A Not So Happy Tail

I never dreamed that my dog could suffer from a condition called, “Happy Tail” !

Dog in the kitchen

The call came at work, right after my meeting. The phone buzzed furiously next to my laptop. I grabbed it. The voice on the other end was strained.

Honey! Are you okay!” my husband practically shrieked. 

“Yes I’m fine,” I said slowly. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Okaaaay, I thought, THIS is weird!

“Are you sure you’re not bleeding!” Yup, this call just got weirder.

“Honey, there’s blood everywhere! It looks like a crime scene!”  That grabbed my attention! A crime scene? What?!! He told me there were blood splatters all over the white kitchen cupboards and he didn’t know why. And to be honest at that point, neither did I. He said the dogs looked fine so he thought I must be injured.

I glanced down at my pants and jacket looking everywhere for blood but found nothing! What is going on? Then hubby dropped the phone and yelled from the other room. “It’s on the hall closet, too!” Clearly panicked, he told me he’d call me back. 

And he did…an hour later. This time he was much calmer and told me the mystery was solved. It was our black Lab Suri and after calling the vet he told me she had something called Happy Tail.


Happy tail goes by different names: kennel tail, splitting tail and bleeding tail. Here’s how it happens…when your pup, usually a larger breed dog but not always, is happy and excited, they wag their tail back and forth. Sometimes their tails hit objects like furniture, wall corners, doors and walls…anything that has a hard surface. When that happens, it causes a small cut or split on the end of your dog’s tail. This cut bleeds and as they continue to wag their tail the blood flies everywhere…on walls, doors, cabinets and sometimes even the ceiling! Yes, it CAN look very much like a crime scene. 

hound in a field


If you’ve never encountered Happy Tail, it might not seem all that serious. I mean, how serious can a small cut on the end of a dog’s tail be?  Well you would be surprised, especially when you can’t stop the bleeding. And that’s the key, protecting your dog’s tail so that it can heal and so that Rover doesn’t continue splattering your walls with blood. 


Treating Suri was difficult. First, because like most Labs she is naturally a very energetic and sometimes hyper dog. But it’s essential that you clean the cut and bandage it properly. You may get frustrated because it’s NOT easy to bandage a dog’s tail, but don’t resort to ideas like using duct tape, which is not flexible. We tried putting foam rubber around her tail and securing it with adhesive bandages, but she just pulled it off. 


Treating Happy Tail we soon learned was anything but joyful and involved a good deal of patience! After several bandaging attempts, we called the veterinarian again pleading for help. Fortunately, she was ready to save the day. We brought Suri in and after thoroughly cleaning the wound she carefully and securely bandaged her tail. She also recommended an Elizabethan collar, otherwise known as the “cone of shame” to prevent her from taking it off. Once you get home, the bandage has to be changed daily and the wound cleaned to prevent infection.


It took a month before we could safely unbandage Suri’s tail but I was relieved when we could. I learned that more serious treatments were out there if the bandaging didn’t work. Some vets surgically suture the wound or use laser treatments to speed healing. In some cases, dogs damage their tail’s vertebrae or tendons with Happy Tail and need a special device to keep their tails still. In worse case scenarios when the wound won’t heal, vets may opt to amputate the tip of the tail to prevent a widespread infection.


Happy Tail is nothing to smile about!  If you own a large breed dog like a Lab, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or any breed with a long straight tail, keep an eye out for sharp objects around the house that could nick or cause a cut on your dog’s tail and keep them out of tail’s reach. Encourage your dog to calm down when he’s excited, especially when you first come home. Take him for a walk and be sure he gets enough exercise. A well exercised dog is more likely to calm down.