Fresh findings have been revealed into the emotive subject of canine tail injuries and tail docking.

Fresh findings have been revealed into the emotive subject of canine tail injuries and tail docking.

cocker spanielA paper, by the RVC and the University of Bristol, seeks to quantify the risk of tail injury, to evaluate how much docking reduces this risk and to identify other major risk factors of tail injury in a large sample of dogs attending veterinary practices in Great Britain.

Key findings from the report include:

Tail injuries requiring veterinary treatment were rare (prevalence of tail injuries was 0.23 per cent, one in 435 dogs).

English springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, greyhounds, lurchers and whippets were at significantly higher risk when compared with Labradors and other retrievers.

The study also found that, as expected, dogs with docked tails were significantly less likely to receive an injury. Essentially, approximately 500 dogs (unadjusted for breed) would need to be docked to prevent one tail injury.

Under recent animal welfare legislation, tail docking for dogs has been banned outright for non- therapeutic reasons in England, Scotland and Wales – although in England and Wales exemptions are allowed for working dogs.

David Brodbelt, lecturer in companion animal epidemiology at the RVC, explained: “The practice has always generated strong opinions for and against, many of which are without scientific foundation.”

Co-investigator Sheila Crispin, from the University of Bristol’s veterinary science department, added: “While it is obvious that injury to the tail is impossible if the tail has been removed, the dog may have also lost an important means of balance and communication.”

The study was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government with some support from the Scottish Government and DEFRA.

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