Dog Broken Tail: a Surprisingly Common Issue That Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Dog Broken Tail
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

It is not uncommon for dogs to break their tails, and it is known that large dog breeds such as Labradors and Hounds get their tails injured very often because they are very long and they easily get the so called ‘tail-wag trauma’ just by banging their tails into objects or wagging.

Tails are very important because they are crucial for communication and balance. Some smaller dogs even use them as playthings. And there is nothing better than seeing your dog wagging his tail all happily when he sees you.

Healthy tail

However, it is important to remember that if your dog’s tail is bleeding or pierced, you should never try to set it by yourself; you must go to the vet. Dogs experience severe pain when they get their tails injured, and if you are not experienced, you can worsen their condition by trying to help.

Still, you should consider buying a first aid kit specially designed for dogs. This way, you can help alleviate the pain until you get to the vet.

The usual symptoms and causes

This article will provide you with the most usual dog broken tail symptoms, so in case you notice something weird about your pet’s tail, you can react immediately and take him to the vet.

Dog tail x ray- broken

If your dog’s tail seems to be swollen, bent, painful, or if your dog has difficulty moving or wagging it, then it is probably broken. However, you should make a difference between a broken tail and a limber tail syndrome (limp tail).

This syndrome usually affects the working dogs such as Setters and Pointers, and the cause is the degenerative change to the intervertebral disk spaces. The tail seems broken, but it is not.

A surgical treatment is usually needed or in milder cases, only rest and anti-inflammatory drugs. The sign of this syndrome is when a tail is completely limp or it is held horizontally at the beginning and then drops vertically. In any case, you must take your pet to the vet so he can make sure the diagnosis is right, having in mind that there are many diseases with the similar signs. Most pet owners worry about the cost of treatment, so read our piece on what to look for in dog insurance so you won’t have any problems.

Dog with broken and injured tail

Some of the causes include: injuries, bite wounds, lacerations, infections, anus or anal gland problems, neurological disorders, cancer, general body weakness etc.

Common tail injuries

  • An avulsion injury or nerve damage is damage to the tail caused by pulling which can affect the nerves and muscles. This injury usually occurs when a dog is hit by a car or the tail gets yanked very hard in some other way. Depending on how serious the damage is, the tail can become limp, stretched, and unable to move or your dog may even be unable to urinate or defecate on his own.
    The nerve function of the tail can return in some time, but you will still need the help of a vet. That is why children need to be taught not to pull pets’ tails because it is cruel and inhuman.
  • Abrasions are incidents that cause a dog’s tail to lose hair, bleed or form scrapes. They can be painful depending on the extent of the damage, and it should be taken care of immediately so the dog’s tail does not get infected. Sometimes even a tail’s tip must be shortened.
  • A happy tail is a tail trauma that occurs when a dog keeps repeatedly banging or wagging his tail against a hard surface. This happens a lot to dog breeds which have long and slim tails or to happy and outgoing dogs such as Retrievers or Cavaliers that wag their tails so fast and so much that they get a bleeding ulcer developed at the tail’s tip. When that happens, a tip needs to be amputated. There is no way to stop a dog from getting a happy tail, unless you pay special attention and avoid getting your dog into narrow spaces.
  • Fractures are the most common injuries and the tail usually gets broken. A simple fracture can heal on its own, but if the fracture is at the base, a surgery is a must. How can that happen? A dog can get hit by a car, fall from a high place, his tail can get stepped on; get squeezed by the door etc.
    This article will provide you with a short guide on how to deal it by yourself, but you should remember that the vet should check the tail in order to make sure that it is not infected. After the tail heals, there is a possibility that there may be a kink or a bump visible on the tail and that is because it is impossible for a dog to hold his tail still all the time. However, that is not painful.

What to do?

One of the ways that you can tell whether your dog’s tail is indeed broken is by watching the way he wags it. If your dog has really got a broken tail, he will be able to wag it only halfway because moving the tail beyond the break would be impossible.

Additionally, if the break is so bad that the bone pierced the skin, prepare yourself for a lot of blood and pain and in this case, take your dog to the vet because the wound is too serious for you to handle it. A dog’s tail tends to bleed heavily once pierced or broken.

Furthermore, if you are experienced or confident enough to tend to your furry friend in case his tail gets broken and you are unable to take him to the vet immediately, here it is what you can do.

Remember that if your dog’s tail is broken at the base, then you should not take care of the fracture by yourself at home. That is because tails that are broken at the base can cause a nerve damage which can be very serious and put your pet’s health at risk, not to mention the degree of pain your dog would experience. You may want to consider making a DIY dog cone for your injured pet so he won’t lick or nibble on his injured tail.

Injured dog tail

But if it is not broken at the base, here it is what you can do:

  • First you need to stop the bleeding by grasping the tail gently and pressing down firmly. You should wear gloves at this point and remember that the dog is in pain so you should not force it if you see that you are unable to help.
  • After that wash the wound, also gently. You can do it with soap and warm water, it is important for the wound not to get infected.
  • Once the wound is clean, you should apply an antibiotic ointment or spray and place the sterile gauze pad over the wound, you can also use a medical tape.
  • You will probably also need to immobilize the tail. You can use a chopstick or any other thin piece of wood and place it under the tail and then wrap the tail from the tip to the base by wrapping and overlapping the tape snugly (take a look at this great bandage that should be in any dog owner’s house). This kind of splint is usually kept for one or two weeks, and your pet will need painkillers, so you should ask your vet which ones are the most suitable for your dog. You should also check these calming chew treats as they are great in calming the dog down if the pain is not too much.
  • You should pay in mind that this guide should be done only if you are confident; otherwise, if you do not wrap or clean the broken tail properly, you will do more harm to your dog than good which can lead to serious infections and a badly healed tail that can turn up deformed.
  • Even if you manage to help your pet and his broken tail at home, that does not mean that you should not take him to the vet as soon as possible, because only a professional can assess how serious the damage is and whether there is anything more that needs to be done.

If everything we mentioned above scares you, then you should take a look at a veterinary handbook. You will find all the necessary information in there and Fido will be a bit safer.

However, most broken tails that are not near the base do not require any serious treatment other than painkillers and time for them to heal. There may be a kink in the tail, but that is not painful. Make sure you’re prepared for any pet emergency, read why a doggy first-aid kit is necessary for every pet owner.

Wrap a dog's tail

After your dog’s broken tail is taken care of, then you should pay attention that he does not injure himself again. Monitor his moving and do not make him walk or jump too much. It should take up to two weeks for the tail to heal (depending on the seriousness of the injury) but you should love and show more care than usual to your pet. For injured, senior dogs or for every well-loved pet, our piece on the best orthopedic beds for dogs is a must-read.

Also, you should not let Fido play with his tail and this where you’ll need a comfy collar. Click here to see one that won’t bother Fido as much as a regular one.

To sum up, pet injuries involving broken tails are not unusual at all, and they are usually not serious, but only if the tail is not broken at the base. The tail can be even just bruised or bitten, and we have mentioned some of the possible symptoms and causes above.

The most important thing is that you must react immediately, especially if the tail is bleeding, and go to the vet if you are unable to give first aid by yourself. A dog’s tail is very crucial and important and it should not be taken lightly.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Concerned Owner

    Great info! Thanks so much for your help. My retriever-hound mix looks like her tail has been hurting her but I didn’t want to go to the vet in haste over nothing. I felt like her tail is broke at the base and will be taking her to the vet immediately.

    • That is a great decision. The vet will be able to tell if there is something you should worry about!

  • GraceTerrence

    Our daughter’s dog caught his tail on a metal chair, ran off and now his tail is broken. We took him to the vet and now his tail is amputated. The dog is a Great Dane and we’re wondering if he’s going to be ok. Any thoughts about this?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      As long as the management is okay and all precautions have been done, it should be okay. Just avoid any potentially harmful instances especially outdoor activities and play.

  • Paul

    My Great Dane has broken his tail, I was not present when it happened, but I am not sure if I should let it be amputated or allow it to heal naturally. Please help? I am worried that the vet wants to amputate his tail for nothing.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Depending on the severity, it is often secured and immobilized to promote proper healing. Amputation is the last option, especially if the fracture is beyond healing and conservative medical intervention.

  • Benjamin

    My German Shepherd’s tail is very sensitive at the moment, he doesn’t want us to put our hands even near his tail. I have been procrastinating taking him to the vet, hoping that it would heal naturally. Is there anything specifically I could ‘feel’ for to determine a possible fracture?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      If you’ll observe it by just the way it looks, there is something «off» about it. Although this observation is more prominent in obvious fractures. Whimpering or uneasy behaviour can also be some of the considerations that your dog has a broken tail.

  • Melinda Morris

    I think my dog has a broken tail inwasnt home when it happened but he has a few scraches and a red eye so maybe a car hitnhim but him tail is usually like a pig tail and it is straight i thinkvit broke in the middle thats how it feels should i just let it heal on its owe and whatnshould i do to help him

    • John

      Does your dog just run loose when your not home?

      • Wyatt Robinson

        This is also a question that I would like to obtain answers because this an determine the prognosis of a broken tail.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Most of the time, especially when the fracture is not comminuted or has pierced the skin, it will heal on its own provided that it will not be exposed to microorganism-dense environment.

  • Charlotte Corby

    I have a cheenweeie i think she broken her tail how can you tell?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Charlotte, usually a broken tail is an obvious deviation from the normal size and appearance of the tail. If there is this bent or a visible «break», then it is most possibly a broken tail.

  • Tina Wallace Nelson

    My puppy was born with a broken tail but now she has broken it straight. It is right in the middle of the tail and very painful to her. Do I need to take her to her vet? I am a little scared to because I don’t want them to cut her tail off.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Hi Tina,
      If the dog is still in pain, it would be best let a veterinarian see her. The assessment will determine the severity of the fracture and what pain medication can be given to help ease the pain.

  • Teresa

    My German Shepherd was hit by a truck 9 days ago. We took her to the vet. She has a broken tail. Today we noticed it was black and hair falling off. She has appointment to have it amputated. Vet said we may have to manually make her urinate and fecate because it is injured at base. Can you tell me what her prognosis will be. She is 10 yrs old. Thank you

    • Wyatt Robinson

      In terms of prognosis, there will be challenges and some hurdles. It can slightly disrupt your schedule, especially on the manual urination and defecation, but it should not overwhelm you. Ten years old for a GSD is somewhat matured already, but it can still live several years. Your veterinarian can provide a daily scheme to make its life as close to normal as possible.

  • Teresa

    My shepherd was hit by a truck 9 days ago. We took her to the vet. Now her til is black and amputation is planned. Vet said we may have to manually make her go to potty. The injury is above base of tail. She is 10 yrs old. What will her quality of life be? Thank you

  • JordyyMints

    Please some one help me. My dogs tail would wag so much, it would look like a helicopter. But recently she took a hard fall and I think that broke her tail. She seems to be trying to wag it, but it’s not like a helicopter anymore. Whenever we go anywhere near it she would run away. Her tail is also always between her legs now. It seems like the top 1/3 of her tail is cooperating but the rest isn’t. My mother doenst have enough money to go to the vet and check. It there any way we can take care of her at home?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      My concern is that it should be secured with a splint for several weeks to allow the broken parts to regenerate and fuse back as close to normal as before. As long as there are no observable changes in behaviour, especially on appetite or in temperament, your dog should be alright.

  • Stef Black

    Our dachshund broke his tail yesterday, it was accidentally stood on. We visited the vet today and he immediately suggested it should be amputated. It is broken about 8 cm from the base. We were reluctant to amputate it so we asked if they could anesthetize him and reset it but the vet was sure it would not be successful. Can tails heal if they are kept immobile?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Tails can heal when it is secured properly. However, the healing process and how much it can heal depends on the severity of what is broken. There are cases that the breakage is beyond the normal process and amputation is the better option to prevent possible effects in the future such as infection or chronic pain.

  • Jaime Fannin

    My great dane was hit by a pull along trailor 3 days ago only minor scraps but tail is sensitive and he’s not wanting to go poop but has pooped today just not willingly he let’s me massage tail at the base but if I touch it further down on the tail he jerks it away I’m unable to take to the vet advise plz

    • Wyatt Robinson

      If medical attention is not available, just make sure that the affected area of the tail is immobilized by making a splint and maintain it clean as well to avoid harboring any microorganisms that can cause infection.