Dr. Walt's happy tails: Should you dock your dog's tail?

Author: Canadian Living


Dr. Walt's happy tails: Should you dock your dog's tail?

Dear Dr. Walt: Is there any reason - besides a cosmetic one - why Doberman tails are banded/clipped? I am not sure I want to have my new litter of four pups banded unless there is a medical reason. A friend of mine claims their tails get cancerous as they grow older, which is why they have to be cut. Thanks for the advice.

Other than cosmetic, there is no reason for a puppy's tail to be docked and/or ears to be surgically cropped. While having no tail will definitely reduce cancer of the tail (there is no tail for cancer to develop on!), cancers that do involve the tail are extremely rare. If this were a real health risk, then tail docking would be recommended for all breeds, not just Dobermans and other select breeds. This has been a topic of recent debate within the veterinary community with many veterinary medical associations adopting position statements that tail docking and ear cropping not be performed unless medically indicated (i.e., not for purely cosmetic reasons).

Dear Dr. Walt: Our cat, Layla, is 11 years old and weighs about 8 pounds. The last two times we had her vaccinated she was sick for about a week. She was vaccinated again on May 31st. This time the veterinarian gave her an injection of Benedryl before her vaccination. Her vaccination was for feline rabies and feline distemper/leukemia. She is sick again, she threw up several times about 4 hours after her vaccinations. Can you think of anything that can be done to prevent this from happening again next year?

The majority of animals that receive vaccinations do not demonstrate any untoward effects and are benefited by developing an immune response that protects them against the infectious diseases vaccinated for. However, a small percentage of animals will experience side effects that can range from a brief period of malaise to more serious health concerns. You are right to inform your veterinarian of these concerns and he/she has taken appropriate steps by using Benedryl, an antihistamine that is often very effective at reducing these post-vaccinal symptoms.

When this doesn't work, consider other options such as splitting the vaccines (i.e., administering the individual components on separate visits at least 2 weeks apart) or trying a vaccine from a different manufacturer. Alternatively, there is growing evidence that the protection afforded to the pet by vaccines lasts longer than 1 year; therefore, in low-risk situations (e.g., indoor cat), going to less frequent booster vaccinations (e.g., every 3 years) may be a viable option to consider. However, all of these scenarios need to be discussed with your veterinarian, who has more intimate knowledge of your pet's ongoing healthcare needs.

This month's pet myth exposed
"If a dog's nose is cold, it must be healthy."

This is a perpetuated 'diagnostic test' that is simply untrue. A dog's nose – whether hot or cold, wet or dry – can be influenced by a whole host of other variables besides their health, including environmental temperature and activity. A better indicator of health is your pet's behaviour patterns such as eating, drinking, and interest in their surroundings.

About Dr. Walt Ingwersen
Dr. Walt Ingwersen is Chief Veterinary Officer at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. He is a 1982 graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College. Board certified in Internal Medicine, he has the distinction of being the first Canadian editor of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, a position he currently holds.

Involved in many aspects of the national and international veterinary community, "Dr. Walt" is the recipient of the President's Award for outstanding contribution to the veterinary profession awarded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). He is also Chief Veterinary Officer and Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Board at PetCare Insurance Brokers Ltd. – Canada's leading provider of insurance for dogs and cats.


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Dr. Walt's happy tails: Should you dock your dog's tail?