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Greyhound Happy Tail

What is Happy Tail?  This is an injury to the tail usually caused by wagging the tail up against something sharp or rough. The tail may bleed, split open and sometimes the bone in the tail actually breaks. It is very common in Greyhounds and other breeds without much hair to pad their tails.  Tail injuries bleed a lot and each wag can throw droplets of blood from floor to ceiling, creating a bloody scene worthy of CSI. You can't imagine it until you actually experience it.

Here’s what to do if this happens to your dog: first grab some paper towels or a clean rag and put pressure over the wound, containing the blood spatter. Ideally, someone can help you get some supplies to clean and dress the wound, at least till you can get to the vet. This helps prevent further injury. To keep the dog from chewing at the bandages, it may be necessary to coat them with bitter apple or some other bad-tasting substance.  Bandaging the tail is a challenge, as the bandage can be immediately whipped off an ever-moving slender, tapering tail.

1.  Clean the injury to flush out any dirt. You can use any wound cleanser, like Children’s Neosporin foaming wound cleanser, sterile saline wound wash, generic Bactine, Vetericyn, etc.  Do not use hydrogen peroxide – it kills healthy skin cells as well as bacteria in open wounds. Pat dry with gauze.

Vetericyn Plus Spray

2.  Apply some OTC antibiotic ointment. This keeps the area moist and supple while keeping bacteria at bay. Cover with non-stick gauze pads. If it's a linear cut, a little butterfly bandage or two would help hold edges together so it can heal.

3.  If you can’t get the bleeding to stop, some hemostatic gauze would be helpful. The gauze is impregnated with a substance that turns into wound-sealing gel when it comes in contact with blood.  The image shows two common brands, but generic brands are fine too. Use care when removing this at bandage changes so you don’t reopen the wound. If you use this, cover it with non-stick gauze and then proceed.

Hemostatic Gauze

4.  Cover that with vet wrap. Keep the whole thing as lightweight as possible. The heavier you go, the more it annoys the dog, and the greater the tendency for the weight of the bandage to actually work itself off!

5.  At the very top of the vet wrap, use waterproof first aid tape, and make sure you STICK IT TO THE FUR! Elastikon bandage tape is a good choice, as it is very sturdy and sticks well. There are two main concerns in bandaging. Too loose bandages will come off when a dog wags its tail. Too tight bandages can cut off circulation and cause the end of the tail to die. If this happens, you will have to have your dog’s tail at least partially amputated.


In any case, bandaging is not a substitute for veterinary care and should only be used until you can get your dog to the vet for examination. The tail may need to be sutured, depending on how serious the injury is. It is very common for tails to have to be amputated after this type of injury, because the dog continues to wag the injured tail whenever it is happy. It is likely to get infected if the wound continues to stay open and is bumping up against everything. Your vet can advise you if it is best to let the tail heal or amputate a few inches, recognizing that either way may take a long time to heal.

During the healing period (which could be up to 4-6 weeks), you will want to change the bandage every day or two. Refresh the antibiotic ointment and put on clean non-stick gauze pads.  The hemostatic gauze should not be necessary past the initial injury. You will need a blunt-nosed scissors when ready to cut the Elastikon off.

Here is a suggestion for wrapping from Batmom on Greytalk:”Here is a rough diagram of how we bandage happy tail here. When you wrap your vet wrap around the tail, start wrapping at the bottom. When you change the bandage, you just have to change the gauze/vet wrap parts. The Elasticon anchor can stay in place for as long as you want”. 

Tail bandaging instructions

Greyhound owners with happy-tailed hounds get very adept and creative at bandaging. Ask around and you may be able to find one who has mastered the art, or check the Web for different ways people have bandaged tails. Some people like to cushion the tail with split foam from a hair roller or a piece of pipe insulation.

You also might want to try this innovative tail sling:

As for cleaning up dog blood, for many surfaces, plain white paper towels dampened with water will get off the spots. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser also works greyt. Resolve spray works for fabrics, like carpet or upholstery.


Hopefully, this will not happen to your dog, but just in case, you might want to stock up on a few first aid supplies in advance of needing them: wound cleansing spray, hemostatic gauze, non-stick gauze pads or large band-aids, bitter apple, not to mention vet wrap and Elastikon.  Think of it like insurance!

 Please share any experiences you've had with Happy Tail in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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