“Happy Tail” in Dogs and How to Treat

Ever have your dog wag its tail so much that it starts to bleed?

What is Happy Tail (Also known as Swimmers Tail)

Happy Tail & What You Need To Know About It - Checkerboard K9

Happy tail syndrome occurs when a dog repeatedly whacks his tail against hard objects (walls, doors, furniture) until the end of the tail becomes an open wound. Large dogs with thick, powerful tails and short hair are the most susceptible to happy tail syndrome.

Dogs That Commonly Get Happy Tail

Happy tail syndrome is common in Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bulls, Great Danes, Greyhounds, Dobermans and hunting breeds. If you have a boxer (tail already cropped), a pug, or any breed with a curved tail or a small dog then you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Happy Dog Personality

In addition to breed, happy tail syndrome also has  everything to do with personality. Dogs with happy tail syndrome are bright, energetic, and super excited to see people. They will not stop wagging their tails no matter how much it may hurt them.

Dog’s Tail is Part of Their Vertebrae

A dog’s tail can have anywhere from five to twenty vertebrae, depending on its length. If you’ve ever been hit by the long, strong tail of a large breed dog, you know it packs a powerful punch. It feels very much like the lash of a whip. The tip of a dog’s tail is often thin-skinned, and it has a good blood supply. It’s not uncommon to discover the wound after finding the walls of your living room newly decorated with blood.

Diagram of a dog's skeleton. It shows that the tail of a dog is linked to it's vertebrae.
As you can see, the tail is a long part of the vertebrae

How are you to tell your dog to stop wagging? Explain to them nicely that they need to refrain from wagging for four to six weeks so that their tail can heal? Trust me, they won’t listen to any advice you give them. 

How Is Happy Tail Syndrome Treated?

If you notice a balding spot or a raw area on your dog’s tail, reach out to your veterinarian before things get worse. While some cases of happy tail syndrome may initially only bleed a small amount, the continual wagging and the force of the wag make this a difficult injury to heal.

After consulting with your veterinarian, clean the open wound removing dirt and debris. Wrapping the injured tail in a soft bandage also helps keep the tail protected, but dogs can be persistent and quite masterful at pulling the bandages off. If this happens repeatedly, an Elizabethan collar may be helpful. It certainly is not fun for your dog, but because these tails take up to six weeks to heal, it may be a helpful option.

A happy tail on a dog with a very long tail that is wrapped in gauze and tape.
Harness that holds the happy tail under the belly so it won't bump into things as it's healing.

We dog owners understand that a dog’s tail is an important part of his personality. It’s also a crucial method of communication. Fortunately, for most families, a capable veterinarian along with plenty of patience and perseverance will bring this tale to a happy ending.

A white pit/bulldog with a happy tail just wagging on the floor.
“I’m trying to wait patiently.”

Chloe’s Whipping Tail

My poor Chloe had this happen to her. I of course freaked out when I saw blood splatter all over the room she was being kept in. I looked all over at her body from head to toe. Then I noticed her tail was wet. There was a tiny area of skin that opened up. I knew right away to wrap it up with gauze and vet wrap.

I took her to the vet to make sure she hadn’t broken any bones in her tail. Through all this, Chloe didn’t care (she’s a tough pup). The next big hurdle was trying to keep her calm so she wouldn’t wag her tail so much. The veterinary clinic gave us some calming medication.

Now she has a little bald patch on the end of her tail where hair won’t grow back. I tell her that she has a little rat tail!!!

Chloe's happy tail that started when she was in her cage.

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