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To fix a dog's kinked tail, it would be firstly important knowing why the tail is kinked in the first place.

A dog's tail is not just an aesthetic addition – it is a significant body part responsible for communication and even mobility and balance. 

Therefore, it is only logical to wonder whether dogs with kinked tails experience disadvantages. And more importantly, how and why do dogs get kinked tails? Is there anything that we can do to help?

In this article, we will talk about dogs with kinked tails. We will discuss the anatomy and physiology of a normal dog tail and then go into detail on what medical conditions may cause a kinked tail – from genetic abnormalities and pups being born with kinked tails to tail fractures to the limber tail syndrome. 

Finally, we will give some helpful first aid tips for tail injuries.

A Lesson in Anatomy 

A dog's tail is the most caudal extension of the spine and is built the same way as the backbone itself. 

The tail bones are called vertebrae - they are much more prominent at the base and then get smaller as they approach the tip of the tail. 

Depending on the breed, dogs have between 6 and 23 tail (caudal) vertebrae.

Just like the backbone vertebrae, the tail bones are separated from each other with soft discs that cushion the joint space. The purpose of these discs is to prevent the two bone surfaces from rubbing and to support flexibility.

In addition to bones and disc cushions, the tail consists of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. 

The muscles and nerves are responsible for movement facilitation while the blood vessels supply nourishment to the different tail tissues and structures.

Dog Breeds With Short, Rudimentary Tails

Despite the fact that tails are an extension of the spine, some dogs do not have tails or they are born with extra short (rudimentary) tails. For example, here is a list of tail-less dog breeds:

  • Boston Terrier
  • French Bulldog
  • English Bulldog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
  • Braque du Bourbonnais
  • Pug
  • Brittany Spaniel

What Causes Kinked Tails in Dogs?

Obviously, dogs with no tails have no problems (at least when it comes to kinked tail issues). However, dogs with tails sometimes experience the kinked tail phenomenon.

 There are several kinked tail reasons, and each requires a different approach. Let's take a closer look at the various underlying problems and possible solutions.

Scenario Number 1: Hemivertebra, Dogs Born with Kinked Tails

Some dogs are born with kinked tails. The medical term for such a situation is "hemivertebra. "Hemivertebra (HV), or popularly kink tail.

This condition basically develops when the spine bones or vertebrae grow incorrectly and, instead of being normally shaped (rectangular or spool-shaped), become wedge-shaped (more triangular-like).

Hemivertebra is a genetic condition and is particularly common among certain dog breeds (dogs with screw tails like Boston Terriers, Pugs, English, and French Bulldogs but also German Shepherd Dogs, Gordon Setters, and German Shorthaired Pointers).

 The kink can occur anywhere along the spine, but the tail is the only place where it can be seen from the outside.

Tail kinks are relatively harmless – they do not impact the functionality of the tail, and they are painless. However, they do pose an aesthetic challenge if you plan on raising a show dog.

It should be noted that many breeders believe they should exclude pups with kinked tails from breeding. To a certain point, this seems logical since the condition can be passed to the offspring. However, as mentioned, tail kinks are visible from the outside, but the pup or its siblings may have hemivertebra in parts of the backbone. 

The Hemivertebra on the cervical or thoracic region of the spine can be harmful.

Therefore, before breeding a dog, you need to test its spine and, yes, exclude it from breeding. However, if you already bred the dog or your dog accidentally ended up pregnant, and one pup has a kinked tail, you need to scan the spines of all puppies.

Can You Fix a Dog's Kinked Tail from Hemivertebra?

More minor tail kinks can be straightened during the first days of life when the tail structures are still soft and easily manipulated. 

Splinting the kinked part with a paper masking tape proves helpful in many situations (the splint must not be very tight, needs to be changed every 2-3 days, and practiced for around 10-12 days).

In cases of severe kink deformity, vets recommend amputating the tail. However, this radical approach is only ethical if the deformity affects the dog’s wellbeing.

'Screw tail' in a pug due to the malformation of the vertebrae in the tail (hemivertebra)

'Screw tail' in a pug due to the malformation of the vertebrae in the tail (hemivertebra)

Scenario Number 2: Dogs with Tail Fractures

Dog tail fractures are more common than you might think. This is because, essentially, the tail is made of vertebrae, and like all bones, vertebrae can break. 

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The underlying cause is always traumatic and includes car hits, falling off beds, porches, or other elevated surfaces, or having the tail accidentally slammed within a door.

Whether the tail fracture is serious or not depends on the location. Fractures at the tip of the tail are less severe than fractures near the base as they often involve nerve damage (hence permanent consequences).

Can You Fix a Dog's Kinked Tail From a Fracture? 

Sadly, the options are pretty limited in terms of treatment – you cannot put a cast on the dog's tail and hope the tail will straighten. 

Generally speaking, there are two treatment approaches – leaving the tail to heal on its own (while ensuring proper pain relief and cage rest) or, if the bones are crushed, amputating the tail.

In the first case, if the tail is left to heal on its own, it goes without saying there will be a permanent kink (which luckily only has an aesthetic impact), and the dog will be able to move the tail from the base to the point of the kink (the rest will be non-functioning).

A permanent kink may be seen in dogs with a a tail injury

A permanent kink may be seen in dogs with a a tail injury

Scenario number 3: Limber Tail Syndrome in Dogs

Limber tail in dogs is known by many names – acute caudal myopathy, swimmer’s tail, cold water tail, dead tail, rudder tail, limp tail, broken wag, etc.

 Regardless of the slang you prefer, the situation is the same – the dog’s tail looks limp and does not wag.

The limber tail can occur in any dog, but it is more common in physically active (hunting and working) dogs. The chances of developing a limber tail are even higher if the dog has been resting for longer and is out of working condition (like, for example, on the first day of the hunting season).

The limber tail develops due to spraining or straining (overuse result) of the muscle groups responsible for moving the tail. In addition to overuse, the condition can also be caused by exposure to cold – hunting/working in low ambient temperatures or swimming in cold water.

The telltale signs of limber tail include a visible tail kink that looks droopy, difficulty standing up (the tail is essential for balance), inability to find a comfortable position, frequent shifting from side to side, reluctance to squat and defecate. Because of the pain, the dog may refuse to eat and drink and act cranky or lethargic.

Can You Fix a Dog's Tail Kink Due to Limber Tail?

Limber tail cases in dogs are managed by ensuring cage rest and providing pain relief (usually non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs like meloxicam). Remember, you must never use human pain meds in dogs unless instructed to do so by the vet.

As for prevention, if you have a working or hunting dog, it is vital to keep it in shape all year round, not just during active seasons. Also, it goes without saying that swimming in cold waters should be avoided, and proper doggy apparel should be worn when it is too cold.

The causes of tail injuries in dogs can be several

The causes of tail injuries in dogs can be several

Other Causes of Tail Injuries in Dogs

The dog’s tail is prone to various injuries and conditions. Here is a list and brief review of the most common tail injuries in dogs:

Abrasions & Lacerations – wagging the tail against abrasive surfaces can result in superficial abrasions or simple scrapes.

 Lacerations are deeper cuts and are usually self-inflicted (excessive tail biting due to allergies, anal gland issues, or behavioral problems like anxiety and boredom).

Avulsion Injuries – such injuries occur when the tail is strenuously pulled or stretched, causing nerve damage (tearing or severing). 

Avulsion injuries can be quite severe. Namely, depending on which nerve the injury affected, the dog may become incontinent (lose control over urination and/or defecation).

Happy Tail Syndrome – despite the enthusiastic name, this is not a simple issue.

 Happy tail syndrome develops in dogs that wag their tails excessively and repeatedly hit them on walls, furniture, and other surfaces. The constant trauma often results in permanent tail damage (non-healing wounds).

First Aid For Tail Injuries in Dogs 

We often overlook tail injuries which is a mistake considering the complications they may entail. In case your dog gets its tail injured, it is best advised to seek immediate veterinary attention.

In case of a traumatic injury that results in an open wound and bleeding, you need to stop the bleeding and rush to the emergency room.

 If there are no visible wounds, but the tail is obviously injured (swollen, painful, or weirdly positioned), call the vet and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Concluding Thoughts on Kinked Tails in Dogs 

Kinked tail in dogs occurs as a result of genetic abnormalities, tail fractures, and limber tail syndrome.

 In such cases, veterinary help is warranted – to ensure immediate relief as the conditions can be painful and, if possible, to fixing the kinked tail position.

Therefore, if your dog’s tail suddenly looks kinked, call your trusted veterinarian and get to the bottom of the situation. 

The sooner you seek help, the sooner your dog’s tail will be healed (maybe still kinked but painless).

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