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How to Make a Dog Tail Cover

September 26, 2010
high energy working dog

Dog Tail Bleeding is Difficult to Stop

If you don’t have this problem, you probably will not get how important this advice is for some poor dog out there in the world!

Bald spot with thick, cracked skin on tip of dog's tail bleeds when he wags it

The bald area has bumps and cracks that bleed when the wagging tail hits walls and the sides of the sleeping kennel.

Some dogs wag their fool tails so hard, they crack the skin open near or at the tip, and the tail bleeds like crazy all over the house and just never seems to stop (because they keep on wagging!)  Some dog kennel managers call it “Pointer tail” because so many Pointers do this.  Other dogs with skinny, whippy tails do it, too. Greyhounds, Dalmatians, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and even some furry breeds, like Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd dogs (especially if they are excited, high energy working dogs wagging and spinning in the squad car all day!)

Once the sore opens up on the tail, it can be incredibly difficult to heal.  Some dogs require tail amputation just to cure the bleeding and prevent recurrence of the problem.  Successfully bandaging the tail can mean the difference between surgery or no surgery.

Bandaging a Dog Tail Tip is Incredibly Tricky

You can’t just put an adhesive bandage on a dog tail and have it stick.  Actually, you rarely can stick a bandage on a cat or dog at all.  The fur gets in the way, the skin oils repel the stickification, and the patient can tear the bandage off with his or her teeth.  Hmmm…

However, done right, the tail can be bandaged for weeks until the sores heal.

Dog Tail Bandage Supplies Needed

  • Sports tape, or medical tape
  • roll cotton thinly split or 1 inch stretch gauze
  • plastic firm cover, not hard plastic – match to size of tail diameter
    • I use a plastic 6-12-or 20 cc recycled syringe case cover
    • sometimes a pill bottle will work
  • dremel drill with sanding bit, or file, and cutting implement like plant snippers or poultry scissors
  • hair clippers (shaver)

Make the Tail Cover

Key to the process of making a tail protector is the plastic cover.  It needs to be lightweight, just big enough to cover the affected tip of the tail, wide enough in diameter to slip over the tail, but not pinch or contact the skin.  It needs ventilation.  If the plastic tube-shaped thing you’ve found has a closed end, use the snippers or scissors to open up the end.  Then use the dremel or a file to smooth the edges.

the closed plastic end of the syringe case was dremeled away, now the technician smooths the edges

Dremel tools work great to smooth the edges! If you bought the knock-off nail filer from TV, that might handle it!

Prepare the Tail

If you have any doubts, consult your veterinarian about whether your dog needs stitches or whether there’s an infection.  Tail infections can remain hidden under the damaged skin and dissect along the connective tissue up the tail.

“I once treated a Golden Retriever for a tail the groomer caught in the door when they visited the dog’s house.  The dog’s mom thought it looked fine.  Three days later, the hidden infection travelled all the way up to the lumbar spine.  Maggie needed massive tail amputation surgery and lost some feeling in her nether-regions after that!” says Doc Truli.

If you do not see any lesions, but your dog is hitting the tail on a crate, wall, or car seat too much, inspect the tail.

  • Shave the fur away from any bleeding or open spots.
  • Clean any wounds with dilute iodine solution, hydrogen peroxide, or dilute chlorhexidine solution (follow the package instructions for whatever brand you have; they are not all the same.)
  • It is generally safe to use over the counter polysporin antibiotic ointments on dogs.  You can apply a dab after shaving and before bandaging.

Applying the Dog Tail Bandage

Preparation and applying the bandage in the right situation are the keys.  Once you have that figured out, there are some major tips to a successful tail bandage.

plastic cylinder made from a syringe case with the tail fur sticking out the end and medical tape holding the contraption on

This was a long wound, so the bandage is twice as long as most dogs need

First, respect a bandage!  You can tourniquet the tail with a tight bandage.  You can actually cut off the venous return for the blood supply and screw up the bandage and cause your dog’s tail to become infected with an improper bandage.  Apply the bandage layers neatly and comfortably.  Feel how loose the bandage is, and do not apply tighter than you would want it on a human.

Second, put a stirrup strip on the tail!  You read that right.  That’s what it’s called.  You place a strip of the 1/2 inch, 4-6 inch long sports tape (for a large tail) along the tail for about 2-3 inches, leave 2-3 inches hanging off the end of the tail.  Do not cover any wounds with the tape.  Make the tape skinnier by ripping lengthwise if you have to to get the size to fit the tail.  You are going to twist that tape end so it comes back up over the in-palace bandage at the end of the process!

“You can attach a wooden tongue depressor or a small, light, removable something-or-other to the underside of the dangling tape to keep it from sticking to everything while you work on the rest of the bandage,” says Doc Truli.

Place about 1/4 inch roll cotton, or roll 2 layers of the roll stretch gauze over the area for padding on the tail.

Slip the plastic cover over the bandaged area.

Twist the stirrup piece from underneath and stick it to the plastic cover, lengthwise.  This stirrup keeps the bandage and the cover from sliding off the end of the tail when your dog wags.

Finally, gently apply the medical tape in smooth layers around the base of the plastic cover.  Be sure to cover about 1 inch of the tail skin above the cover for stickiness.  Ideally, wrap the tape layers with 50% coverage to create a smooth surface as you wind the tape around the plastic.  Do not glop on extra layers of tape “for extra hold.”  Too much weight on the bandage will cause it to swing like a pendulum when your dog wags.  That bandage might just came flying off the tail like a projectile weapon!

Caring for a Dog’s Tail Bandage

Do not let the bandage get wet!  Remove, dry, and redo.

“No bandage is better than a wet bandage every time!” says the Doc.

Use an Elizabethan collar or a bite-not collar if your dog insists on chewing the cover.  If your dog goes berserk over the cover, maybe it is too tight!  Your dog may be telling you something, there…

Leave the bandage in place no more than 2-3 days.  Not too long.  If an infection, or blood clot forms under the bandage and the thing is damp or wet in any way (licking, can make it wet, for example), the bandage would trap the infection close to the skin and cause a massive, fast spreading problem.  Believe me when I say, redo that bandage every few days, just to be safe.  You never know where that tail has been! (Toilet water, anyone?  Wiping wet shower curtain, Sitting on dew on the grass, etc.)

Skin grows a new top epithelial layer usually in 5-7 days in a dog with a normal metabolism.  Holes heal in 10-14 days, usually.  If you allow about 2 weeks, most tiny tail problems will heal.  Please see your veterinarian if you are unsure of any part of this whole tail business.

Believe it or not, most animal hospitals charge only $15-$30 for this whole bandaging process.  Considering the shaver ($200), the dremel ($99), the bandage materials ($12 at the feed store) and at least two assistants to build the cover and hold your dog, it’s worth it!

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. Rocky permalink
    January 5, 2014 5:31 am

    Hello! I’d like to ask some help. My rottweiler puppy got into an accident which resulted to cutting of his tail. He is already 5 weeks old and the tail isn’t healing. I’m worried because I can see “white” stuff on his wound. I dont know what to do. I badly need help on what meds to give him and how to keep his wound away from infection ASAP.

    • January 5, 2014 10:12 pm

      Your puppy needs the hands-on care of a veterinarian. If there are none in your country, a physician can help you. If no physician, a grandmother should have copious first aid skills. Get off the internet and ask people around you for help.
      Good Luck!

    • January 5, 2014 10:14 pm

      Let me also reiterate, VirtuaVet is for inspiration and coaching. Nothing replaces a real-life consultation with a veterinarian.

  2. Augie Palmer permalink
    December 28, 2013 9:31 pm

    Thank for having a site like this. we have a Choc Lab and two months ago the Happy Tail Bleeding started. Our other Lab never did this. So we were perplexed when it started and seeing the blood splashes against the wall looked like a horror flick scene. We have left our dog outside when the weather is nice to allow air to dry the tail and he is not smacking into the walls with his tail. We’ve also tried sprinkling flour on the tail to soak up the blood flow. He really likes to lick the flour off the ground now. But that does help some. We are going to a vet we know and see what they say; but we may take one of the suggestions. Again, thank you and hope every dogs tail is healed

  3. cathy permalink
    March 27, 2013 7:48 pm

    I have a pit bull with “happy tail” the vet wants to “try” to lazer it and if that doesnt work wants to dock his tail. I am trying to decide if I sohould just go ahead with the docking

    • March 29, 2013 10:36 pm

      Dear Cathy
      I often use the Class Four Therapeutic laser for tails that won’t heal. I is extreme to dock the tail and, if you leave it long, it might have another non-healing injury. Even though you may take time and money for the laser treatments and possibly end up docking the tail anyway, it is worth it!

      The laser can actually heal the tail. Plus, surgery is not a cure-all in every case. (Maybe, maybe not.)

      Can you let us know what you decide?

      -Yours,
      Doc Truli

  4. November 4, 2012 2:32 pm

    We have been dealing with our Cavalier’s tail being caught in a screen door for 6 weeks and have had little or no improvement. Tail was amputated by 1″, stitches and bandaged for 2 weeks, stitches removed then he immediatly began licking and chewing on the tail…opening up the wound again; added a cone to his head which makes him terribly anxious; one benadryl per day to calm him down; 7 lazer treatments later and the wound has again opened. He is least anxious when they tail is wrapped but that does not allow any air to reach the would. Applying Synodic three times per day. Would welcome ANY suggestion.

    • November 4, 2012 7:01 pm

      Is the incision healed? If it is not, then Synotic (is that what you meant to type) is a strong steroid and when it gets rid of heat, pain, swelling, and redness, it also hinders fibroblasts, which are connective tissue cells that are essential to wound healing. If he chews the wound, it will open. Soooo, he must be kept away from it until it is 1,000% healed. Collar, bandage, whatever it takes. You may need some trips to the vet for professional bandage changes. I like the therapeutic laser idea – but I’m guessing he chewed it again.

      If he has not been chewing and causing it to open up, ask your vet their opinion about gabapentin. It is a painkiller more for neuropathic pain. It can also take 1-2 weeks to take full effect. Really, just an idea. (Absolutely not a prescription, as your veterinarian would know what’s best in your situation.)

      -Doc

      • Putter permalink
        November 4, 2012 11:59 pm

        Doc Truli….
        Thanks you so much re our Cavalier’s tail not healing. I do appreciate your suggestion that we can keep it bandaged but change it every 48 hours. Also….we have been applying the synotic when the wound was not healed so that may have hindered the fibroblasts. I will consult with our vet about gabapentin. We do appreciate your prompt reply.

  5. Putter permalink
    November 4, 2012 2:25 pm

    We have been dealing with our Cavalier Spaniel’s tail “situation” for 6 weeks….caught in the screen door, then vet amputated about an inch; stitches, bandaged for 2 weeks, stitches removed….then he began licking the tail and was insanely anxious! The wound broke open again, we put a cone on his head, 7 lazer treatments and it has again broken open. He is SO anxious….barking barking! Most comfortable when it is bandaged but then no air gets to it. Any suggestions????

    • November 4, 2012 6:57 pm

      If he is more comfortable bandaged, keep it bandaged, but change the bandage every 48 hours or so. Be patient, tails are tricky to heal.

      Yours,
      -Doc Truli

  6. Cris permalink
    September 26, 2012 3:03 pm

    I appreciate this info as I’m right in the middle of dealing with post surgical tail bleeding. We are all exhausted! I wish I had found your site before we did the surgery. Even the day of surgery I was 2nd guessing myself about whether or not to do it. His tail actually had looked to have healed by that point. But what is done is done. I don’t feel so alone reading others stories and now have hope. Thank you!

  7. August 17, 2012 12:21 am

    My Mali had her tail partial amputated and i am going to try the pipe installation and tape and wrap. does the pipe insulation need to extend beyond the tail? She had to have all the scabs removed on Monday, its thursday now, rinse the end and re bandaged. now each bandage is ripping the scab back off. one area isnt healing, scabbing right. the pipe ins. will allow the air and i hope kep the tail cleaner. no bandage she just pick up carpet fuzz and no bandage she wants to lick it. So the pipe insulation, should i cover it in anything? since it would touch the bottom of her tail?

    • August 17, 2012 4:08 pm

      I love the pipe insulation idea. Please ask your veterinarian about your excellent questions. I’d hate to steer you wrong and hurt your dog’s tail.

      • August 21, 2012 3:38 pm

        well my vet was clueless, Love picking the wrong vet but you get what you pay for. So i got it vented with a lint trap and zip tie.

      • August 21, 2012 7:47 pm

        Let us know how it goes. And are you taking pictures?

  8. Cyndy permalink
    July 9, 2012 9:52 am

    We have been trying to heal our dogs tail for about 6 months. Brought her to the vet’s once, it lasted a while, but then she was at it again. I read on a blog about this and we used it and it worked great. Tail is healed. First, get rid of the infection. Dip the whole tail in a tall glass / cup of peroxide for about 5 mins.; dry it off. Apply some medication to the area, then Take a section of pipe insulation, the foam kind with the split in it. Open the foam and put it around the tail. Then take some wide waterproof tape and take from the foam to the tail at the top so that it won’t fall off. Go around it a couple of times. Then take some self tape and wrap around the rest of the foam to keep it closed. We did this
    every week for about 4 weeks and her tail is finally healed.

    • July 9, 2012 10:12 pm

      Persistence pays off. I cannot advise the peroxide, as it can irritate and hinder fibroblast function. (They are cells that help heal skin.) dilute iodine is a nice gentle antiseptic. As long as the tail is not too damp
      Under the cover and the skin gets some air flow. And as long as the tape does not tourniquet the tail. Those are guiding principles.
      Anyone reading this, doc Truli is not treating or endorsing treatment of your pet. We’re just sharing stories here!

  9. Andrea permalink
    July 4, 2012 9:26 am

    We have a brown labrador retriever with the same tail problem. We have tried liquid bandage, and we have also tried bandaging the tail. But nothing is working for us, We are trying to just leave our dog outside as much as possible so his tail doesn’t hit everything in our house and that seems to help. We feel that this is something we are going to have to battle for a very long time since our dog has such a “happy tail”.

    • July 4, 2012 12:59 pm

      I like that: “happy tail” Or, you could just remove every wall and article of anything not squishy soft from the house. Might be fun!

  10. June 3, 2012 7:51 am

    Thank you for the article! Quick question: once a happy tail has started bleeding, will it ever heal on its own? We just had our first instance of this issue this morning, which led me to your site. Right now, my pup is in her crate settling down and having some breakfast. I’m not sure if this is an injury that, once started, is now always going to be recurring or if sometimes this happens and it just closes up on its own. Any advice appreciated! :)

    • June 3, 2012 10:28 am

      If you can protect the tail and get it to heal fully, you are back at square one. It may open up again in the same circumstances. I have seen most tail bleeders do it once or twice and not again. I have twice had to amputate a tail because it opened up weekly. I am not certain those families could protect the tails continuously; in other words, the amputations may have been necessitated by management issues!

      • Kellie permalink
        June 3, 2012 8:48 pm

        We did everything we could to keep our Pit’s tail from breaking open again with no success. Ended up having to do a partial amp but she is doing so much better now. Good luck.

  11. Kellie permalink
    April 24, 2012 8:24 pm

    We have a Blue Nose that busted the end of her tail by hitting it on everything when she is excited. we had it bandaged up and it was healling. I turned my back for 5 minutes and she had torn the bandage off and chewed the end her tail off. We took her to the vet who put a sirenge cover on it and taped it up pretty good, but it was getting no air and started to stink. So my husband bought the braces for fingers and we have been using that with the sports tape, gauze and neosporin. We are having a hard time keeping it on. Thank goodness she is going back to a different vet tomorrow. We are hoping we can save her tail.

    • April 29, 2012 4:15 pm

      You are observant about the air. The wound needs air. That’s why I use a syringe cover that has a hole in the end. Or I cut it to make a hole in the end. And the syringe cannot fit tightly on the tail, or else it might not work.
      Good Luck!

  12. mark flynn permalink
    March 27, 2012 12:53 pm

    what i use is the lagging insulation for copper pipe and bound not too tight with cable ties

    • March 28, 2012 3:48 pm

      Mark,
      Thanks for the tip. 99% of our readers will have no idea what you are talking about. Still a good, tip, though.
      -Doc

  13. February 4, 2012 2:24 pm

    Glad to have found this. My husband accidentally snipped the end of our dog’s tail with scissors last night while grooming her. It’ didn’t come completely off, but was a bad laceration – all be it small – at the very end of her tail. Blood was EVERYWHERE! I mean, WOW, a LOT of blood. The house looked like a horror movie in seconds, and every time she whipped her tail side to side she sprayed blood everywhere. He brought her to the Emergency Vet Hospital and they said it would be over $1,000 to stitch her, as that would be surgery. Or, they could wrap it up good and give her antibiotics. We chose the wrap seeing as how we barely had the $380 for the ER visit. They shaved her tail, cleaned it, wrapped it and put a cone on her head. When we got her home and in bed, I felt something wet and sure enough BLOOD everywhere, he bandage had come off and she was STILL bleeding. We wrapped it good, taped it and kept her in the middle of us in bed all night. Seemed fine as long as she wasn’t whipping her tail around. In the morning my husband brought her to our regular vet. He said he did more damage bringing her there, because she was excited and whipping her tail. He told us to just keep it wrapped and make her rest. You are RIGHT when you say it’s hard to stop the bleeding! I don’t know how I will keep her still until it heals. Someone suggested Crazy Glue – have you heard of that helping or hurting? I still can’t believe such a small cut on such a small part of her body can bleed so much! I was worried about her bleeding to death, but the vet seemed to think as long as she rests she will be ok.

    • February 5, 2012 11:07 am

      Wow! You had an eventful night. What strikes me is…you saw two veterinarians and yet had to look on the internet for more information to help your dog. This happens to lots of people; it’s one reason I write these stories, in order to help bridge that gap between medical care, communication, and your true understanding of how to help your dog. If you found VirtuaVet, perhaps you could share the link with the veterinarians you saw and they could bookmark the instructions on their websites so other people could benefit.

      About tail glue- the surgical glue that we use is the same chemical as the glue you mentioned. However, it is made in a medical facility and it comes sterile, so your pet will not get a strange infection. I find some tail cuts close well with surgical glue. Others keep bleeding and you just get a thick glob of glue stuck to the fur. Also, the preparation of the wound before closing it is critical to smooth recovery. Surgery is best left to a surgeon.

  14. rileymama permalink
    July 6, 2011 10:29 pm

    I was just wondering what the breed is of the dog pictured at the beginning of this article. Our pooch looks just like him/her but a different color.

    Our girl has a tail injury from her stay at a kennel over the holiday and we are trying to nurse her wound. Thanks for all of the useful information given in this article.

    • July 10, 2011 11:47 am

      Belgian Malinois. They come in the brown and black in the article, and pure black.

      Sorry to hear about your “kennel tail.” It’s tough to get this to heal up once they break open. A little nursing care and persistence goes a long way!

      Yours,
      Doc Truli

  15. Shel permalink
    March 29, 2011 2:50 pm

    Those of us with greyhounds get lots of experience with tail injuries. Our group’s plastic protector of choice is a curler… lightweight, ventilated, and available in multiple sizes. We also recommend daily sniffing of the bandage, your nose will know if something is bad under there.

    • March 30, 2011 7:09 pm

      Awesome tip about the curler! Thanks for sharing.

      • Sylvia Banschbach permalink
        June 28, 2013 2:37 am

        I sure like that hair curler idea. They are smooth on the inside and come in different sizes. My dog had surgery for an infection that would not clear Up. Now the wound is not healing properly. Maybe this would give it more venting, since the curler is vented. Wrapping it in gauze first, which is breathable, then putting the curler over it, then wrapping each end with tape on the fur. One more round with tape around the middle should do it. My Pom has been leaving it alone, but I always wonder if he will get at it as I sleep one night. He has way too much hair for those head cones in this summer heat we finally are getting.
        I have also done a towel girdle wrap around his waist to keep him from being able to twist back and reach his tail. I safety pin a strip of material from side to side across the front of him, as this keeps it from slipping backwards and off! But once again, too hot for that now, with all the hair he has.
        Thanks for the curler suggestion!

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