Screw Tail Amputation

Learning that your pet needs surgery can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are unsure of what the procedure entails. At Anicira, we work with pet parents to ensure that you are well-informed before your pet’s surgery. Our veterinary team provides compassionate care before, during, and after surgery to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable.

What is a screw tail?

Screw tail (also called corkscrew tail) is the name given when a dog’s tail is malformed and ingrown to their skin. The condition is inherited and is common in brachycephalic breeds such as English Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and French Bulldogs. Vertebrae in your dog’s tail can be fused or otherwise malformed, causing them to take an atypical corkscrew-like shape. The area surrounding a screw tail develops deep skin folds which frequently develop infections.

Is screw tail painful?

Yes, screw tail can be painful. The condition can cause deep skin folds that become infected and itchy. Severe cases can make it difficult for a dog to defecate.

How is screw tail treated?

Treatment for screw tail depends on the severity of the condition and how it is impacting your dog’s life. Some cases may be able to be managed with frequent cleaning of the area and medications. This may work in the short term, but often dogs experiencing this condition will require a screw tail amputation.

How do I know if my dog needs a screw tail amputation?

Signs that your dog may need a screw tail amputation include:

  • Frequent infections of skin surrounding tail
  • Odor originating from base of tail
  • Your dog may scoot or rub their hind end
  • Inability to lift tail which may cause your dog to be unable to have a complete bowel movement

Pre-Surgical Instructions

Admission Time – Bring your pet to Anicira at 7 am.
Pre-surgical exam – Your pet must be in good health and show no signs of sickness such as coughing, sneezing, or diarrhea.
Medical records – Please bring proof of rabies vaccination if you have not already provided this. If your cat or dog has not been previously vaccinated or lacks proof of vaccination, we will administer a rabies vaccine on the day of surgery. If you have not already sent your medical records, please bring all relevant medical records.

Feeding Instructions
Adult Dogs over 1 year Withhold food for all adult dogs after midnight the evening before surgery. Please ensure water is available at all times.
Puppies under 1 year Feed a small meal (¼ of their typical breakfast) to all puppies on the morning of surgery. Please ensure water is available at all times.

Screw Tail Amputation Surgery

Before surgery, our veterinary team will perform a thorough pre-surgical examination to ensure your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia. It is strongly recommended that your pet receives pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that no health concerns go undetected.

Your pet will be under general anesthesia. The surgical team will prepare the surgical site by shaving and then cleaning the area to remove bacteria and decrease risk of potential infection.

During screw tail amputation surgery, the veterinarian will remove the entirety or part of your dog’s tail and the infected skin folds.

Caring for Your Pet After a Screw Tail Amputation Surgery

Anesthesia may take 24 to 48 hours to wear off.

  • Your pet may be groggy or whiny during this time.
  • Keep your pet confined in a secure, quiet, and comfortable space. We recommend a crate or a small room.
  • Isolate them from other pets and children while recovering.

Make sure your pet wears their Elizabethan Collar (E-Collar / Cone)

  • Your pet’s surgical site will take 10 to 14 days to heal. During this period, they should wear an e-collar at all times.
  • Allowing your pet to lick their incision can lead to infection or dehiscence (opening of the incision).

Offer food & water after surgery

  • When your pet returns home, offer them food and water
  • Anesthesia may cause nausea so your pet may not be interested in food
  • If vomiting occurs, wait 12 hours before offering more food.
  • Resume regular feeding the day after surgery. Your pet’s appetite should be back to normal within 24 hours.
  • If your pet refuses to eat, you may try offering a bland diet such as white rice and lean protein (for example, boiled chicken breast) while they regain a normal appetite.
  • Please do not feed your pet junk food, table scraps, or milk.

Give all medications as directed

  • Your pet will be sent home with oral pain medication. Please follow the instructions on the label.
  • If possible, please give the pain medication with food. If your pet has no appetite please ensure that they still take the pain medication.
  • OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil are toxic to pets. Please do not give these to your pet.

Check surgical incision daily for the first week

  • Your pet’s surgical site will be healing for 10-14 days.
  • What you see on the day of surgery is what we consider normal
  • Monitor for increased redness, swelling, discharge or pulling apart of the incision.

Other shaved areas

  • Your pet may have shaved areas on one or more legs from where an IV catheter was placed.
  • These areas may be irritated or bruised. If your pet is excessively licking, please use a taste deterrent spray or e-collar to prevent self-trauma.
  • If your pet went home with a brightly colored wrap on their leg, this should be removed 30 minutes after returning home.

Limit your pet’s activity and keep them clean, dry, and warm for 10 days after surgery.

  • Ensure your pet is supervised around all potential hazards (including stairs)
  • Pets should be kept indoors so they can stay clean, dry, and warm.
  • Dogs should be walked outside on a leash to urinate and defecate. No off-leash activity during the entire recovery period.
  • No running, jumping, playing, swimming, or other strenuous activity.
  • Do not bathe your pet or have it groomed during the recovery period.

If your pet has sutures, schedule an appointment for removal in 10-14 days

  • Your pet may need to be sedated for the suture removal procedure so please plan accordingly.

Rare, but serious complications of screw tail amputation surgery

Complications from screw tail amputation surgery are rare. If your pet experiences these issues after surgery, please contact Anicira.

  • Fecal incontinence
  • Infection of surgical site
  • Dehiscence of the surgical site – both sides of the surgical site should be touching.
  • Watch for any gapping.
  • Discharge at the surgical site
  • Persistent tail-chasing behavior

Please contact Anicira, your primary care veterinarian, or an emergency clinic if any of the following occur:

  • Pale gums
  • Severe pain, depression, or weakness
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy lasting more than 24 hours