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From Wags To Stitches: How Happy Tail Syndrome Can Be An Unhappy Time For Your Dog

by Arttu Kari

It's not as though you'd take your dog to an animal hospital because they're too happy. However, a dog may need veterinary treatment if part of them are in fact too happy—namely their tail. What is happy tail syndrome, and what does it do to a dog's tail? 

An Unhappy Experience

The cute-sounding name of the syndrome is deceptive. Happy tail syndrome is an unhappy experience for dogs and owners alike. It's when the tail becomes damaged due to excessive wagging—when repeated physical impacts of the tail against objects in the vicinity causes injury. It primarily affects the very tip of the tail.

Effects of the Syndrome

The tip of your dog's tail will become painfully bruised. The skin at the tip will become cracked, and will form lesions which can bleed profusely. These lesions can refuse to heal, as they're continually being irritated due to the wagging of your dog's tail. Because wagging their tail is an inherent form of expression for a dog, it's not as though they can stop, despite the fact that their injuries may expose nerves, which will become increasingly painful.

Signs of the Syndrome

If your dog displays any of the signs associated with happy tail syndrome, they need to be assessed by a vet. Their life isn't in danger, but they can be in a fair amount of pain. Pain and discomfort (as evidenced by whimpering while wagging their tail) can be a key sign of happy tail syndrome. The tip of the tail will also display signs of injury. How does a vet approach this difficult situation?

Treatment for Mild Cases

There are different degrees of severity with happy tail syndrome. Some dogs may only experience a mild case, which still requires fairly extensive treatment. The tip of the dog's tale will be bandaged so that the lacerations are able to heal. Your dog will also need antibiotics to combat the infection in their tail, and pain medication may be needed. You're generally able to re-bandage the tail yourself at home, and your vet will advise you how often the dressing must be changed. But what about recurring or more serious cases?

Treatment for Severe Cases

Happy tail syndrome can have a severe impact on your dog's health, and so can require a severe solution. Your vet may opt to shorten your dog's tail. This isn't the same as tail docking, when the whole tail is removed for cosmetic purposes. Instead, the tip of the tail is surgically removed. The reduced length of the tail should prevent the issue from recurring. 

Happy tail syndrome is a source of great unhappiness, so please consult your vet if you should suspect that your dog's tail is too happy for its own good.