Happy Tail & What You Need To Know About It

What is Happy Tail and How Does it Happen?

If you own a Belgian Malinois, you most definitely need to acquaint yourself with Happy Tail Syndrome. When I hear the words ‘happy tail‘ I think of something good. In this case, it isn’t. Happy Tail Syndrome, is also known as Kennel Tail, Splitting Tail, and Bleeding Tail. This occurs when a dog wags his tail and forcefully hits it against a hard surface repeatedly. This results in a cut or laceration on the tip of the tail causing it to bleed. This injury can be as simple as a cut that requires wrapping to an infection requiring antibiotics to a partial amputation.

Bleeding tip of dog's tail resembling Happy Tail.

When dogs are happy or excited, they wag their tail. Larger dogs with shorter hair and longer, more powerful tails seem to be more prone to this syndrome. Happy Tail is a condition that is not seen as often in longer haired dogs and smaller canines.

Have you ever given thought to your dog’s tail? It is an extension of his spine and is comprised of bones and muscles that allow it to move as it does. A dog’s tail striking against a hard surface for an extended period of time can cause serious damage. Anyone looking to purchase a Belgian Malinois, or already own one, should be aware of this syndrome and take appropriate action to prevent this injury. If you own or have owned a Malinois, then you already know the power behind your dog’s tail when he starts wagging. I don’t know how many times I have referred to my Malinois’ tail as ‘alligator’ tail!

Prevention of Happy Tail

Prevention of this syndrome is simply knowing your dogs surroundings. You are your dog’s best advocate! Firstly, recognize that bold objects like the corner of wood walls, cabinet corners, coffee tables, kennels, etc. can injure your dog’s tail. Secondly, minimize your dog’s level of excitement around these objects. Lastly, feed a high quality, nutritious diet  and provide adequate vitamins and minerals. This will maintain a strong immune system in your canine and aids in healing if your dog should become injured.

Treatment of Happy Tail

Bandaging of tip of dog's tail recommended for Happy Tail Syndrome

Treatment for this injury depends on the severity. I recommend contacting a veterinarian to have an evaluation of the injury and for instructions on initial wrapping and continued care. Breathable bandages are recommended for wrapping the tail with daily changes to inspect the wound. Depending on the depth of the cut, stitches may be required. If your canine is one who insists on chewing the bandage, a collar may be required.

Cleaning, applying antibiotic ointment and securely wrapping the affected area soon after the injury ensures a quick recovery. The bandage promotes healing and prevents further injury to the tail. But in situations when a dog is able to worsen the injury, such as an extended time of tail wagging against a hard surface, the bleeding tail goes unattended, or the canine is on an inadequate diet the injury may become infected.

In this situation, your vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics over a period of time. Your veterinarian may recommend partial tail amputation in severe cases or in situations where dogs continue to injure their tails.

A Personal Story

I would like you to meet Blitz.

He belongs to Ridgeside K9, LLC and the following photos are courtesy of his owner. He is a very powerful black Belgian Malinois with an extreme drive. Blitz is a retired police dog that suffered a work related injury some time ago. In December of 2018 he underwent his first surgery. In January 2019, he required yet another surgery. The end result was to perform a partial amputation. The combined cost of these surgeries was over $7,000.00!

Happy Tail is a very serious injury for the Malinois breed but you won’t find any images in Google. When I realized this, I reached out to Ridgeside K9 and they were happy to share Blitz’s story which I’m grateful. Feel free to follow the progression of Blitz in Facebook on their Ridgeside K9 page.

As Malinois owners, we are duty-bound to know the potential risks our canine faces. In my opinion, this syndrome does not get enough acknowledgement in dog-related conversations. It is up to us as Malinois owners to educate and increase awareness regarding this potential injury.

People own dogs for all sorts of reasons. I have found that the Belgian Malinois demands interaction with his owner. It is not a choice. This breed is not slack in his energy level nor in his level of excitement. We are obligated to manage our dog’s environment and ward off potential dangers. We all love our canine and none of us want to see our dog hurt in any way.

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