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Friday, 7 August 2009

A sorry tail

I have a two-year-old GSD rescued last December from the RSPCA. He had been a 'yard dog' chained outside with another five-year-old female GSD (possibly his mother) who sadly, due to self-mutilation resulting in the loss of part of her tail, had to be put to sleep. My dog, Charlie, is a beautiful, very large GSD with a slightly deformed front leg.
Our problem is that he has a cyst about a third of the way down his tail which has turned ulcerated on two occasions, each time subsiding after treatment with antibiotics from our very kind vet. As it is a rather large cyst our vet has recommended surgery to remove it if or when it becomes ulcerated again (which I am sure it will). If surgery takes place the wound will apparently have to be treated as an 'open wound' as there is not going to be enough skin to join together and the worst scenario appears to be amputation! This is not a road we want to go down so can anyone offer any suggestions on what to do or how to treat this ailment?
Lesley Phillips, Shepperton, Middlesex

Alison Logan, vet, advises:
I can sympathise with your dilemma from both sides of the consulting table. I remember one Labrador whose tail was successively shortened after initially damaging the tip because it would not heal. We fought as hard as we could over months but to no avail, and she ended up with a stump which did heal (and she went on to live into old age).
As an owner, our Labrador’s tail was accidentally caught in a door so that the tip had to be removed. Pippin is a real monkey when it comes to dressings and sutures, so all were removed within hours of surgery! I re-dressed it repeatedly, but after a week was reduced to tears when it was weeping pus! I simply did not want her to lose any more of her tail, especially as I knew we would simply be back at square one with a renewed battle for it to heal.
I had not been a fan of the Elizabethan collar, but did resort to fitting one on Pippin. She became a model patient, allowing me to remove it for her to eat at meal-times and then sitting for me to put it back on. It was almost as if she was glad that she would not be able to lick and nibble at the end of her poor tail.
With Elizabethan collar in place, the shuttlecock-like tail-tip protector worked like a dream. She wore the collar increasingly intermittently but especially at night and when left on her own, and the shuttlecock all the time. Two months passed, and I began to wonder when I would dare to leave them off altogether. As so often happens, the decision was made for me when we drove up to the north Norfolk coast to look at the seals in the wild. Somewhere along the beach, she shed the shuttlecock, and that was it! She paid no attention to her tail, the fur grew back (even over the end) and you really would not know to look at it, bar the 2cm shortening.
So, I would explain to your vet your misgivings, if you have not done so already. With this cyst being prone to ulceration, then removal of the mass is a rational step to take next. I would have thought that you would be stacking the odds in favour of a successful outcome if it is removed when not ulcerated, rather than waiting for it to ulcerate again. Healing will require much dedication on your part aided, I would suggest, by use of an Elizabethan collar.

Pennie Clayton, Canine Bowen Therapist, says...
By the sound of things this lovely dog has had an awful lot to contend with in his life. He will have experienced a lot of stress, and grief in his previous life, especially after losing his companion (whether it was his mother or not).
It is not surprising in these cases that ill health of one kind or another occurs after these sorts of experiences. A dog who has lived a life such as he had before you rescued him, will have suffered from stress. Long term stress leads to tiredness and an inability to deal with both physical and mental needs on a day-to-day basis, resulting in low energy, health problems and ultimately a body is unable to cope or function as well as it should.
While Bowen Technique does not treat specific conditions it can be incredibly beneficial in cases such as this. Bowen often starts by addressing the least obvious problems and often very small changes (which are easy to miss) will be the priority of a dog's system. (In cases like this dogs may first appear to be more chilled or energised before any healing is observed.)
In the case of a cyst like this dog is experiencing, which seems to be a recurrent problem, Bowen therapy by promoting relaxation can help the dog's body to return to a stage where healing can start to take place. Bowen is a great therapy in cases like this, and I have worked with a horse who had appalling injuries, that healed faster than predicted by her vet, when her antibiotics were backed up by a Bowen session once a week.
Bowen is also a good step to take as it is very gentle and non-invasive and will not cause discomfort when it is received. It is recommended that dogs receive at least three sessions of Bowen so that the maximum amount of benefit can be received. Because each dog is an individual, each Bowen session will be tailored to how much your dog needs, and it is important that any recommendations that the therapist makes are followed up.
Visit to find a list of fully trained and insured Canine Bowen therapists in your area.


  1. Annette Courtney Labradoodle Breeder7 August 2009 at 08:20

    I had a very similar problem with my shetland pony, we tryed all sorts of antibiotics, as a last resort somone suggested Manuka Honey 15% , you can buy it at Sainsburys for £10.99,Obviously you will have to use a collar otherwise he may like the taste, If you can pack the wound if it is ulcerated at present all well and good,If it is not ulcerated at present I dont know what to suggest. Its worth a go, Good luck.

  2. Ultimately the best solution may be amputation as it could mean a final end to the problem. I hate any form of docking BUT this could give your dog peace.

  3. My cocker spaniel damaged the very tip of his tail, and after 4 operations and 6 months of pain and suffering he finally had to have 90% of his tail removed. He had to ware a muzzle and a elizabethan coller for nearly 9 months in total, until it was totaly healed. So I wish you and your loverly boy all the best. Take care and be patient.