Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Harry's Tale

(Get it?! Tale... Tail? hehehehe. I feel like Carrie from SATC with my pun...)

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


Jim, Darlene and Eli said...

OMG! I loved reading this story! Eli (our English bulldog, ruler of our world) has had so many health problems, but not this one. He does seem to have a "bad nerve" in his butt area. he can be sitting, and all of a sudden, jump up and turn around as if someone just pinched his tail. He is our world.

Anonymous said...

I love your story and your dog's are so cute! My husband and I have a 2 7 1/2 year old English Bulldog who just went thru the tail amputation and he seem's so much happier now! I read all different articles about it before doing it and your's was one of them. I know it was the best thing for him and I know we made the right choice. Thank's for sharing your story.

Dianne Stetler said...

Our year and a half English Bull dog named Charley is scheduled for his tail amputation surgery in a week and i am worried sick.Our vet does not do it and we are driving to another town about a hundred miles away.His tail pocket smells so bad,we have to clean it once or twice a day.I have read up on the surgery and i am worried about his pain afterward.Will he have pain meds to take care of his pain?I wish we could have it done here but thats not possible.

AubreyRose @ My Simple Everyday said...

Hi Diane -- So sorry to hear about Charley! But he will be just fine! Our Harry was not in pain at all and did not need any meds. He was playing like normal the next day :) Best wishes next week! It was definitely harder on us than our dogs :)

Dianne Stetler said...

Thanks Aubrey Rose you really make me feel better.I will let you know how it goes and thanks again,i needed that.Dianne

Dianne Stetler said...

Hey this is Dianne, Charleys mom.Charleys surgery went great.You were right,if he is in pain you would never know it.I give him his antibotics and pain meds but he is running and as active as always.Maybe now i believe that dogs take pain better than humans do.Thank you for making me feel better about the surgery.Even now with just the stitches,the smell is gone.A little drainage but otherwise doing great.Thanks again Dianne Stetler

AubreyRose @ My Simple Everyday said...

Hi Dianne - Yay! I'm so glad to hear that the surgery went well and Charley is doing great! Dogs are such resilient creatures -- I know if the roles were reversed, I'd be bedridden for weeks! Would love to see some pictures if you have a blog or flickr accoun. Charley sounds like a sweetheart! - Aubrey

Anonymous said...

Awesome story!!! You made my mind and day. I am going to get Axel's tail amputated so he can have a real life. Thank You so much for this article!!!

Anonymous said...

My sweetie English Bulldog Alexis Luciana, has the same problem. I'm getting her tail amputated as well. I need her to be able to enjoy us and we her. She's only 4 months old.

AubreyRose @ My Simple Everyday said...

To Anonymous above -- my best wishes for you and Alexis! I'm sure the surgery will go well and she'll be very happy in the long run.

Amber Allen said...

I have a 5yr old bully named diesel and he is my entire world! Dr barney (in Utah) is our vet. Our first visit with him really put me at ease! He has bullies and specializes in them. We moved from Arizona to Utah and just love Dr barney. Diesel will be having his tail removed by doc barney next month. After fighting infection after infection due to his very tight tail it has come time to have it removed. I'm very scared and worried. I work in the medical field and I have done everything to keep his tail clear of infection with not alot of success. He is my first bully and he is my entire world! If anyone has any advise we would appreciate hearing from you.

Amber Allen said...

My bulldog diesel just had his tail. Amputated yesterday. Dr. Barney has been our vet since we moved to Utah. One year ago, January 2013, I took my baby to Dr. Barney to have diesel's tail looked at. I had been tending to his tail on and off for over two years. Finally it was to the point that amputation had to be considered. I chose Dr. Barney because he specializes in bullies. After a lot of thought I decided to do the amputation, I had to give him a better quality of life. . . .he is my entire world. Dr. Barney put me at ease and was so understanding of the entire situation. . . . From me crying and being a complete mess to caring for diesel with such compassion I let go of the leash and off to surgery he went. This was the best decision I have ever made for my boy. I just brought him home this morning. I know we have several weeks to go before he can resume normal activity but I already see the relief in those big brown eyes. Dr. Brandy and staff were so wonderful I will never be able to repay them for their unconditional kindness. From the front desk individuals, the tech assisting Dr. Barney, the over night techs and Dr. Barney this was a very calm and wonderful experience. They are all so kind, caring, loving and good people I would do it again due to all their wonderful ways. The are our angels. I would recommend anyone considering thus procedure to please please please contact willow creek vet hospital and talk to Dr. Barney about any and all the options. The are wonderful.

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