Saturday, August 8, 2015

Rotten Cat Tails. What are your treatment options and the costs?

We all live on a budget even though none of us want to. It is a reality and obstacle we must recognize and accept. When it comes to pet care I will be the first to challenge the notion that there is only one way to do things and that this one way is going to cost you and arm and a leg. The whole idea that vet care isn't accessible or affordable to everyone is the single greatest reason pets are having to do without all of the incredible advances and options modern medicine allows. Technology has provided access, it is time for us to provide affordable options and transparency.

As much as I believe this to be true there are still a few conditions that don't allow many options.

Here is one such case.

This is Haley.

Haley is a stray cat that a very kind client of ours has seen lurking around the neighborhood for awhile. She had been seen chewing and biting at her abnormally shortened tail and she smelled awful. When they investigated her tail they found that it was severed off at the end, bleeding, and terribly damaged.

I strongly believe that people want to take care of the pets that they love. I also believe that too many pets, cats in particular, are left without care because they do not hold a position of importance amongst enough of society. I don't believe in the rest of the paltry arguments about.. "cats are able to care for themselves," or, "I don't like them," (to which I always reply "you don't like them because you don't know them"), or "I cannot afford care." I truly believe that almost every aspect of pet care is affordable if you deem it to be important enough. One of my goals is to help make care transparent, offer affordable options, and provide ways to pay for those options.

When it comes to tail trauma to this degree of tissue destruction there is only one option; Surgery.

There is not another effective treatment option to thwart the constant pain and infection then amputation, or removing the end of the tail.

Haley is under general anesthesia and the tail has been clipped and is soaking in our surgical solution.

The end of the tail after being cleaned and prepped for surgery.

I cut to the closest healthy vertebral body and amputate the tail there. Remember a pets tail is an extension of the spine, so the little pieces of bone that compromise the vertebrae extend to the tip of the tail. They house the spinal cord, nerves, small lengths of muscles, tendons and blood vessels.

Here is what doing nothing might have caused;

  • Haley could have either continued to bleed until she became anemic, which would have led to her death as an outside cat.
  • Gotten an infection that penetrated her spinal cord. Very bad!
  • Kept traumatizing (biting and licking at her very painful tail) until it was a stub and then they keep on chewing until they jeopardize their nervous system and musculoskeletal systems ability to walk, urinate, and defecate. Very, very bad. Absolutely life threatening.

So, as much as I believe that it is imperative to provide multiple options with a range of these cases I just feel that there is no other option than to amputate.

Now I might not be able to provide good treatment options other than surgery to correct this, BUT, I can offer a few options with respect to how and who does this.

Typically we recommend pre-operative blood work ($40 - $250), FeLV/FIV testing ($50), and all vaccines ($16- $80). For Haley her mom opted for the FeLV/FIV test (I think this is the most important test to do), and her vaccines. She also opted for a microchip ($10) as she is an outside cat and now has a home.

Haley's surgery cost was about $200. She went home with antibiotics ($25), pain medication (Oh, how she loved the pain medication at about $30) and an e-collar ($12).

She is a wonderful affectionate girl and will make a great addition to their family.

This is Haley's tail at her 2 week post-op re-check.

It has healed beautifully. It looks nice, has no open wound, signs of infection and skin and fur cover the blunt end of the spine appropriately. She is also comfortable and not bothering it.

A happy healthy tail gives the "thank-you" salute.

If you have a pet question, or love animals ad want to help others, please join us at We are a free community centered around helping more pets live longer, happier and healthier lives. Pawbly is free to use and open to anyone who loves animals.

If you would like to ask me a question about your pet and you live in the northern Maryland area find me at Jarrettsville Vet in Jarrettsville, Maryland.

I am also on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. Made me tear up. So glad she's able to live a better life now.

  2. Just a quick comment to say that your prices are very reasonable compared to what we pay here in California. The surgery itself here would run at least $600.

    I'm glad also that this cat was lucky enough to find a caring, thoughtful owner.

    Keep up the good work! Love reading your blog....

  3. That's wonderful, It'm glad everything worked out so well! Being a vet must be a very rewarding job, if your blog is anything to go by!