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How to Make a Dog Tail Cover

2010 September 26

black and tan burnished belgian malinois smiles up at his handler

Happy, energetic 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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