Happy Tail may sound like a fun thing, but despite the misleading moniker it’s actually a serious medical condition also known as kennel tail, splitting tail or bleeding tail.  It’s caused by a dog’s tail repeatedly being hit against a hard surface which causes a skin abrasion at the end of the tail.  With several bones and abundant blood vessels, a dog’s tail can bleed excessively and is also susceptible to breaks.  Excitable breeds with long thin tails such Labradors, Greyhounds and Great Danes are particularly vulnerable to Happy Tail but as we will learn from River’s story, any dog who is a tail-wagger can be at risk.    

River, a 4 year old female Bull Mastiff mix, and her three month old puppies had been surrendered by a back yard breeder, to a high kill shelter and were subsequently rescued by Pitiful Paws Rescue in Huntington, WV.  Poor River had been used for breeding her entire life and suffered from severe neglect.  Fortunately, she was taken in by a local foster family to recover and prepare for adoption.  Shortly thereafter, her foster mom noticed River’s tail was bloody.  River was seen by a vet and it was determined that she had a severe case of Happy Tail.  Her tail was broken in several places and infected.

The vet who treated River tried to set her tail and put a cone on her to prevent her from licking in the hopes her tail would heal.  Unfortunately, her tail got worse and it was determined the best course of treatment was partial amputation.  The vet amputated several inches of her tail and River was well on her way to recovery – or so they thought.  A few days later River managed to open her incision and wound up back at the vet.  After having her tail sutured and rewrapped several times, River continued to break her sutures and reopen her wound.  At this point, the vet had no other choice but to amputate most of River’s tail.  With two surgeries and several clinic visits in the books, River’s bills were now in the $1,000s.  Pitiful Paws reached out ISF for help and we were able to offer a grant to help offset the cost of River’s medical bills. 

River finally recovered after the second surgery and has now found her forever home.  Her story was seen on the shelter’s Facebook page by a prospective adoptive dad and he tracked her down at Pitiful Paws.  They are now thick=as=thieves and this girl is finally where she belongs.  The rescue refers to her as a “gentle giant” who showed her gratitude to the vet who helped her, by laying her head on his lap.  She clearly knew she was safe.  In her final report to ISF, Pitiful Paws’ founder Desiree says, she is continually reminded by her charges that no matter how badly a human treats a dog, they always forgive and never hold grudges.  River’s Happy Tail turned out to be a happy tale in the end. 

Written by Shandra Locken

Edited by Bob Stone

ISF Grantee River

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