What is Partial Caudectomy?

A partial caudectomy in dogs is the amputation of part of the tail for medical reasons. Reasons that may result in the requirement to remove part of your dog’s tail include trauma resulting in damage to blood vessels, tailbone, or soft tissues that can not be repaired, congenital defects of the tail such as corkscrew tail, or tumors present in the tail. If possible, partial caudectomy is performed with only a portion of the tail being removed. If disease or trauma necessitates it, amputation of the entire tail may be necessary. The advantage of partial caudectomy is that the procedure is less invasive and some portion of the tail remains, allowing the dog to wag their tail to express emotion. Disadvantages may include remaining tissue becoming infected or cancerous or susceptible to injury. This procedure should be performed by a veterinarian in conjunction with sedation and local anesthetic, epidural local anesthetic, or intravenous general anesthetic. The form of anesthetic used will depend on the age of your dog, the extent of repair and partial caudectomy required, and other factors such as disease or medical conditions present in your dog.

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Partial Caudectomy Procedure in Dogs

The type of anaesthetic required for this procedure varies depending on the degree of repair and caudectomy required, the age of the animal, and medical conditions present dictating the type of anesthetic required. Anesthetic may include sedation and liberal use of local anesthetic at the surgical site, epidural anesthetic or general anaesthetic, usually intravenously administered as the procedure is not of long duration. If general anesthetic is required you will need to fast your dog prior to surgery. After appropriate anesthetic is administered, the tail area is shaved and cleaned and a tourniquet applied to the tail. An incision is made around the skin and subcutaneous tissue in a “U” or “V” shape, distal to the amputation site. Muscles are dissected. Blood vessels are cauterized or ligated. The tail is then amputated either by disarticulation of the joint space or through the vertebra with bone cutting forceps. Muscle and subcutaneous tissue are then sutured back together. Usually skin on the dorsal side is left longer than on the ventral side to create a flap to close over the end of the remaining tail.

If tumors are present, the tumor is removed along with the tail and healthy margins of tissue. Tumor tissue will be sent for examination by a veterinary pathologist to identify cells present and ensure healthy margins were removed with the tumor to prevent spread of abnormal growth. 

Efficacy of Partial Caudectomy in Dogs

Partial caudectomy for dogs with congenital defects of the tail such as ingrown tails can be a more complicated procedure than for other conditions and is associated with a higher incidence of complications. However the benefit of the procedure to prevent the development of infections exceeds the risk of complications. Partial caudectomy is also efficient for removal of neoplasia and to address traumas that can not be repaired in the tail. Dogs adapt quickly to partial caudectomy of the tail and do not show signs of distress associated with the loss of a part of their tail, especially if disease present prior to removal caused discomfort.

Partial Caudectomy Recovery in Dogs

Post surgery, a bandage may be applied to the tail to protect it. It may be difficult to maintain a bandage on this part of the body and this will require maintenance to keep it in place. Your dog may also require an e-collar to prevent them from biting or chewing at the wound. Pain medication and antibiotics will be prescribed and should be administered as directed. Removal of non-absorbable sutures will be performed one to two weeks post-surgery by your veterinarian. The wound should be monitored for signs of infection or dehiscence, which should be addressed with your veterinarian if they occur.

Cost of Partial Caudectomy in Dogs

The cost of partial caudectomy depends on the invasiveness of the procedure required. For congenital defect, the procedure may be more complicated and incur more expense. Also, the method of anesthesia utilized will affect the price of the procedure. Partial caudectomy ranges in cost from $100 to $500 and is also affected by the cost of living in your area.

Dog Partial Caudectomy Considerations

Complications such as fecal incontinence, nerve pain, and infection have been reported with partial caudectomy, but theses are rare and the benefits of the procedure usually outweigh the risks of complications. Partial caudectomy is performed to address medical conditions not cosmetic conditions.

Partial Caudectomy Prevention in Dogs

Preventing injury to the tail in your dog can prevent the requirement for partial amputation of the tail. Be careful in your home, especially with closing doors, to ensure your dog's tail does not get caught. When outside, dogs should be contained or on a leash at all times to prevent motor vehicle accidents or incidents with other animals that would result in tail injuries. If your dog develops infection or dermatitis or is biting or chewing at their tail aggressively, seek veterinary advice to address before the condition compromises tail tissues, resulting in an irreversible condition.