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Broken Dog Tail? Here’s What You Should Do

Key Takeaways

  • If you suspect that your pup suffers from broken dog tail, the first sign you might notice is your dog exhibiting discomfort or even pain when he tries to wag his tail.
  • Other signs of a broken dog tail includes a change in gait, biting and licking the tail, protective of the tail, foul smell from the tail, hair loss, and incontinence.
  • Dogs can injure their tails due to several reasons including fractures, abrasions and lacerations, and nerve damage.

Tails are part of the most significant organs of your dog’s body and essential aid in their communication and balance. From how your dog wags his tail, you can tell whether he’s happy, scared, or yearns for a special dog treat from you. Similarly, your dog uses his tail to communicate with fellow canines and to keep going in a straight line, especially when swimming. A broken dog tail will cause your dog pain and discomfort. So if you notice your dog trying to wag his tail in an unenergetic manner and he seems to be struggling, chances are, it is injured.

Sadly, dogs can sometimes suffer injuries that compromise the use of their tails. Like humans, your dog’s tail needs immediate intervention in case this happens to help him feel better soon and prevent the tail injury from catching an infection. I love coming home to the wagging tail of my happy dog. So when I notice irregularities in how he wags or a change in his behavior concerning his tail, I know I need to check what’s going on. I recommend consulting with your veterinarian to establish if a broken tail is the culprit in such cases since limber tail syndrome can also confuse you. Read along as I answer common questions about dog tail injury.

Do Dogs Have Bones in Their Tails?

Dogs’ tails extend from the spinal cord and contain systems of tail bones and muscles which work together to effect movement. The number of bones in a dog tail differs from one dog to the next but mostly ranges from 5 to 23.

The tail performs several functions in a dog’s life, including movement, showing emotions, and contributing to bowel control. Here are some of the effects of broken tails, how to know your dog is suffering from the condition. Before getting to that, it’s essential to understand what Limber tail syndrome is so you don’t mistake the two for each other.

What is Limber Tail Syndrome?

Limber tail syndrome, also called acute caudal myopathy, cold water tail, or limp tail is associated with the muscles. Like broken tails, this condition may make your pup’s tail wagging appear bent or swollen and makes the dog unable to wiggle the tail properly. Other terms for this condition include limp tail syndrome, broken wag, or swimmer’s tail.

Dog tail.

Almost all dogs can suffer from tail limber. However, the condition is more common in working dogs like Labrador Retrievers, English Setters, Foxhounds, English Pointers, and Beagles. The condition is often a result of infections, including anal gland complications, neurological disorder, lacerations, bite wounds, and fatigue. 

From its name, a limp tail causes your dog’s end to sit floppy, making the pup have problems wagging it as usual. The tail may also assume a horizontal appearance and start to drop if you don’t attend to the problem at the right time, as it’s a degenerative disorder that continues to get worse with time.

Therefore, talk to your vet about the first signs of a limp tail disorder. In the beginning, this condition is relatively easy to treat, as your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines, and your dog will feel better. In more serious cases, the condition may require surgery for your dog to regain his health. However, only administer any medication with the supervision of an authorized veterinarian. Some other causes of the condition include:

  • Swimming
  • Cold water exposure
  • Climatic alterations
  • Confining your pooch for longer hours
  • Prolonged exercise with no proper preparation

Visit your veterinarian immediately you notice your Labrador Retrievers can’t wag his tail in excitement as he used to before. That will rule out the possibility of a limp tail and determine if a broken trail could be the culprit.

How Can A Dog Break His Tail?

Broken tails are a common concern among dog owners and occur for a wide range of reasons. However, larger dog breeds are typically at a higher risk of suffering the condition due to their long tails. Here are some injuries that can lead to broken tails.


A fracture is the most common tail injury that dogs nurse typically. Your dog can sustain tail fractures or dislocated tails for several reasons, including when a car hits him, or someone mistakenly steps on him. Similarly, your dog may fall awkwardly, landing on his tail, or get his tail slammed in the door. Most mild fractures can heal independently, as long as you set them right and keep them clean (in case there are scrapes). However, do not attempt to attend to your dog’s fracture if the breaking occurs near the base of the tail. In that case, you may want to consult with a vet to establish the extent of your dog’s tail injury and develop the right approach.

Happy Tail Syndrome

The happy tail syndrome is one of the most common injuries that dogs often nurse and the most difficult to prevent. The happy tail syndrome occurs when your dog sustains injuries by continuously and repeatedly hitting his tail on a hard surface. It’s a common concern for dogs with long, slender tails and is naturally lively, like the Golden Retrievers.

In some cases, your dog may hit his tail rapidly against the hard surface to the point that he develops a bleeding ulcer at the spot of contact. In such cases, your pooch may have to undergo tail amputation. While the happy tail syndrome is challenging to prevent, you can try minimizing the instances your little four-legged friend gets between narrow spaces.

Abrasions and Lacerations

Lacerations and abrasions are another set of common tail injuries that your dog may suffer at some point in his life. They can come from several causes, including fights with other dogs, passing through thorny paths and bushes, or brushing against a sharp object or surface. 

Similarly, your dog may suffer abrasion when he bites himself, like in the case of flea infestation, and by slamming his tail on something while wagging eagerly. Minor lacerations may only need a painkiller or even herbal remedies such as CBD oil for dogs accompanied by basic first aid techniques to heal. Consult with your veterinarian to establish the severity of the wound and if washing, applying antibiotics, and keeping it clean can be the best approach.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damages majorly occur when a dog’s tail experiences extreme strain, like pulling. For instance, a car hit may force your dog’s tail into an unusual position, causing strain. Similarly, a child can also pull your dog’s tail, leading to the destruction of tail muscles and nerves. 

In severe injuries, nerve damage or avulsion hurts may make it hard for your dog to move his tail normally. Also, nerve and muscle injuries can compromise your dog’s bowel control. That’s because some of the tail muscles and nerves are linked to the rectum and bladder, hence controlling the process. The nerve function may sometimes return normal, especially in mild injuries. However, it’s essential to consult with your vet to check out and treat underlying causes to heal completely.

How Do I Know My Dog as a Broken Tail?

Knowing when your dog has a broken tail shouldn’t be tedious, especially if you frequently play with your furry friend. However, dogs naturally try to hide their pain and may not give you apparent reasons. Be cautious when you see your pooch pacing, restless, or wagging his tail awkwardly, or not wagging it at all. Here are some hints to look out for.

A Change in Gait

Sometimes dogs change their gait to ease their pain or avoid interfering with the sore tail. Thus, you need to take caution if you notice your dog spreading his hind legs or dropping his lower back while walking. It’s best to consider asking a professional to help you observe the dog’s walking style.

Inability to Wag as Usual

Broken tails are painful. Thus, your dog may find it hard to wag its tail as usual or not shake it at all. Be cautious whenever you sense a change in how your dog holds his tail and report any irregularities to your vet for examination and diagnosis.

Biting and Licking the Tail

Dog biting tail.

Dogs react to pain by biting or licking the affected area to soothe. When a dog injures his tail, you might notice him licking his tail more frequently. In such cases, you may want to give it attention and check if it’s broken. However, that could also mean other issues, including flea or stress related biting, so let your vet help you unravel the truth.

Pierced or Bleeding Skin

Abrasions and lacerations can sometimes leave your dog with wounds on the surface of the tail. Pay attention if you notice any bleeding in the tail, as it could be more than the physical wounds you’re seeing.

Similarly, your dog may suffer from severe bleeding and pain if the breaking pierces into the skin. You may consider making a makeshift bandage from a clean cloth and take your pooch to the vet as soon as possible.

Protective of the Tail

A broken tail is painful, and your dog will try everything possible to keep the injury out of reach. It may be tempting to touch the injured tail out of compassion, but that will make your dog more uncomfortable. The best way to help, therefore, is to take your dog to a specialist.

Foul Smell from the Tail

Injuries, especially if infected, typically emit nasty odors. Be concerned if you notice a foul smell coming from your dog’s tail and seek a professional diagnosis immediately, as that could be an indication of an infection that needs quick attention.

Hair Loss

Abrasions mainly cause scrapes in the dog tail and may cause hair loss in the affected area. You may want to check out for other signs as swelling in the region or bleeding.


Some of the muscles and nerves in your dog’s tail are connected to the rectum. As a result, a tail injury may inconvenience the quality of your dog’s bowel movements, causing incontinence. Similarly, dogs tend to become uncomfortable and confused due to the pain and trauma that come with a broken tail. Consult with your vet before you scold your pet if you notice your dog peeing in the house.

How Can I Help my Dog with a Broken Tail?

The best way to help your dog with a broken tail is by taking him to a professional examination and diagnosis. Though minor injuries can heal at home with proper care, it’s only a professional vet who can determine the severity of your dog’s injury and advice on the right approach.

Dog's tail in front.

Don’t be tempted to attend to your dog if the breaking occurred towards the base of the tail, as that can lead to permanent nerve damage. Similarly, consider visiting the vet as soon as possible since nerves keep growing after breaking and may develop the wrong way, making it challenging to correct.

Again, consider adding more comfort to the dog while recovering. You may consider adding more blankets to his dog crate for comfort and offer a soft place to rest without straining the injury.

How Do I Prevent Broken Tails?

Most of the reasons that lead to a dog breaking his tail are apparent and easy to avoid. Similarly, some people also consider tail docking as a way to prevent tail injuries. Here are some points to note.

  • Encourage your children to play safely with the family pet and not to yank his tail. That protects your dog from nerve damage and the kids from aggression that would likely come from the pup when he feels threatened.
  • Discourage your pup from jumping from high places, particularly cars, as his tail can be trapped and lead to injury.
  • Introduce your working dogs to their activities gradually, so they don’t strain their tail so much and cause the limber tail syndrome.
  • Give your dog attention to discourage self-biting due to stress. You may consider plenty of exercises, companionship, and stimulation.
  • Consider effective dog flea treatment to curb allergy dermatitis before it becomes worse.

Your dog can recover from a broken tail. However, you may consider getting the best dog insurance policy for your pet, as treatment involving surgery could be too costly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does a Broken Dog Tail Take to Heal?

The duration it takes to heal from a broken tail entirely depends on the severity of the injury and the treatment method. Minor scrapes and cuts may take up to two weeks of home care and treatment to heal. However, severe damages will mostly take longer.

How Do You Tell If Your Dog’s Tail is fractured?

A dog can fracture his tail on several accounts, like when he’s hit by a car or someone accidentally steps on him. Some of the hints to look out for if you suspect that your dog’s tail may be fractured include swelling or bending in the tail, if your dog is struggling to wag or raise his tail, or the presence of abrasions in a region of the tail.

What Do They Do For a Broken Tail?

The best way to heal a broken tail is by consulting your veterinarian to assess the damage and determine the severity of the injury. Your veterinarian will advise on the proper treatment method, whether a pain medication can help, or your dog may require surgery.

How Long Does a Dog’s Tail Take to Heal?

How long it takes for your dog’s tail to heal depends on the severity of the injury. It can last between a few days to months, depending on whether the injury is minor and requires monitoring and painkillers. Severe damage involving the nerves and demanding surgery may take much longer to heal completely.

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