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How to Treat a Cat Tail Injury

From Bites and Burns to Fractures

By December 08, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Kitten Looking At His Tail

Cat tail injuries can be very minor, needing only a bandage, or they can be extremely serious. Your cat's tail can get into all types of mischief and it's important to know how to treat an injured tail quickly and properly.

Accidents happen — and sometimes when a cat gets into an accident, injuries follow. As a pet parent, you’ll want to know how to treat a cat tail injury.

But before we get into the most common injuries, let’s first get a little more familiar with the tail. The tail is made up of many small vertebrae, ligaments, tendons, and nerve bundles. The first vertebra of the tail connects to the sacrum, a special backbone. The spinal cord ends inches above the sacrum, but nerve endings extend down and through the tail. These nerve endings are responsible for feeling and control in the hind legs, as well as bladder, large intestine, and anal muscles.

Now that you’re more familiar with a cat’s tail, here are 7 common cat tail injuries — including their causes and treatments:

Wounds and Burns

Whether your cat has sustained a bite to the tail during a fight, caught and cut their tail in a fence, or suffered a burn while exploring near a hot stove, it needs to be treated, and properly.

When treating any type of tail injury, you should first bring your cat to a familiar space that will put them at ease. If it’s a cut your treating, the next step is to apply pressure with a sterile piece of gauze; this will help slow or stop any bleeding. Then clean the area with an antibacterial soap and cover with a bandage. A scratch is a scratch, but a cut should be brought to your veterinarian's attention. He or she can gauge the severity of the injury and whether or not antibiotics, pain medication, or stitches are needed.

As for bites, call your vet right away. Cat bites, due to bacteria in feline saliva, can often lead to a bigger health issue, such as viral infection. Before you head out the door for emergency care, gently clean the area with antibacterial soap, bandage the wound, and your vet will take it from there.

Burns also call for an immediate trip to the vet. If it’s a thermal burn, caused by heat or fire, apply a cold compress and keep it in place while en route. If it’s a chemical burn, flush the area with water first.

Abscesses

Abscesses are actually quite common when it comes to tail injuries, typically from a cat bite or scratch. Abscesses form when bacteria from under another cat’s nails or within their saliva festers under the skin at the site of a wound and swells into a pus-filled lump.

If the infection is left untreated it could become serious. So for initial at-home treatment, clip any hair around the abscess and apply a hot, moist compress; this will begin the draining process. You’ll need to apply the compress two to three times a day for 20 minutes until completely drained, as well as clean the area with antibacterial soap and hydrogen peroxide. If you do not see improvement within three days bring your cat to the vet -- the abscess may have already become more serious and antibiotics or additional treatment may be needed.

Dislocations

Common causes of tail dislocation include the tail being stepped on, pulled (often by small children), caught in a door, run over by a bike or car, or yanked during a scuffle with another animal. A dislocation occurs when the vertebrae connecting the tail to the lower back slips out of place and the connective tissue that supports the tail stretches.

Your vet will need to treat this injury and they are most likely to prescribe anti inflammatory and pain medications. The injury may heal on its own, but if it is severe — involving nerve damage — there is a chance amputation may be suggested.

Fractures and Breaks

Common causes of fractures and breaks are similar to what can cause dislocations. However, falls are actually the leading cause of tail fractures and breaks in cats.

When one of the many vertebrae that comprise the tail is fractured or broken, a kinked or drooping tail may be the only sign to the untrained eye. But your vet will know, especially with the help of an x-ray. From there the treatment will be similar to that of dislocations. The likelihood of nerve damage occurring is higher with a fracture or break though, which could cause a variety of other health issues.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can be caused by any and all of the injuries listed above. Damage can occur in just the tip of the tail, resulting in constant pain, or to the base of the tail, resulting in paralysis. It all depends on whether or not the cauda equina nerves have been stretched or torn.

Stretched nerves can heal on their own, typically within six months. But if the nerve damage causes lameness in the hind legs and/or urinary and fecal incontinence, your vet will likely recommend amputation as the best treatment.

More on Pet Safety

A Guide to Pet First Aid Kits
Your Pet Emergency Checklist
Pet Fire Safety Checklist

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

2016-04-17T15:33:43

My cat's tail is cutten. It is not bleeding anymore but i'm scared if it has a lot of pain in it's tail. Should i bring it to a vet??? 😔😔


2016-03-12T23:50:11

You are lucky to be able to phone a vet and have them help you without seeing the cat. One of my feral cats (Jazz... a beautiful 11 month old tuxedo cat) is in BIG TROUBLE due to a deep bites near the base of his tail (I suspect an opossum bite 3 weeks ago on/near FEB 27, 2016). It had huge puncture wounds that started oozing yellowish green pus a few days after he was attacked and now his tail appears necrotic. I could not find a single vet (or Humane Society) that would help him without seeing him. Being a feral cat, there's no way I could get him to a vet even if I could afford it. He is scared of everyone and most everything except me. I think I could have prevented necosis had someone been willing to call in some antibiotics. I squirted peroxide on it in the beginning but he licks it off. It looks really bad. Two inches of his tail is bald, turning black, and dead skin is falling off leaving it raw and susceptible to nasty infections.

Any ideas where I can get the help Jazz needs without taking him to a vet's office?

Thanks,
Tammy
imaredhead946@hotmail.com


2015-12-12T16:25:11

ive treated tail injuries at home several times. if the injury was extremely severe (like one time one of my cat colony ferals tail tip was severed and literally just hanging by some tissue), i called my vet. explained the injury to him (the wound wasnt really bleeding anymore and there was no signs of infection or nerve damage. the cats body movements were normal, it was walking normal, bm and urnination was normal, etc) and he just had me cut the remaining tissue that was holding the piece on with surgical scissors, treat the wound, and bandage it. he also call in antibiotics to prevent infection and inflammatory medication (Meloxicam oral suspension - since its hard to give cats pills specially feral cats) to help with swelling and pain. i checked the wound daily, redressed it, and it healed nicely. Another time i did have to actually go to the vets office because the cat did have nerve damage. he still had the use of his back legs and was able to walk but his gait was off and he was kinda crouching and was in severe pain. my vet completed a physical exam, took xrays and everything and he didnt end up cutting the tail off (it was just dislocated) and he said it would heal on its on over time. since the cats gait was off he completed a neurological exam and said the cat seemed fine but probably pulled a muscle whenever he received the tail injury (usually by falling out of tree or something) he got some pain meds, antibiotic injections, bupivacaine injection, and i think thats it. the cat started walking normal in about 3 days after i brought and didnt have any further issues


2015-10-25T14:20:47

this did nothing but made me paranoid if i bring her to a vet they'll chop off my baby's beautiful fluffy tail.

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