Broken Bones and Wagging Tails. What to Do If Your Dog’s Tail is Injured


A dog’s tail is a sensitive and complex appendage that serves many important functions. From communication and balance to social cues and expression, a dog’s tail plays a vital role. So what happens when a tail is injured or broken? Can a dog feel pain in their tail and how much? In this article, we’ll explore canine tail anatomy, common causes of tail injuries, diagnosing and treating broken tails, pain levels, and recovery time. We’ll also provide tips on preventing painful tail injuries in dogs.

Anatomy of a Dog’s Tail

A dog’s tail contains a number of bones called caudal vertebrae that extend from the end of their spine. According to the source from Rover, most dogs have between 5-20 caudal vertebrae in their tails, with the vertebrae being larger at the base near the body and tapering down in size towards the tip of the tail.

an anatomy diagram showing the vertebrae inside a dog's tail

The muscles which control tail movement originate at the base of the tail near the pelvis and extend along the vertebral column inside the tail. These muscles are responsible for the side-to-side and up-and-down movements of the tail. Nerves also run through the core of the tail, connecting to the dog’s spinal cord and allowing sensations and motor control from the brain.

According to the source from Woofalicious Tales, blood vessels and glands are also present inside a dog’s tail. The blood vessels supply blood to the tissues while the glands secrete pheromones and other substances involved in communication and territorial marking.

How Tails Can Become Injured

There are several common causes of tail injuries in dogs:

  • Getting the tail caught in a door or window – This can result in anything from a minor bruise to a fracture if the tail gets slammed.
  • Dog bites and fights – Other dogs may bite and injure the tail during aggressive encounters.
  • Happy tail – Excessive wagging against hard objects can cause the tip of the tail to split open and bleed.[1]
  • Being stepped on or run over – Accidental trauma from people or vehicles can crush or fracture the tail.
  • Lacerations – Sharp objects or torn metal can slice the tail open.

Injury is more likely for dogs with long thin tails, such as Greyhounds. Short, thick tails, like those on Corgis, are less prone to damage.[2]

Signs of a Tail Injury

a dog with a bandaged and splinted tail

There are a few key signs to look out for if you suspect your dog may have injured its tail. According to PetMD, the most common symptoms of a tail injury include:

Swelling – One of the first signs of injury is swelling of the tail, either along the entire tail or localized at the site of trauma. This is caused by inflammation and fluid accumulation from damaged tissue and blood vessels (1).

Bleeding – Open wounds on the tail will result in external bleeding. However, even if the skin is not broken, internal bleeding into the tail can cause bruising and swelling (2).

Pain – Dogs with tail injuries often exhibit signs of pain like whining, yelping, aggression, or biting at the tail when touched. They may also hold their tail down and avoid wagging (1).

In severe cases, the tail may hang limply or appear deformed if fractured. Loss of tail function can also indicate nerve damage (2). It’s important to get veterinary care right away if you notice these signs of tail trauma in your dog.



Diagnosing Tail Injuries

If a dog is showing signs of a possible tail injury, the first step is to take them to the veterinarian for a thorough exam. The vet will visually inspect the tail and surrounding area for any wounds, swelling, bruising, or abnormal positioning. They will palpate the tail to feel for any areas of pain or instability. According to PetMD, the vet may also assess nerve function in the tail by testing the dog’s ability to voluntarily move it and feeling for intact reflexes.

To confirm a diagnosis and determine the extent of injury, the vet will likely recommend x-rays of the tail. As outlined by VCA Animal Hospitals, x-rays allow the vet to evaluate the bones, joints, and soft tissues of the tail to identify any fractures or dislocations. X-rays also help locate any foreign objects lodged in the tail that could be causing pain or infection. If the injury involves the vertebrae where the tail connects to the spine, the vet may take radiographs of that area as well.

In some cases, advanced imaging like CT scans or MRIs may be warranted for a more detailed view of damage to soft tissues and nerves in the tail. But x-rays are often sufficient for determining the right course of treatment.

Treating Tail Injuries

If a dog’s tail is broken, the treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. For minor fractures or sprains, rest is often the best medicine. Restricting activity and preventing further trauma allows the injury to heal. A dog may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and pain. Splinting the tail may help stabilize minor fractures so they can mend properly. The splint is typically worn for 2-4 weeks.

More severe tail fractures often require surgery. The pieces of the fractured bone need to be set back into proper alignment and stabilized with pins, wires, or plates. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia, and most dogs are able to go home the same day. The dog will need to limit activity while recovering over the next several weeks. Splinting and bandaging may be required post-surgery to protect the surgical site. Antibiotics will likely be prescribed to prevent infection. Follow up x-rays help determine how the fracture is healing.

According to the article “Dog Tail Injuries: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention” on, the majority of tail injuries can be managed with rest and splinting. However, surgery may be necessary for compound fractures or cases where the severed end of the tail needs partial amputation and suturing. Proper treatment allows dogs to make a full recovery.

Pain Levels with a Broken Tail

The amount of pain a dog experiences with a broken tail depends on the severity and location of the injury. Mild injuries like bruises or sprains to the soft tissue typically result in minimal pain. The dog may show signs of discomfort when the tail is touched or moved but can otherwise function normally.

a dog exhibiting signs of pain from a tail injury

More severe injuries like fractures or dislocations deeper in the bone cause moderate to severe pain. These injuries often require splinting or surgery, and dogs may vocalize when the tail is handled. They may also exhibit signs like appetite loss, lethargy, and shaking from the pain. Injuries at the base of the tail near the spine tend to be more painful than those farther down the tail.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the most painful tail injuries in dogs involve damage to the nerves and blood supply at the base of the tail. This can happen when a tail is pulled, stepped on, or shut in a door. These injuries require immediate veterinary care to treat the pain and prevent permanent damage.

Overall, the location and extent of a tail injury greatly impacts the level of pain and discomfort a dog experiences. Mild sprains may cause little pain, while fractures and nerve damage can be severely painful and require strong medication until healed.

Recovery Time

The recovery time for a tail injury can range from a few weeks to several months depending on the severity of the damage. Minor abrasions may heal within 2-3 weeks with proper at-home treatment. However, more significant injuries like fractures or infected wounds often require 4-8 weeks to fully heal. In the most severe cases involving nerve damage or amputation, recovery can take 2-3 months. During this time, the dog will likely need to avoid activities that could re-injure the tail. Restricting movement helps ensure proper healing. Throughout the recovery period, follow-up veterinary exams are crucial to monitor the healing process. With patience and care, most dogs make a full recovery within a few months following a tail injury.

Preventing Tail Injuries

someone installing cushioned edges on furniture to prevent dog tail injuries

Preventing tail injuries in dogs starts with dog owners being vigilant and proactive. According to, there are several tips owners can follow to help avoid tail injuries:

  • Supervise your dog closely during playtime and walks to make sure they don’t hit their tail against hard objects.
  • Use baby gates to block off areas with furniture and sharp corners.
  • Install cushioned edges on furniture and other hard surfaces.
  • Keep pathways clear of clutter your dog could knock their tail on.
  • Avoid letting your dog run through narrow spaces.
  • Use a bandage or splint if your dog already has a tail injury.
  • Consider trimming excess fur on long-haired breeds.

With proper supervision and puppy-proofing, owners can reduce the chances of their dog injuring their tail. It’s also important to know the signs of tail injuries so you can get prompt veterinary treatment.


In summary, a dog’s tail can become injured in many ways such as being stepped on, slammed in a door, or hit by a hard object. Signs of a possible broken tail include the dog crying out, bleeding, swelling, holding the tail down or between their legs, and being unable to wag the tail normally. If you suspect a tail injury, take the dog to the vet immediately for an exam and x-rays to check if it is broken. Treatment may include pain medication, splinting the tail, and sometimes amputation for severe breaks. While recovery depends on the location and extent of the injury, most dogs heal within 2-4 weeks with proper care. To help prevent tail injuries, be aware of doorways and other hazards, keep the dog leashed when outside, and teach children to be gentle with the dog’s tail.

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