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I have an Irish Wolfhound who cut the end of her tail. It scabbed over, but when she wags it, she makes it bleed again. The vet has recommended amputating the tip, but we really don’t want to do that, as we think if the tail end can just heal, it will be OK. Also, we are worried the ‘new’ tip won’t heal either. She is three years old and we had no problems before the first incident.

James Farrell advises…

Without actually seeing the damage for myself, it is hard to give a proper second opinion; however, there are a few general things to consider with this type of injury. Dogs with long, ‘whippy-type’ tails can be prone to this sort of incident, and yes, once damage has occurred, healing can be slow and full of setbacks due to the ease with which the originally injury site can be knocked.

Long term, ongoing damage can mean that the original skin becomes too scarred to heal properly or heal well, so sometimes the best option can be to remove the scarred part and start again with fresh, healthy skin that stands a better chance of healing fully. There are a few ways to protect an injury on the tail tip, either the original damage or the operation site after amputation. Some vets use a large, plastic, single syringe case with the base cut off (there are even custom-made tail-tip protectors available now), so that when it is threaded on to the tail and fastened, it provides protection around the wound while leaving it open to the air.

For particularly happy dogs, determined to wag, the tail can also be hobbled to a hind leg, preventing excessive swinging. This is not painful, but dogs will usually only tolerate it for a certain length of time, and often ‘wag it loose’, or free it from its mooring by chewing through the dressing material. If you are determined not to lose the tail tip, then this is an option you can try, but if the tissue is already excessively scarred, it may not work very well. Do talk to your vet about your concerns.

I am sure they can reassure you that they are only planning to remove the minimum amount of tail to resolve the problem fully. Sometimes, however, a significant portion of tail does need to be removed to get back to healthy skin with a good blood supply, so that the surgical wound heals well. Otherwise, you end up with a similar problem and have to start all over again. If you do reach the point where her tail is fully healed and she hurts it again, then the ‘syringe case/hobbling’ methods might well allow it to heal immediately, rather than having a repeat of the problems you’ve had this time.

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