Sunday, August 17, 2014

7 Ways to Help a Dog with Docked Tail Pain

No pet parents wants to see or know that their precious dog is in pain or discomfort of any kind. So when I found out Pixel was in great distress from her docked tail, I wanted to do something about it. Remedy the issue for her, take the pain away, help her feel better. As with anything, it is an ongoing process where I am constantly learning, growing and updating my tactics to help give her relief.

It is important to repeatedly share articles and information on signs that a docked tail dog is suffering due to the docking. A dog's tail is so important, and aids in every aspect of their life, from communication to balance to healthy & successful bowel function, so there are all kinds of symptoms and behaviors that are associated with a dog who is suffering from docked tail pain and discomfort. One of my most recent posts again highlights 10 signs of docked tail pain in a dog. It is so important to keep sharing this information. Right now I want to focus on how to help your pet deal with and get through the pain, discomfort and challenges that docked tail dogs can experience.

My  sweet little Pixel has suffered for as long as I've been blessed to be her Mommy, which is more than 6 years. Once I finally caught on to what was truly happening with her, I was continually trying things to help ease her pain, her anxiety about the pain, and help make things easier for her. My focus has always been to try and think of things through her eyes, through her feelings and to put myself in her place to try and find comforting solutions. This does not include the fact that I went to vet after vet, tried medicine after medicine, and never stopped fighting to be heard about a very real and valid issue plaguing many thousands of dogs just like Pixel.

7 Ways to Help a Dog with Docked Tail Pain
Here are just a few things you can do to help ease the stress from the stabbing and stinging nerve pain of a docked tail dog:

1. Set up a 'safe place' where your dog can go to, such as a comfortable crate, or a soft bed that is just theirs. Make sure you can easily access them if needed, for both the safety and the comfort of the dog. Pixel used to (and still does if she gets the chance) go under the bed and refuse to come out when her tail gives her a fit, even though she knows the "come" command very well. So I have a large soft sided crate that has thick foam flooring, warm blankets, and toys, that she can run into to "hide" from her tail monsters if need be. I can then go get her from her 'safe hiding place' and comfort her. Sometimes I allow her to remain in there if one of her sisters comes to lay with her and I can watch them, making sure that Pixel is not chewing on her tail. This photo shows Peanut, her older sister, comforting her.

2. Put a sweater or t-shirt on the dog. Amazingly, clothing deters Pixel from biting at her tail most of the time. If this does not prevent chewing or biting, a blow up neck collar works great at protecting your dog's tail from your dog's mouth. It allows the dog much more freedom to move, eat and play (if they feel like it during a flair up) than a conventional "E-collar" which gets caught on walls, corners, and limits your dog's field of view.

3. Help your dog snuggle into a comfy bed and gently wrap them in a blanket if possible. Have blankets or throws in various places that they can burrow under if that is something they like. Pixel has always felt that a "cave-like area" under a blanket was a safe place during tail pain. I am always making blanket caves for her or covering her up. If she wants out, she can get out. She usually just gets lulled to sleep in a cocoon of warmth.

4. Sit and comfort them by petting them, stroking a cupped hand over the butt and tail nub area. This helps Pixel feel as though I am "protecting" the tail nub I think. Sometimes I will literally sit while watching TV with her or when we go to sleep and night, with my hand covering her tail nub gently. I find I do that out in public too when she's in her special carrier, to protect it from being bumped.

5. Talk to your vet about your concerns. There are medications and supplements that can help. For example, Pixel is on Neurontin for the nerve pain and a drug free supplement called 'Composure' that has Colostrum, the natural occurring hormone that puppies get from their mother when nursing. I feel this has helped her just in general with the anxiety of her tail issues and I remember seeing a marked difference in her on the very first day. Pixel also takes Valerian Root in a supplement called "Calming" which has Triptophan and Chamomile in it as well. Valerian is highly regarded as a nerve pain reducer. It seems to benefit Pixel daily.

6. Be understanding, slow to anger and quick to forgive when your docked tail dog has bathroom accidents, even when they go in a seemingly odd and highly inappropriate place. Whether they are paper trained inside or are yard trained, there will be times when they cannot hold it, or might run from their bowel movements due to pain, distress or discomfort. So, for example, if they are paper trained, and you find a rogue log on the rug or hassock, they might have just been running away from a BM and it fell at the wrong spot. A rug, or furniture is not nearly as important as understanding the suffering that some docked tail dogs must endure. We can always wash something, but having a dog that always feels punished will only make their situation worse. They cannot help what they are dealing with.

7. Corrective surgery is an option, and one that we chose for Pixel when all else seemed to fail. We had tried every other avenue, but she only got worse and worse. As my precious Pixel's personality and quality of life was disappearing, surgery gave her a much better quality of life. She still has pain, still has some of the issues mentioned in the list of symptoms, but she is infinitely better now than she was before the surgery in 2012.

*When you talk with your vet about your concerns regarding your docked tail dog's issues, make sure they take you seriously. If you feel dismissed in any way, find another vet. Your dog's needs, feeling and suffering is real, it is valid and they deserve to be addressed.

Remember, our dogs depend on us to see what is wrong and help find solutions for them. Never stop seeking answers and don't ever let anyone tell you that a dog is not worth "all the fuss". Their love, devotion and companionship are worth far more than we could ever give.

Do you have particular things you do to help your dog get through painful times, whether from tail docking or something else? We'd love to have you share your experience in a comment!

10 Signs that a Dog is Having Docked Tail Pain & Issues

From the first day I had Pixel, when she was around 3 months old, I saw some unusual behaviors surrounding her tail nub. It took me a while to understand what she was dealing with, but once I got the connection, I studied her every move, action, behavior and response to things. Between studying Pixel's tail nub issues, doing extensive research on amputation and nerve pain, studying dog anatomy, and talking with veterinarians, I came up with a list of symptoms and behaviors to help pet parents identify if their dog is having dock tail issues or pain.

Since starting No Tail Left Behind in April, 2012, I have been contacted by hundreds of pet parents and rescue groups concerned about their docked tail dogs who exhibit symptoms and behaviors telling them that the dog is suffering in some form from their tail nub and surrounding area. The symptoms range in variety and severity. Some pet parents have said statements such as, "He doesn't seem to have any trouble with it, but he sure doesn't want anyone touching his tail nub because he snarls if you even brush up against it on accident." That's just one of many things I've been told by pet parents before they realized that their dog does have issues of pain or struggles with their tail nub. If you find yourself thinking or saying, "My dog doesn't have any pain from her docked tail but..." then there probably is a problem your dog is dealing with...alone. That's why No Tail Left Behind is here though, to help figure these things out so you as pet parents don't have to figure it out on your own.

10 signs that a puppy or adult dog is having pain, irritation or difficulties with a docked tail:
1. Biting, licking, 'chasing' or whining at the tail or back end. They also might be overly sensitive about having a fellow dog sniff or touch their back end.
2. Hiding under a bed, in a corner or in a crate, if they have one, for long periods of time.
3. Isolation from the family or laying alone in a back room, often with a distant look on their face.
4. Refusing to come when called, even when they know the command well. They might even look straight at you as you call, just sitting in their bed, in the corner, etc, refusing to move.
5. Difficulty potty training, either on indoor puppy pads or outside. It took Pixel several extra months to grasp potty training.
6. Difficulty having a normal bowel movement, including running away from a BM as it is occurring.
7. Incontinence, or unexplained potty accidents, even if they are fully potty trained.
8. Redness, inflammation, scaling or infections at the tail nub tip. Pixel is 6 years old and hers still gets red and inflamed at times.
9. The dog acting like they are in trouble or are being punished, including crying out, yelping, or even nipping at someone who tries to pick up the dog, or touch the back end near the tail.
10. Getting excited over a loved one coming home or a fun play time, and then suddenly yelping and 'going after their tail'. Sometimes, when Pixel gets excited to see me, her tail gives her a fit. She can't even show how happy she is to see her Mommy without her tail stinging and hurting her. Excitement runs through the nerves in her tail nub as she wags with joy.

This is certainly not the end-all list of signs and symptoms, but it is a good place to start. So watch your dock tail dog(s) closely, and if you start seeing any of these signs or other unusual behavior, even if it appears to be "acting out" behavior, keep notes, keep track, and talk to your vet. You can always contact us either here or on our No Tail Left Behind Facebook, Twitter or through email.