Harry (L) & Marv (R) - 8 weeks old
I told you briefly about Harry's tail amputation in an earlier post, but here's the full story, in case anyone else out there ever has to go through this situation and make the tough decision of getting your dog's tail amputated:
Harry (L) Marv (R)
As with most other breeds, English Bulldog tails come in many different shapes and sizes. Ideally, they should have a straight spiked tail, that can be easily lifted away from the body. However, most bulldogs have screw tails - and sometimes even inverted tails - which creates a pocket underneath the tail. It is very important to keep this pocket clean and dry, to avoid bacteria growth and infection.
An example of a Spike Tail source
A few days after we had given Harry and Marv a bath, Harry started behaving very strangely. The four of us were sitting on the floor watching tv, when Harry abruptly got up and ran behind the couch then to the corner of the room, as if to hide from the rest of us. The next morning during breakfast, we noticed he was spinning around trying to lick his bum and ran away from us when we tried to itch the spot he was going after. We also noticed a yeasty smell coming from his anal region, however, we didn't think too much of it and thought he just needed his anal glands expressed.
I heart Google. I swear, I have learned so much from that search engine that I could probably have a thousand degrees in the different topics I've searched for and read articles about. That day, I went online and searched "bulldog itchy tail" and found a myriad of blogs, forums, articles, from owners who've experienced the same problem.
Then, I came across this and got really scared. This person's bulldog was acting exactly the same way as Harry was and in their case, the bulldog had a tail infection and their doctor recommended tail amputation!!! It sounded like such a painful and dangerous procedure. After a little more googling, I learned that one of the risks of a tail amputation could be paralysis since the tail is attached to the end of the spine (or something like that.. I don't know. I'm neither a veterinarian nor an expert on this subject).
Poor Harry! I wouldn't want to put him in that kind of risk if avoidable.
So, we took him to the vet to see if he really did have an infection, but at that point, all signs pointed to 'yes'. The doctor confirmed our diagnosis and sent us home with antibiotics and an ointment in tote. I told him about what I'd read online and asked him if he thought Harry would need an amputation. The doc said Harry's tail pocket is a lot tighter than Marv's, so the chances of him getting another infection are very high, but he did not want to recommend anything as he did not specialize in bulldogs. He instead referred us to another doctor in a nearby town who worked with bulldogs on a daily basis - Dr. Barney.
Harry recovered from the infection after a week or so, and was his normal jovial self in no time. However, seeing him lethargic and super uncomfortable the whole week before, really made me consider the option of tail amputation. It bothered him to use the bathroom and sit on his butt while he was still infected, and I hated that I could not do a thing to comfort his pain. I felt like such a bad mommy for letting this even happen to one of our babies.
A few weeks went by and Harry did not have any more issues with his tail. Matthew and I made extra sure to keep his tail pocket dry and cleaned it every night, even though he would wriggle and squirm each time we came after him with the wipe. We thought we were in the clear and that the infection was a one-time thing, but we also noticed that his tail pocket was becoming increasingly more difficult to get into because of how tight it was to his body. Eventually, it was becoming almost painful for Harry when we would try to reach in and clean it.
Harry and Marv were reaching their 6-month birthday soon, so that meant they would need to get neutered. Since they would be already under anesthesia, it would be a good time to schedule a tail amputation, if we decided to do it for Harry. We read all the pros and cons and came to the conclusion that we WOULD go along with the procedure if Dr. Barney agreed that it would lead to a better quality of life for Harry. We scheduled a consultation with Dr. Barney the morning of their neutering appointment, since he said he would be able to quickly assess the situation. Matthew took H&M to the appointment since I could not get out of work that day. That meant, I could not be there when Dr. Barney gave his recommendation and would not be able to change my mind about the whole thing if he agreed Harry should get his tail chopped off. That scared me a little, but I knew and trusted Matthew would do the right thing.
Long story short (if you can consider this post 'short'), Harry did get his tail amputated -- but only partially. He still has a little tiny nub so he can feel like a "complete" dog, but he no longer has a tail pocket where bacteria can grow.
Would you believe if I said the whole procedure didn't hurt one bit? I know, I wouldn't believe it either. But after just one day of being tired and groggy from all the drugs, both Marv AND Harry were back to normal. It was as if they didn't just get their balls sucked out and tail chopped off (sorry for the crude language)! Luckily, they didn't have to wear those cones because of the type of glue the doctor used. They were just given a few pain meds, just in case (which we administered, even though we didn't think they needed them). Harry just had to take some antibiotics to avoid infection from the surgery. There were no changes in any of their attitudes and behavior post-surgery. Well done, Dr. Barney. Well done.
Marv (L) Harry (R) - A little groggy, but seemingly pain-free
Oh, wait -- I guess there's one little minor thing that's different with Harry - temporarily, at least. Since they had to operate on his back side, they needed to shave the area around his tail. So for the past month, he's had a 4"x5" patch with no hair! His hair is now starting to grow back very slowly. Luckily, he's not as vain as his mother and doesn't mind (and probably doesn't even know) that he's missing something:
Marv (left) & Harry (right) with his patch of missing hair
I'm really happy that Matthew and I agreed to the tail amputation. Harry doesn't have to worry about being itchy back there and getting poop stuck behind his tail anymore. Look at how happy his is now:
Harry, a few weeks after surgery. Don't mind the jeans on the ground. Harry was just trying them on :)
Hope this helps anyone who has to go through the same situation. Just know that all dogs are different and tail amputation may not be the right choice for every bulldog. There are plenty of resources online if you want to read up on it, but most importantly, you should consult with your veterinarian to do what's right for your bully.
All pictures taken by me, SIL M or Matthew unless otherwise noted