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June 2, 2011 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Help me devise a way to immobilize my dog's broken tail. Vet says cast is not an option.

My dog suffered a tailbone fracture from an attack.

X-ray shows a bone in the middle of the tail fractured into two, and the fragments are clearly not aligned properly. Tail has been limp since the injury, but can wag. Vet says we can't immobilize the tail, and therefore in most cases does not heal well, nor heal properly.

I assume the difficulty in securing the cast is probably due to the shape of the tail- thinning toward the tip. Fracture is located about 6 inches from the base of the tail and 4 inches from the tip of the tail. Hair can be shaved if needed be. Limiting excessive motion of the vertebral column would be a challenge of another kind.

Please help brainstorm ways and means to immobilize his tail to help him heal properly? Vet gave 8-10 weeks min. to heal.
posted by MD06 to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
Botox to temporarily paralyze the tail?
posted by orthogonality at 6:08 AM on June 2, 2011

Tape it to a ruler.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:10 AM on June 2, 2011

Get a second opinion from another vet. If that vet tells you the same thing, the trust that they know what they're doing.
posted by amro at 6:11 AM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

When we had to immobilise Lord Conrad Blackcat's broken leg but couldn't use a cast (once because he needed surgery first, once because it was the second time he took the cast off and it was already more than a month post surgery), the vets wrapped it up in huge amounts of self-sticking bandage/gauze. The leg couldn't move, and the cat could not take the bandages off. He did worry at it occasionally, and wouldn't stop using the leg.

I am not a vet. You should ask a vet if this will work for your dog.
posted by jeather at 6:28 AM on June 2, 2011

A lot of greyhounds whip their tails around really fast, causing some injuries (look for greyhound + "happy tail"). This first-aid guide is for a cut or gash, but could probably work for a break as well. This one recommends taping it to a chopstick or pencil.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:30 AM on June 2, 2011

The problem with trying to immobilize a tail is that it is very easy to cut off the blood supply to the tail if it is bound tightly, but due to a tail's taper and wagginess, anything that is not tightly bound to it will slip off. If blood supply is cut off, the tail can become necrotic and the tissues will begin to die, requiring amputation. You should get a second opinion, but I wouldn't be optimistic that they will have a magic bullet type solution for you.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:40 AM on June 2, 2011

I'm sure there's options out there for immobilizing parts of a tail without having to be a tight cast (attached tubing, etc...I'm almost envisioning a lower body "dog sweater" with a partial tube for the tail to help immobilize that part from bending too much). I would ask you vet if such things exist, or are even advisable. There might be other reasons they would prefer the tail to heal on its own without immobilization.
posted by samsara at 6:45 AM on June 2, 2011

If immobilizing your dogs tail was a good idea, your vet would be doing it for you. If you suspect your vet is crap, go to a different vet. If you beleive your vet is good, don't assume that you somehow know more than he does about tail fractures.

Get a second opinion, and follow the advice of the vet(s). Immobilizing the tail even though the vet advises against it could cause more damage to your dog, and you don't need to be responsible for that.

Remember: your dog is not a gadget to fiddle with.
posted by Kololo at 7:49 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depending on the shape of the dog and its tail, you can sometimes tape the tail to the dog's body, following the curve of the hip/butt. This way tape isn't wrapped completely around the tail, cutting of circulation.
However, if this was an option I'm sure your vet would have said so.
posted by gally99 at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2011

This seems like a bad idea. Shade-tree home veterinary practice WHEN YOUR VET SAYS IT CAN'T BE DONE really doesn't make much sense.

Dogs are instinctive and have strong self-protective behaviors ... Letting the dog handle his tail in the most comfortable way seems clearly to be to most humane solution. Rigging something to his tail is not.
posted by jayder at 9:16 AM on June 2, 2011

Of course, ask vets - yours and others and check your local veterinary college for the newest information; and check the oldest vet you know for old-school information; and other people may know way more than I do - but, what jumped to mind, if you want to cushion and support the hurty tail and the base of it is okay: what about shaping, then slitting and hollowing out a pool noodle, and then taping it around? That said, when our dog had a "broken wag" this past winter, we did as the vet said and gave her some anti-inflamatories and then left it alone, and it's fine now. But that's a muscle thing, not a bone thing.
posted by peagood at 11:32 AM on June 2, 2011

Response by poster: The question isn't "should I", but "how".

We have confidence in our vet and of the information given (confirmed with other vets and online resources), which is that ideally we would immobilize it with a cast, but the casts don't tend to stay, and we're not aware of any easy resources that allows us to so.

We also found suggestions on some websites to "tape to chopstick/ruler"(as 'confess...' and 'specialagent..." also suggested), so we might do some modification of that if no other ideas are appealing. But I was hoping for a better 'lightweight, breathable, and non-constrictive solution' that is feasible to upkeep for the long haul (8-10weeks).

Samsara is closest to what we're thinking-- there has to be better solutions than a "tape to a chopstick"

posted by MD06 at 11:34 AM on June 2, 2011

What about just wrapping his tail in one of those stretchy bandages people use for sprained ankles? Or, rather, you could wrap the the bandage around the tail AND a ruler/chopstick, to keep everything together without the whole 'taping' thing, which just seems like it wouldn't stay.
posted by Kololo at 11:39 AM on June 2, 2011

The cast would be expensive to keep replacing, which is why the vet's don't use them on tails. Have you tried using Vet Wrap? It's a stick-to-itself bandage that is stretchy enough that it won't cut off circulation.

We had a cat with a broken tail (door/wind gust.) The vet told us not to bother even bringing her in. Her tail hung in at a ninty degree angle about six inches from her body. I wrapped the tail with two layers to keep it more or less immobile. The wrap had to be replaced periodically, but after three weeks, the tail seemed to be more or less set up. I will confess that I put a small piece of duct tape on either end to help the wrap stay on, but I didn't put the tape around her tail, just about in inch of tape on the fur. She does have a bump, but it's not as unsightly as originally.

Whether you wrap or don't wrap, careful that the tail doesn't get gangrene. A friend's dog with a broken tail went septic, and the tail had to be removed to save the dog (very expensive.)
posted by BlueHorse at 12:39 PM on June 2, 2011

What about that foam tubing that you sometimes see on pipes? It is split down one side, light-weight and cut-to-fit. You could slip it around the tail and put tape on the tubing where it is split. It might go flinging off if he wags excitedly enough, but could be worth a shot.
posted by sleepykitties at 2:22 PM on June 2, 2011

FYI, Vetrap will absolutely cut off circulation. I've seen a vet use it as a pre-surgical tourniquet on a rather bony limb and he didn't look like he was putting much pressure on it at all. Don't count on it not to cut off circulation in a tail.
posted by galadriel at 9:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

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