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Dog tail amputation - what I learned.

Discussion in 'Dog Health and Nutrition' started by Barkley's Mom, Dec 25, 2020.

  1. Barkley's Mom

    Barkley's Mom PetForums Newbie

    Dec 25, 2020
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    When I had to have my 1 year-old boxapoint's tail amputated, there wasn't much out here about what to expect. I found bits and pieces, but had no idea what kind of a horrid journey we were starting. I'm here to share what we ran into: a five-week marathon of pain and sorrow with a happy ending. Barkley was a super happy-tailed dog. He wagged that tail, hit walls and appliances and doorframes and sprayed blood all about the house from the minute he was up until the minute he fell asleep. He was also always whapping his sister, Mazie, a 3-year-old anatolian shepherd mix, in the face and that led to relationship problems. Barkley's tail was amputated on November 17th, 2020. He was sent home with carprofen for the pain and a large, plastic cone of shame for protection. He had a horrible, horrible night and spun around the house or on the couch trying to get at his tail all.night.long. It was terrible. I totally cheated and gave him a carprofen as soon as we got home because he was crying and one in the middle of the night as well as he was just lying there still crying. I feel that he was sent home significantly undermedicated. The next day I called the vet and reported how much pain he was in and they had me come get him some tramadol, which I gave him at six hour intervals instead of eight hours because he was in that.much.pain. He was recuperating on the couch most of the time and I slept in a recliner by the couch. He would spin and spin and spin on that couch, trying to get at his tail, which was heavily wrapped. If he was awake and not eating or peeing, he was spinning. He was also on an antibiotic, and fortunately, he never suffered from infection. He tolerated the meds quite well. He was 80 lbs. or so at the time. His output was always a good color and seemingly normal.

    He started having a few good hours about day three, and he played a bit with the ball outside, but then by day five, he was in horrible, horrible shape and many tears were shed. He was scheduled to have his stitches removed the day after Thanksgiving, about 10 days after surgery, but he was doing so poorly with the pain that I took him into the vet on the 24th - a week after surgery. They removed the bandage and put some salve on his tail. They were going to leave it uncovered, but I was afraid that would be a mistake. They did bandage him up. He was just as miserable when we left the vet as he was when we got there, but we sallied forth as there is nothing else you can do. He did knock the bandage off his tail within 48 hours, but since we were going to be going back in a couple of days, I didn't have it re-bandaged. I was still medicating him heavily to keep him sleeping and resting. It was awful. For a while there he wouldn't eat unless I hand fed him piece by piece and he quit drinking for a while, too, unless I made snow in the blender or put yogurt in his water. Thankfully we had a wonderful snow storm that allowed me to bring him a bowl of snow and feed it to him when he wouldn't eat or drink much.

    He went and had his stitches out on the 27th (Friday). It went horribly. They gave him a shot to calm him down after about 5 minutes of trying to get at the stitches and he still wouldn't have it. They finally gave him an anesthetic that put him all the way out and they took out his stitches. We should have waited a few more days I think because come Sunday, he had split his wound open and was in terrible, terrible pain. I discovered then that I could give him Benadryl to get him to sleep, so I added a Benadryl to the medication rotation. Thank heavens for this pill as it really got him (and me) some rest. We went back to the vet on Monday and she decided to just leave the wound as it was. We did get a laser treatment the day he got his stitches out which I think may have helped. We also tried putting lidocaine on the tail to numb the pain. That seemed to increase his pain so we stopped that!

    We had laser treatments every few days or so for a week and things were looking good. The vet said we could ditch the plastic cone of shame. I changed him from the big plastic cone of shame to a donut collar for a couple of hours and sure enough, he got to the tail and popped open the wound yet again. I put the plastic cone back on and ordered a soft-sided one as a backup. We had another bad week. Finally along about the end of week three, the vet added gabapentin to see if we could calm his tail nerves. I don't think this did much for him. They erred on how many to prescribe and gave us only three days worth and we decided not to get the refill.

    We struggled for another week or so and had a couple more laser treatments and the vet increased the tramadol dosage from one pill to one-and-a-half pills. We were at the vets once or twice a week and Barkley was still spinning a ton. I got the soft-sided cone and put it on him. His tail stub was about 1/2 inch too long and he could still get at it sometimes, so I added the donut collar to keep the soft-sided cone from slipping back and we did pretty well with that. At the end of week four I'd take the cone and collar off for short intervals when I could be with him and watch him to make sure he couldn't get his tail. I then left the donut collar off one day and he got a hold of it and ripped it to shreds, so he was only having to wear the soft-sided cone. Finally at the beginning of week five, a cat sprayed him when he was outside and made his soft-sided cone stink so the cone came off. He has done pretty well since then. He'll still spin every now and then, but we're past the worst of it. We were able to wean off the meds during this last week, and he's med free now.

    So, if you've read this far, let me tell you what I learned:

    1) Make sure the vet cuts the tail short enough that your dog can't get to it easily. Had Barkley's tail been that 1/2-inch shorter, we'd have been much better off and we could have gone to the donut collar sooner and skipped the soft-sided cone.
    2) Make sure your vet sends you home with a well-medicated dog and that they give you carprofen and tramadol from day one.
    3) Resist allowing your dog to play when they start to feel better after a few days. I think that really set us back. I've read of others who got caught here, too.
    4) Don't take the stitches out too early.
    5) Be prepared for the long haul with plenty of bread, peanut butter and cheese slices to hid meds in. :)
    6) Know that things will get better by about week five and that the surgery was probably a good choice.
    7) As an added bonus Barkley's sister, who used to borderline hate him and would not interact with him, has begun to play with him. They may yet become friends. I think she read being whapped in the face with that tail ten or more times a day as him disciplining her or something. It's thrilling to watch them play and sometimes even lie near each other.

    Best of luck if you have to have your dog's tail amputated. It's brutal, but it may well turn out to be worth it. Barkley is back to being that happy-go-lucky, wiggly, tail stub-wagging doll he was before the surgery. I never thought we'd get here, but I'm glad we have.
    Magyarmum likes this.
  2. Happy Paws2

    Happy Paws2 PetForums VIP

    Sep 13, 2008
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    I just couldn't just read and run....

    I'm so sorry that you and your boy have had such a rough time, I can't imagine how hard it was for you watching him suffer, so pleased everything has worked out for him and Barkley is happy again.
    DanWalkersmum likes this.
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