  Here are the types or categories into which various tail traumas fall:

  • Skin - Cuts, bites, abrasions, ulcers
  • Muscular - Sprains or strains of the muscles and tendons in the tail
  • Skeletal - Vertebrae dislocation, breaks and fractures in the bones of the tail, spine and hips
  • Neurological - Injuries which affect the nerves of the tail, spine and hips as well as some body systems

Causes of Tail Trauma in Dogs

There are multiple types of causes of tail trauma in dogs.  Here is a brief explanation of those causes:

  • Self-inflicted wounds - These would be the biting, chewing and licking behaviors in which your canine involves himself for various reasons like allergies, fleas and other parasitic bites, dry and itchy skin conditions, painful abrasions or ulcers
  • Vehicular mishaps - These include conflicts with cars, bicycles and other motor vehicles (these causes can result in serious hip and spine injury, and even death)
  • “Family” inflicted - These would include the well meaning tugs that children tend to do with the family dog, the injury received when grandma’s rocking chair is too close, or the injuries received when that tail gets caught in the car or bedroom door when it’s being closed

These are just a few examples of tail traumas which can afflict your canine family member. Unintended injuries can range from mild to severe with some perhaps even requiring surgical intervention to fix.

Diagnosis of Tail Trauma in Dogs

If you suspect a tail trauma in your dog, you should call your veterinary professional right away.  If it is a bleeding situation, especially one that you can’t stop, get your pet to the nearest emergency veterinary facility for assessment and treatment.  The diagnosis of the injury, regardless of severity, will depend on several things.  Your historical input will be a great assistance to your veterinary professional as he proceeds with his physical examination and assessment of your pet’s condition.  

He may require radiographic imaging (x-rays), CT imaging or perhaps an MRI imaging series to determine the damage and cause.  Blood work may also be necessary because some health conditions not associated with trauma can also demonstrate symptoms similar to some of those noted above for tail trauma.  Once your vet has completed his assessment and obtained the test results, he will develop and initiate an appropriate treatment plan for your pet.

Treatment of Tail Trauma in Dogs

The treatment plan for your canine family member who is suffering from tail trauma will be consistent with the injury type which has been sustained and the tissues, skeletal structures and systems which are affected by the injury.  For some tail injuries, surgical intervention may be required, for example, amputation of some portion of the tail in the case of a severe injury, fracture or dislocation of the tail.  Injuries near the base of the tail are the most serious as they can affect how the dog evacuates his bowels and bladder as well as gait and general movement.  

For those traumas involving biting, chewing and licking, an infection or allergy could be at the root of the behavior and that cause will need to be treated with antibacterial medications or allergy medications.  Because many of these examples of tail trauma in dogs can be painful, your veterinary professional may recommend either medications or steps to reduce the discomfort your pet is experiencing.

Recovery of Tail Trauma in Dogs

Recovery of your beloved canine family member will be dependent upon the cause of the trauma in addition to the severity of the injury and the resulting damage, whether permanent or temporary.  Your pet may need hospitalization for a period of time, or he may need surgery.  Be assured your canine family member will need lots of the three A’s (affection, attention and affirmation) while he heals from his traumatic experience.  Close observation and rest, along with a healthy diet and plenty of clean fresh water in a safe environment are common sense steps that you can expect to be part of the treatment plan recommended by your vet.

Tail Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla
10 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

swollen tail

My 10 month old Vizsla recently had his tail caught in a door when it was being closed. His tail is slightly swollen, but he allows us to touch it, can sit comfortably and is still wagging his tail like crazy - should we take him to the vet?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
Without examining Odie I cannot determine the severity of the tail injury; sometimes severe injuries may not appear as bad but it is important to have your Veterinarian check the tail to ensure that there are no broken vertebrae or anything else concerning. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Biting tail and pulling out hair

Why is my dog chasing and biting his tail obsessively? Is it his anal glands or hormones? Does he need to be fixed? He is obviously very stressed. Does not have fleas or parasites. Tried switching food invade it was an allergy. Stopped feeding him people food as well. It is more consistent. It has been going on for almost 2 weeks. It keeps us up for four hours a night and we are out of ideas. We've given him a small dose of benedryl to calm him down but we cannot keep giving him that.

I've noticed he has also been marking his territory around the house more. He has stopped since we told him he was bad and he has started attacking his tail.

We bring him outside 3-4 times a day. Also, we bring him to a free roaming dog park almost every day. 5 times a week, minimum.

I found out that I was pregnant and I am now three months in. Can he sense that and he is jealous now? He's usually very needy and he is the first baby of the family.

I'm also not sure if he is doing this for attention. He gets aggressive when we try to stop him and he barks and growls at his own tail. Is it possible that this is a hormonal issue and he needs to be neutered?

Thank you.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1608 Recommendations
Thank you for contacting us. IT is possible that he needs to be neutered, especially if he is marking his territory. He may be having problems with his anal glands, he may have a wound on his tail, he may have flea allergies, which you will sometimes see even if he was only bitten by one flea. It would be best to have him examined by his veterinarian, as they will be able to examine him, determine more the cause of his behavior, and treat the problem for you.

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Australian Cattle
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

pain in tail
Limp tail

So I'm wondering if I should take my dog to the vet or not. Goober is a 3 year old cattle dog mix and a few days ago I noticed he wasn't raising or wagging his tail which was extremely uncommon for him since its usually always up, he would raise it about half way but even this was difficult for him. He chews on his tail and if you try to raise it into a normal position he gets aggressive and snarls. He has a hard time getting comfortable when sitting and will most of the time not stay still he whines and gets up after a few moments. Goober is fixed and he is a very active dog. I just don't know if this is limp-tail syndrome or if its actually broken.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
If you are think about whether you should visit your Veterinarian or not, you should visit; without examining Goober I cannot say whether the tail has a fracture, dislocation or another issue which is causing Goober pain or discomfort. Your Veterinarian will examine him and may take an x-ray to examine the coccygeal vertebrae in detail. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Any updates on Goober?

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Bull Terrier
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Connor has a pink lump on the tip of his tail. It was a flat sore a few days ago and then it bleed and now it's raised. I tried too put man and beast cream on it but he hates me touching it. He has been licking it and u just feel like it's getting bigger

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
The main cause here (considering Connor’s age) would be trauma which may have occurred due to him biting his tail or from getting it trapped somewhere; other causes would include sebaceous cyst, infection or another cause. I would try to clean the end of the tail with a dilute antiseptic, but you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to determine if the cause is due to something else. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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