January 29, 2013
Animal Benefits - Tail injuries are generally rare, with an incidence of 0.21 to 0.39% being reported 10,11 in dog populations per year. In the largest study to date the incidence was 0.23%.11
It has been suggested that certain breeds of dogs, or dogs used for specific purposes, have a greater incidence of tail injury. An uncontrolled study of German Shorthaired Pointers in Sweden suggested there might be a high level of tail injury subsequent to a ban on docking.12 Houlton (2008)13 surveyed injuries to gundogs and found undocked Springer or Cocker Spaniels were more likely to suffer from tail injuries. In a study conducted in the United Kingdom, Diesel et al11 also found Springer and Cocker Spaniels had a higher risk of injury (risk estimate 0.45% and 0.37%). Interestingly, the breeds having the greatest risk of tail injury in that study were Lurchers, Whippets and Greyhounds (risk estimate 1.22%), but there has not been a move to prophylactically dock these breeds. Other dog breeds that are not docked, such as Border Collies and Rough Collies, had a risk estimate of only 0.08%. Diesel et al11 reported that working dogs (predominantly gundogs) were not at significantly greater risk of tail injury than non-working dogs, but dogs that were kenneled were at increased risk.
It has also been suggested that accidental tail trauma to the adult dog causes more suffering than amputation early in life. However, puppies are rarely provided analgesia when their tails are docked and the short-and long-term effects of painful procedures in neonates of many species are well documented.6 It has not been demonstrated that dog breeds whose tails are traditionally docked have a significant risk of tail trauma that would justify the docking of their tails.
Although tail docking may reduce the risk of tail injury,10,11,13 based on the most current data available, approximately 500 dogs need to be docked to prevent one tail injury.11
This information has been prepared as a service by the American Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Welfare Division. Redistribution is acceptable, but the document's original content and format must be maintained, and its source must be prominently identified.