Q: Our Rottweiler has a docked tail, as do many dogs in the US While watching a British dog show on TV, I noticed that all the dogs in the show had natural, undocked tails. Why?
A: Many countries prohibit cosmetic tail docking, or tail docking, because the risks of long-term problems outweigh any perceived cosmetic benefit.
Tail docking harms dogs by robbing them of the ability to use their tails to signal their moods and intentions. In contrast, when a dog with a long tail wags it to greet another dog, the other dog is less likely to feel threatened and respond aggressively.
Dogs also use their tails for balance while running and as a rudder when swimming, so dogs with docked tails have additional disadvantages.
Cosmetic tail docking further harms dogs because it can cause chronic tail pain. This pain can sensitize the central nervous system, making minor discomfort anywhere in the body feel extremely painful for the rest of the dog’s life.
Several situations can cause chronic pain after tail docking: a) the dog may experience “phantom limb” tail pain, which is common after any docking; b) the tail amputator may cut through one tail bone instead of between two bones; c) insufficient skin may remain to cover the bony stump; and d) a painful nerve tumor called a neuroma may form at the site of the amputation.
In the US, breeders or veterinarians generally perform tail docking without anesthesia on very young puppies. In the UK tail docking is prohibited, as it is in most European and South American countries, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Africa and many other nations.
Q: I rarely find ticks on my inside-outside cats, so I’m assuming they clean the ticks off their bodies before they embed themselves. Does this mean I don’t have to apply a tick preventative?
A: In fact, your cats may be cleaning most of the ticks off their bodies, although I often see ticks on cats’ faces. Because even a single tick can cause illness, I recommend that you use a tick preventative regularly.
In cats, the most serious tick-borne disease is cytauxzoonosis, caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite called Cytauxzoon felis. This parasite lives on bobcats without causing them much trouble. When a lone star tick or American dog tick bites an infected bobcat, it ingests the parasite.
Shortly after the infected tick bites a domestic cat, clinical signs of citauxzoonosis appear. Within a week, the illness progresses from fever, loss of appetite, breathing problems, jaundice, and enlarged liver and spleen to death.
Aggressive treatment should be started immediately and continued for up to a week before the cat begins to improve. Because treatment is expensive and often unsuccessful, prevention is crucial.
Citauxzoonosis occurs worldwide. In the US, the disease is more common in the South and Midwest. Affects only cats; Despite its name, cytauxzoonosis is not a zoonotic disease that is transmitted to humans.
Ticks also transmit Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and tularemia bacteria, which can cause fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and other problems in cats.
So ask your vet to recommend a tick and flea preventative for your cats, and use it year-round. Or, better yet, keep your cats indoors, where they’ll be protected not only from tick-borne diseases, but also from predators, cars, toxins, and other hazards.