What is Happy Tail Syndrome, and How Do You Treat It?

Recently my neighbors told me that their Labrador retriever had been diagnosed with happy tail syndrome. The poor dog wags his tail so furiously that he smacks it off of the walls and furniture in their home. The family was shocked when they returned home one day to find blood splattered everywhere.

According to vetstreet.com, it’s not unusual for large dogs with smooth, thin tails—for example, Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, Dalmatians and greyhounds—to suffer from happy tail syndrome. Other names for happy tail syndrome include:

  • kennel tail
  • splitting tail
  • bleeding tail

Smaller dogs or those with a lot of hair protecting the skin on their tails are less likely to suffer from this condition.

Why the Tail gets Injured

A dog’s tail is actually an extension of his spine and is made up of muscles and bones that work together to create movement. Karen Becker, a veterinary expert at Healthy Pets said that the force with which a large dog can wag his tail, hitting hard surfaces over and over or for a prolonged period of time, can cause serious damage, especially to the tip of the tail.

The constant bashing off of furniture, walls or kennel fencing can cause the tip of the tail to bleed. If this happens often enough, the tail injury can turn into a non-healing bleeding ulcer, according to Becker.

Veterinary Treatments for Happy Tail Syndrome

If your dog’s tail has cuts or gashes from thumping against hard or sharp-edged surfaces, you should consult your veterinarian.

The treatment of happy tail syndrome depends on the severity of the wound and how often it reoccurs. Some wounds may need a stitch or two, and antibiotics may be necessary, if an infection has set in.

In the most severe cases, veterinarians may recommend a partial tail amputation. This is especially true in cases where the dog keeps reinjuring the tail and is in constant pain.

Bandaging Helps Protect Further Injury

A bandage will help protect a wound from happy tail syndrom from further injury. It will also keep the dog from licking and chewing at the end of his or her tail, which can result in even more inflammation and bleeding.

It’s important to consult with a veterinary expert for proper instruction on wrapping the tip of the tail. Duct tape should never be used, because it doesn’t stretch or allow air to move through it.

The best bandage to protect the tip of the tail from further injury is one that is breathable and flexible. An Elizabethan collar might also be required to keep the dog from ripping off the bandage.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to bandaging the tip of a dog’s tail is keeping the bandage from slipping off.

Veterinary experts at Vetruus designed a product called Dog Ends to help protect tail-tip injuries. Dog Ends are mesh tubular dressings that are attached to overhang the tail tip. According to the company, the mesh has been engineered to allow the dressing to flex just sufficiently to absorb impacts without transmitting the force down to the injured area.

Behavioral Modification for Happy Tail Syndrome

As for preventing a reoccurrence of tail tip injuries, some veterinary experts suggest that behavior modification might help exuberant tail wagers, if those actions are due to anxiety or a desire to please. A behaviorist can work with owners to create a calmer less anxious dog.

When dealing with hyper dogs, trainer Jill Breitner writes that behavior modification on the part of the owner can make a huge difference. According to Breitner, with patience and proper leadership, 99 percent of dogs will calm down within 90 seconds. And hopefully, the furious tail wagging will also slow down.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

50 comments

Teresa A
Teresa A2 days ago

Noted. Thanks

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Gino C
Gino C3 days ago

thanks

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Filomena C
Filomena C3 days ago

Thanks.

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Filomena C
Filomena C3 days ago

Good to know!

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris3 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Deborah S
Deborah S3 days ago

Thank you. We don't have that problem.

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Michele B
Michele B4 days ago

never heard of it, but it totally makes sense

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Mark T
Mark T4 days ago

Ty.

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Renata B
Renata B4 days ago

I had never heard about this before! Poor dogs.

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O4 days ago

Our rescue Afghan wags her tail both when extra happy but also to get attention for a pat...as when you pat her she slows it down to a stop. If she isn't happy with the quick pat or ear scratch the tail starts up again as does the head and nose nudging. But living in a caravan she manages to hit the glass doors of the china cupboards and the door or wall on the opposite side. The noise is enough to wake the dead at times. The more you ask her to stop the harder the wag. We just given in and pat her whilst guiding her to an area where she can't damage herself or our glass doors. Sadly I have seen some terrible messes of tails from bashing them against the edges of brick walls etc.

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