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!


  1. Very interesting. My daughter has a rescue that we think is part Pom with possibly long-haired Chihuahua, Spitz or Papillion mixed in. He has a very small tail nub. The Vet thinks it was surgical or he was born that way. I couldn't understand why someone who do it to a non-Purebred dog. He is about 3 years old and does great with holding his bladder but every time he is left alone he leaves a BM on the rug. We thought it was an anxiety issue, but now I wonder if it is related to the tail nub. He doesn't exhibit any signs of pain or distress.
    Jeanne P

    1. Hi Jeanne! Whomever docked his tail was ridiculously clueless because not a single one of those breeds is ever docked! His behavior certainly could be his tail nub. Anxiety also feeds into tail nub nerve pain because whether it's nervousness, fear or excitement because everyone came home, the tail is how they communicate, how their brain shows emotions of all kinds. So there certainly could be a correlation. His anal glands might also be giving him serious trouble (again associated with the docking quite often but not always), so have them checked to see if they are full.
      Thank you so much for visiting, reading and commenting on the blog. Please come back and visit soon!

  2. With so many health problems that dogs already have to deal with, it just makes me so sad that people would willingly inflict another one on their own dog just to make it "look better". I don't see what's so bad about having a nice long tail anyways!

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  5. Poor Pixel, I hope she is thriving and doing well. Most dogs have pains that we are not even aware of. My sister has a Pomeranian who she doesn't know have pain in the rear end. Thanks to an article which she has seen, she was able to bring her dog to the vet right away. I think it's important that we don't give pain medications to our dogs unless prescribed by our vets. Some people's meds are not suitable for animals so consult your vet and see this informative site dealing with pet pains. Hop on to

  6. I have a black and tan coonhound who suffered a tail injury that required docking. We have been trying to get it to heal for more than 6 months. We have used gabapentin for nerve pain tried steroids and inflammatory meds for swelling. Nothing is working. She continues to bite and chew and lick it at every opportunity. She wore a cone for 3 months. We are desperate. The tail is mangled and raw and we are thinking it will never heal! Not to mention the endless vet bills we are paying. We have been to 2 different vets and neither seems to know how what else to do.

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