Your dog's tail is part of his personality, like a person's smile. Injuries range from minor problems you can treat yourself to emergencies requiring a trip to the animal hospital. If your dog appears to be bleeding heavily from the tail, take him to the vet, but don't panic.
Since there's a lot of blood flow to the tail, even minor wounds can bleed a lot. If your dog sustains a minor tail wound, wash it gently with an anti-bacterial soap. You may have to muzzle him to avoid him biting or interfering with your efforts. If it's a bite wound, take him to the vet for a rabies shot booster. Also take him to the vet if the wound looks serious upon close inspection. If it's superficial, after washing and rinsing, put antibiotic ointment on it and bandage gently. Place an Elizabethan collar on him so he doesn't chew off the bandage. Alternatively, place bitter apple or a similar safe but bad-tasting substance around the wound. Change the bandage every day or so until it heals. If infection sets in, contact the vet.
If the injury occurs near the base of the tail, closest to his body, take your dog to the vet. Muscles near the tail base aid him in defecation and urination, so any injury in this area could lead to incontinence if not treated promptly and properly. Injuries to the tail tip are usually not a red-alert.
Like a broken leg, a vet must correctly set and splint a broken tail. Don't try this at home. If you suspect a broken tail, take your dog to an emergency vet at once. Once set, the vet will probably put an Elizabethan collar on your dog so he can't get at his tail. A severely broken tail may require amputation.
Also known as a sprained tail, suspect this condition if your dog stops wagging his appendage and seems uncomfortable. It can also be obvious that something is wrong -- the tail may simply hang down loosely. Your dog may not want to lie or sit down. Limber tail often results from overexertion, so if your dog went on a long run with you and is out of shape, this is a possibility. Take your dog to the vet for a complete work-up and diagnosis. Rest and anti-inflammatories usually heal the problem within a week.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.