How Could a Condition Called “Happy Tail” be Bad?

Happy Tail is my favorite name for a medical condition, but it is also one of my least favorite things to see.

Happy Tail is my favorite name for a medical condition, but it is also one of my least favorite things to see.  It saddens me that such a sweet expression of joy as tail wagging can result in injury.  Even worse – if a dog refuses to be discouraged by injury (as dogs are prone to do because they are awesome) and continues to wag, this can result in chronic happy tail.  And worst of all – you are the one who is stuck dealing with the frustrations of happy tail, all because you have a happy dog who refuses to be discouraged by life’s hardships who also happens to have a strong butt and a long, beautiful tail .

Great Dane Statue by Louise Peterson, Summit County Colorado

What is Happy Tail?

Happy tail is the name of a condition caused when a dog injures the tip of the tail secondary to wagging it against something hard, such as a kennel wall or end table.  Usually the cut is initially superficial, but because of its location at the end of the tail, bleeds quite a bit, does not heal quickly and is prone to recur.

Who Is at Risk?

Happy dogs with short fur, strong butts and long, beautiful tails are prone to happy tail.  The condition follows breed lines only because of the temperament and conformation of certain breeds, not because there is a genetic component.  It truly is a straight-forward simple trauma, which, because of its location is very difficult to get to heal.  Commonly affected dogs include Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bulls, Greyhounds and Great Danes.  Any dog with a strong tail wag, a long tail and poorly cushioned tail tip is at risk.

What are the Signs?

A cut or wound on the tail tip is the hallmark sign of this condition.  Because of the vascular nature of the tail tip and the wagging that occurs even after injury, the injury will cause anywhere from a small amount of bleeding to a Dexter episode-worthy splatter pattern.  As scary as this can be to see, the amount of blood lost is rarely dangerous.  The frustration of the injury comes in getting the tail to heal and the injury to not recur.

To the Vet’s!

Your veterinary team will assess the injury, determine if antibiotics and/or pain medication are warranted, and attempt to place a secure, padded bandage on a tapered tail that does not want to stop wagging!  The bandage will be changed regularly until the tail tip has healed.

In so far as it depends on you, try to keep your dog’s butt away from hard surfaces as the tail heals.

In chronic, non-healing cases, the veterinary team and family may decide together to have the tail partially amputated to prevent further injury.  Most cases will be able to be successfully medically managed.

Happy Tail can be a frustrating, long road for families whose dogs are dealing with this condition.  If you have words of encouragement, please share them here.

See full size image

35 thoughts on “How Could a Condition Called “Happy Tail” be Bad?

  1. My dog ( Am Staff) recently had happy tail for about a month and it wouldn’t heal. Even after 3 trips to the vet he decided he had enough and decided to chew about 2 inches of his own tail off. The end result was having his tail amputated and now he was a 4 inch nub left!

    1. Omg. My dog has had happy tail on and off for about 2 years… I have been noticing that the tip is completely black, and surrounding skin is pink and occasionally bleeds if he hits it right.

  2. Both of my male greyhounds are tail-amputees caused by Happy Ttail. One has half of his tail left, the other only about 4 or 5 inches. I tell people not to tell the dogs that they don’t have full tails, becuase they still wag them as if there was a whole tail back there. Them having shorter tails does not make me love them less. It’s actually less stressful for me, since I don’t worry about a long tail that can get slammed in doors! 🙂

  3. My sharpei/lab mix has a small wart looking sore on her tail about the size of a small watch battery. she has banged it several time and blood spatters everywhere. it heals and looks like a raised wart until she hits it again. peroxide works well for clean up. but…no one has mentioned it their dogs cuts from wall hitting look like a raised wart. the vet said it was a wart but i am not sure if warts bleed like this when being banged against a wall. i was thinking more like a cyst or some sort. she is due to go back to the vet to have it checked. i am curious if blood pools in the sore spots and forms a round sore looking similar to a wart or cyst. thank you.

  4. Have a amputated tail dog that is much less stressed now that not in pain from banging sore tail against everything. Happy tail dogs are very hard to heal without surgery.

  5. Most of the time this happens in shelters with a frightened lonely dog. It is sad that we allow living beings to suffer such trauma.

    1. Yes, I just adopted a sweet female Pit Mix from our local “kill shelter”, and she came with Happy Tail syndrome, mange, kennel cough and is skin and bones. And while dealing with these issues, the shelter went ahead and spayed her. Somehow, she’s incredibly sweet.

  6. I have a 3 year old boxer that yes still has his tail. We are now going through this blood spattering event for the second time. It took a long time to fix it the first time and I am now going through it again. It will heal but it is an exhausting task. We go through a cleaning ritual every night. He doesn’t fight it anymore. He knows the routine and just summits to the soaking, spraying, antibiotic cream, wrapping, wrapping, and some more wrapping. We end with his favorite…cheese, a little rescue remedy and it is time for nite nite on the bed. Got to love the family!

  7. My 6 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever had happy tail as a pup. It took 5 months to heal. I just came home and found my kitchen looking like a crime scene. It appears round 2 is here. Last time I cut the bottom out of M&M mini containers and placed it over the end of her tail using self grip bandage tape. It protected her tail from getting banged while allowing air so it could heal. I just read that a grain free diet could help. Anyone try this?

    1. I read about the grain free diet as well but what does that have to do with the tail,does it make the tail stronger so it doesn’t get cut as easy?

  8. Through trial and error and several vet visits, I’ve found the best way to handle this. I have a 70 pound pit bull/foxhound mix. Don’t bandage the tip of the tail. Use medical or sports tape to attach one end of a hair elastic to the tail, 3-4″ above the tip. Attach a second hair elastic to the first, and slide the second hair elastic onto one of the rear legs. It should be loose. This will prevent the tail from whacking into things which will allow it to heal. You can also easily slide it off the leg in case the dog will not poop with it on.

    I also had an issue with the dog chewing bulky bandages off before we found this solution. He has a skinny, long neck and a very long tail. This meant that none of the e-collars could keep him from getting to his tail. After going through several different setups, I found one that worked. I bought a small e-collar and a large e-collar and attached them to each other with zip ties. I had to punch extra holes in the plastic to allow me to fasten them together with zip ties. This made an extra deep collar. I only used this setup while the dog was unsupervised because it’s very cumbersome.

  9. I found the perfect solution to help get your dog’s tail tip to heal:

    Items needed:
    Vet wrap
    Sports Tape
    Finger Splint with (metal covering)
    Dog cone: (recommend using inflatable one)


    Medicine if needed:

    **May need assistance, to help keep your dog from moving.**

    All the items listed can be purchased at your local pharmacy all together for about $20 – $25
    Except the dog cone I recommend the inflatable one it’s easier on your dog’s
    neck, this can be purchased at a Pet shop, I know Petsmart has them.
    Depending on size about $20 – $40.


    First apply Neosporine to affected area.

    Next wrap your dog’s tail tip in the vet wrap. Cut to size. I recommend at least 1″ to 1.5″

    Next place the finger splint over vet wrap/over tail tip.

    Squeeze the finger splint together to make it more snug. Do not squeeze too much, may hurt dog in process.
    Next wrap the sports tape around finger splint and up onto tail at least 3″ – 4″ on the tail
    above where the finger splint ends. This is key otherwise when your dog wages their tail it will fly off.
    Then place dog cone around your dog’s neck this will help your dog from getting at their tail.
    However your dog may still be able to get at tail. The metal on the finger splint will help to discourage
    your dog from biting If your dog is persistent i then recommend buying a spray that
    will discourage your dog from biting the area.

    Change the bandage every day or at most every other day to prevent infection.

  10. I work in a boarding kennel, and we see this quite a lot. I’ll come in in the morning, and see blood streaks on the kennel wall. It looks gruesome, but the dog rarely even recognizes that it’s hurt. I had a Weimaraner bust his tail open once, and when I got in his kennel to bandage him up, he hopped right in my lap and totally oblivious to his injury, he licked my face and wagged his tail and splattered my shirt with blood. It looks a lot worse to the people seeing the blood than it really is. He was just happy as can be.

  11. We are on day 12 of the daily blood spatter with our mutt (terrier mix). She has been chewing off the bandaging so we just got a v colar from the vet! I like all of the tips they are going to be very helpful. She is 7 and never had this before so I hope it gets better quickly and does not re-occurr!

  12. Thanks for all the comments posted. I can relate to all of these comments. We have taken our dog to the vet several times, we wrap it, clean it, it falls off, he keeps licking it, reward it; it is just not getting better. I have even wrapped it in the pipe insulation, vet wrap, add sports wrap to secure it. May I add, my son is a vet tech, pup is on antibiotics, and pain meds, nothing seems to help. I am sadden as I know he is not feeling well. It doesn’t stop him as he is full of energy and good spirits. I am going to try the splint next, will keep you posted. Thanks again for posting!!!

  13. My sharpei wags his tail so hard that the last 2 inches of his tail is bare of fur. And he whips his back end, right above his legs, such that he ha bald spots on both sides. Thankfully I haven’t had the bloody mess!

  14. Hi all
    we have a 2 year old Great Dane bitch that came to us with a chunk missing off her tail, (back in May 2014) bled all the time as she is a very happy girl and she kept banging it on things and of course it bled profusely. The vet covered it with Manuka honey bandaged it for a week and it has healed up beautifully, even now when she bangs her tail against things it has not happened since. It has actually calloused over, so cross fingers all good permanently. Best of luck to all, but I would at least try it!

  15. The tails of my rottweiler puppies were recently docked. I lost two of the puppies as a result of sores which developed at the site. Another one is getting affected, what can i do?

  16. Hi I have a 1 1/2 yr old pit. He is handsome lets my 3 ypung boys cluddle play and ride him lol very loving. But he has had happy tail and I am wondering if u can “dock” that last 2inches of his tail off at home. He loves car rides but I dont want to stress him out by going to the vet. He is at the point where I have blood splatters on my walls, he constantly chews his tail. Trying to get it off. I have been using medical treatment but it heals and in few weeks its back 🙁 any ideas?

    1. I also have a pitbull who is around 2 years old. I adopted him with “happy tail” he painted my whole house the first night! But I wrapped it regularly with gauze and medical tape(sometimes neosporin) not too tight bc then it would irritated him and he would mess with it. But not loose enough that it will fling off. I also started wrapping the tape a little further up his tail(past the gauze) and it stayed on. I kept it wrapped during the day and let it air out at night. It’s been about a month and it’s almost completely healed. All of the scabbing is gone and the hair has started to grow back. Hope I could help!

    2. NO YOU CANNOT DOCK A TAIL AT HOME if you think going to the vet will be stressful how do you possibly expect HOME SURGERY would go any better?????

  17. Hi all,
    My Labrador has the Happy Tail problem, this is my second visit to the vet. I think wrapping will not heal, every time we un wrap it get hurts again. I only see two options, to dock it or wrap it forever. I think I prefer the latter. Is there any known solution to this affection?
    If not, had anyone choose to wrap the tail forever? How is life like for you either wrapping and healing forever or after amputation?

  18. I have been dealing with this condition in my overly loving and extremely happy rescue dane (i’ve had 4 danes total none of the previous have ever wasted their energy with such waggings) it has been about 3 months of trials and tribulations. If someone were to come through my house with one of those florescent body fluid lights my walls would be a kaleidoscope of bodily fluids. I have started using a clorex cleaner with telfon which seems to makes clean up a bit easier, which is the one thing i can add to help anyone dealing with this condition. I really appreciate everyones comments and will be testing many of the suggestions i have found here. Thank you to all and good luck with your loving happy four legged family members

  19. Also i wonder as i have not explored the possiableility of amputation. What are he costs to do so and what is the healing period for this type of a proceedure for and adolescent? And what are any other issues that might arise that my dog might have to deal with?

  20. This seems to be a common Great Dane issue. (Which incidentally spreads the blood like a piece of modern art to the ceiling!!)
    I accidentally trapped the very tip of my girls tail in the car door 8 months ago, and.I have tried EVERyTHING (I think) to avoid amputation.
    Every type of banging, hollow items, hard covers, light bandaging, cotton wood and very sticky tape, a huge range of antibiotics; honey, aloe vera, wound powder, Germaline, salt water wash, etc etc.
    She can chew off any substance known to man in seconds.
    No collars, cones or deterrents have worked.

    I now cant find any new suggestions and it still splits open, gets infected and clearly hurts her sometimes.
    My vet told me it would never heal and to amputate the first time I took her with it, and keeps reminding me ….. I guess he is right. 🙁

  21. We are dealing with this with one of our Great Danes. We have tried everything, but he keeps whacking it and will pull bandages off, even with a cone on his head. Seeing the vet tomorrow to talk about amputation of the tail.

  22. my lab mix is 8 months and just got happy tail while at the doggy daycare.. Grrr! She is on sedatives for a few days and crated… only out of the crate to walk on a leash to potty. I removed the bandage they initially put on to stop the bleeding at the vet. thanks for the solutions if this doesn’t heal up quickly, I will be trying some of these. I really don’t want her to lose her long beautiful tail!

  23. Our 10 year old happy tail girl left what looked like a crime scene a few days ago all over walls, baseboard, appliances, cabinets, etc literally right after my hubby painted walls and replaced baseboards (for wider). Took 2 hours to carefully clean it all. We have a big house and are downsizing and about to list this one. Happy tail results could literally scare potential buyers away. Read on another site about using the split foam cylinder pipe insulation found in plumbing sections of places like Lowe’s and covering end section of tail with that over bandage and then somehow wrapping it all up in a way that will prevent her from flinging off when she wags. We are trying that tonight.

  24. I can’t find any information about after care. When we 1st got our dog, he got Happy Tail, but we now know how to handle him when he gets excited. The tip does look like a huge wart – best way to explain it, or a mushroom that’s starting to dry out with criss cross cracks all over. How do I get that to go away and what would I use? I’ve been putting coconut oil on it, but I’m not seeing any changes or that it’s healing to a flat normal looking tail tip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.