Articles Index/Tail Docking
Posted 05/28/98


Recently a litter of three apparently healthy Norfolk newborns was taken to a veterinarian for tail docking. Not an unusual circumstance, considering that many amateurs or new breeders might be squeamish about doing the job themselves. In this case, however, the singular and sad fact was that a "small amount" of anaesthetic was administered to "lessen pain" and as a result, one of the pups died almost immediately.

This unfortunate incident underscores the fact that, despite so-called "established" or "reliable" dosages, by weight, of anaesthetic, there is really no "fail-safe" amount that can be given without some risk. This is because, like humans, every dog will react slightly differently to the same amount of the same anaesthetic. For this reason experienced vets exercise particular caution, even under life-threatening circumstances, in anaesthetizing older dogs or young puppies.

Now a second important point to remember; it's absolutely unnecessary to have a veterinarian dock newborn puppies tails. Owners of the short-tailed breeds usually do their own docking. If it is done 4 to 7 days (Editor's Note: In 1998, 3 to 5 days seems to be the preferred time frame) after whelping, the puppies will feel no more than a momentary pinch. Then application of styptic powder quickly cauterizes the tip to prevent bleeding, making suturing unnecessary. If you do not wish to do your own docking, contact a breeder or handler who can do it for you, and watch while it's being done so you can do it yourself next time.

Although puppy tails vary in thickness and length, a sound rule for docking is: take slightly more than one half of the tail's total length. When cutting, be sure to hold the tail upward at the angle at which it would normally be carried. This is at about the same angle as the one o'clock position of the hour hand on the clock. If you have a vet dock the tails, insist on being present, insist that no anaesthetic be used, and explain exactly the length you want; as specific docking information for veterinarians may not exist for Norfolks. Those who wish should should have the dew claws removed at this time.

From "The Medicine Chest," edited by Nat LaMar
ANTIC, Fall, 1987

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