Your dog's tail is one of the most expressive parts of them - you can tell if your dog is happy, scared or excited simply by looking at their tails. However, your dog's tail can find itself getting injured or subject to some genetic conditions.
Luckily most tail problems can be identified by symptoms and the pet’s body language. So, what are the most common problems and how they can be treated?
Sometimes an accident may cause hair loss, scrapes, and bleeding. This can happen with pugs, for instance, whose tails or behind are mangled in a car engine. Abrasion may lead to the development of sores and infection and raise the risk of infection.
The dog usually experiences the need to bite the itchy area or rub against a rough surface, and this causes it to be restless and stubborn at times. The problem is that some sores may be hidden under the curl, therefore, becoming difficult to spot. If left unattended to, minor abrasions may become a breeding ground for bacteria causing excessive irritation and inflammation.
Problems in Dogs with Screw-Tails
Some breeds of dogs have a natural curl or bend to their tails. But some breeds have been selectively bred to take this curl to an extreme, cork-screw shape, referred to as screw tails. These breeds include Boston Terriers, Pugs, Bulldogs and French Bulldogs. This can lead to conditions such as Hemivertebrae, ingrown tail, tail fold dermatitis, and tail fold intertrigo.
With screw tail dogs, the tail can partially obstruct the anal passage, so every time your puppy poops, you will need to check the tail area, Especially the small gap underneath the screw tail, where feces can become lodged.
If left, the risk of infection rises a lot and the smell can be quite appalling!! So use a cotton wool pad or ball, dipped into warm water.
Ironically, while basic cleaning of the affected tail fold may help treat the bacterial infection, it can also worsen things as bacteria thrive in the dark, moist and warm environment. So make sure you dry the area with another clean pad or ball.
Tail Fold Dermatitus
Screw tail dogs can be afflicted with a painful and infected skin fold of the tail. This may become more itchy and painful with time if left untreated. Screw tails have more skin folds than straight tailed dogs. These folds, along with their problems with feces, make screw-tail dogs particularly prone to infection.
So while keeping them clean will minimise this issue, also keep an eye open for infection. If you see signs of this, you may need to use salt water or mild antiseptic to help the infection heal.
Hemivertebrae occurs due to malformation of one or more of the vertebrae. This twisting may not affect the dog’s spine in any significant way if these bones are confined to your dog's tail. However, if there are any deformed hemivertebrae bones in the main part of the spine, this can cause the whole spinal column to twist. This twist can put pressure on the spinal nerves and cause neurological problems for your dog.
Mild cases can be addressed with anti-inflammatory drugs and keeping your dog away from situations that may make it worse. However, sometimes surgery may be required to fix this problem.
The procedure itself is not simple (and hence pretty expensive!) and has some longer-term inmplications.
The most notable of these is that most of the breeds with curly tails are also bred to have squashed noses and hence compromised breathing (technically termed brachycephalic) This impaired breathing makes the surgical procedure far riskier.
Of course not all screw-tailed dogs will suffer from hemivertebrae, but it is genetic, so more likely if one or more of the parents have this condition. So if you are looking to buy a puppy from a breed with a curly tail, then be sure to ask for the x-rays of both parents.
Spinal Problems (e.g. Herniated Disc)
Any forceful jumping and landing (or any other sort of physical movement) can cause one or more spinal discs to move out of their usual space. Another possibility is spinal disc hernia, in which case the discs become hardened and fibrous over a long period and eventually bulge out compressing the spinal cord. This may cause abnormal pain, and sometimes paralysis may occur.
Dogs with this kind of problem may lose the curl of their tail, and the tail may even go straight down. Other related symptoms of a herniated disc include an unwillingness to jump; anxious behaviour, hunched back and loss of bowel and bladder control.
In the case of such dog tail problems, an examination by the vet will include a neurologic exam which can help identify where the injured or misplace disc is located. Besides plain X-rays, procedures such as a myelogram, MRI, and CT scan can be used to identify and correct the problem.
Fractured (Broken) Tail
Heavy footing, roughhouse play, and slamming doors can all lead to a myriad of problems with dogs such as injuries to the tail. If the pug’s tail is broken, it will usually (but not always) droop right at the point of the break. Some signs of swelling may be seen and the area may be painful and highly sensitive to the touch. Your dog may yelp or whine if you try to maneuver its tail in any way, and you may spot other related symptoms as well.
A fractured tail can hinder coordination. It is important for such a problem to be tended to immediately so that the bones can regrow and reposition. In the case of delays, though, the problem may get out of hand and necessitate partial or full amputation.
Everything gets caught on the pugs’ curly tail. From fleas, mites, and ticks to the smallest of all creatures – bacteria. Some dogs with recessed vulvas often suffer from vulvar tail fold dermatitis with urinary tract infection (UTI) as a common sequel as a result of ascending bacterial infections.
Usually, infections cause minor swellings, itchiness, and reddening of the skin and may cause the dog to move round in circles as it tries to bite the tongue. It is imperative that such incidences are spotted and dealt with as quickly as possible to avoid opportunistic complications. For instance, bacteria can make an already injured tail worse.
The tail is the most important part of a pug. If it is well maintained and healthy, the dog will be happy, satisfied and playful. However, if it is neglected and infected, the pet will be irritable, uncomfortable and generally weak. It is important for dog tail problems to be identified and treated early enough.