By Chris Pitts, RVT, of Broadway Animal Hospital
A dog can do a lot of things with his tail; wag, knock your wineglass off the low table, smack you in the face. All things considered, his tail is a pretty active part of his dog body. Active parts of any living creature can get injured.
The most common injury we see at the hospital is a degloving injury. This is when the skin on the tail, usually the tip, gets pulled back. You might think that a little tail injury is no big deal, but these wounds love to bleed all over the place. A good way to get your dog to the vet for repair without ruining the interior of the car is to ball up a sock and shove it into the toe of a long sock, and then slide the long sock over the length of your dog's tail. You can adhere the sock to your dog's fur with paper tape. Usually these injuries require stitches.
When tails get crushed, like when a tail gets caught in a door, they can break. Pain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be prescribed to reduce swelling and pain for the break itself. The site needs to be monitored daily for any signs of the tail's tissue dying. Color change to the skin at the injury-site, skin not healing, or foul odor are all things that need to be addressed with your veterinarian right away.
As a little side note on the crushed tail: if your dog does not cry out when his tail is caught in the door, or is otherwise smashed, get your dog to the veterinarian. Some dogs develop degenerative disorders as they age that causes nerve transmission to fail, starting with the tail. This is most prevalent in German Shepherds.
A less traumatic injury that tends to happen mostly in spring and summer are tail sprains from swimming. Yep, a sprained tail. These dogs tend to show up at the hospital with less wagging, not holding their tails in their usual position, and may have pain when the tail is touched. Usually rest is prescribed in these cases, but in the presence of pain, check with your veterinarian before assuming your dog overdid it on opening day at the pool.