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Date:   18 November, 2009  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pig & rabbits.

Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
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Is there a cure for tail gland disease in this Siberian Husky?
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Oct 28, 2009

Case: Male Siberian Husky, 9 years old.

Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets3 years ago, the Husky bit away all hairs of his backside and tail due to tail gland hyperplasia. The disease was controlled using steroids and antibiotics given by Vet 1. Then, the dog started biting his tail gland area again, as if possessed by spirits.

Is there a complete cure for the tail gland disease in dogs? Various treatments are proposed but the owner needs a complete cure. Here are my thoughts on this subject.

1. Tail Gland Skin area excised. Removal of the hyperplastic skin area. This is quite a large area of over 3 cm x 3 cm leaving a big hole and a very tight area to stitch up. If there is infection due to stitch breakdown, the result will be worse for the dog. Will electrosurgery do the job? Maybe, if the area is small and seen during the first time. There is no guarantee. In this dog, there seems to be another nearby area with the same problem.

2. Tail amputation. Will this method definitely resolves the problem of tail biting? Most likely since the tail gland area is removed. But the owner did not want a tail-less Husky.

3. Castration. Since this disease happens mostly in male dogs, testosterone hormone may play a part. The Husky is already 9 years old and his testicles were checked and found to be normal by palpation. No pain, nor enlargement or irregular lumps. The owner did not wish to have him neutered. I can't guarantee that neutering will resolve this problem too.

Now, in some skin disease cases in female dogs, spaying resolves the problem based on anecdotal evidence. In such cases, hormonal imbalances could be the cause of skin inflammation and itchiness. But not all cases are resolved and some skin disease occurs due to hormonal deficiency after sterilisation. Therefore sterilisation may help but there is no guarantee. In this case, the owner decides not to have the dog neutered in case his temperament is changed and he become more inactive.

Medical Treatment
This Husky was given a second intra-lesion steroid. 14 days later, the owner said that the tail gland area had turned to a light pink colour and there was no problem so far. He schedules the dog for dental treatment.

Tail gland (Supra-caudal gland) hyperpalsia

Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets
  tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)  2693. Tail end has little skin to stitch if tail gland excision surgery is done.
Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)  2694. Intra-lesion injection under isoflurane gas anaesthesia. A painful injection if there is no anaesthesia. tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)  2695. Tail bandaged. Anti-fungal and antibiotics given orally. tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)  2696. Dog started biting tail as bandage was loose at the lower end. Tail scrubbed for 2nd injection.
Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets Tail gland infection, male Siberian Husky. Toa Payoh Vets Siberian Husky. 9 years. Male. Supracaudal gland (tail gland) no longer itchy. Toa Payoh Vets
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)  2697. Repeat the  intra-lesion injection for the 2nd time under anaesthesia. tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)  2698. Sticky bandage to cover whole inflamed area and e-collar. Antibiotics, multivitamins and zinc and anti-fungal medication given. tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes) 2751. Couple was pleased with successful outcome. Picture was taken 3 weeks after 2nd intra-lesion injection.  

In this case, owner vigilance, prompt veterinary attention and tender loving care are the key to saving the tail from amputation. At the date of writing it is 4 weeks after the 2nd intra-lesion injection. The couple in their late 30s is very happy that there is no obsessive tail biting and had the dog come in for dental scaling.  

Will the tail gland disease recur? There is a possibility. Will neutering prevent this recurring? I don't know nor can I guarantee this will. The only thing we know is that this disease predominates in non-neutered males of certain breeds like the Siberian Husky and Bull Terriers. If you are observant, you will see this condition in some Bull Terrier dogs with a large black skin patch near the end of the tail! 

Many Singapore owners do not follow up on skin or ear problems with their vets for various reasons. They come for repeated medications or just get some cream from the pet shop. This is not in the interest of the dog. Unfortunately, this is the reality of living in Singapore. The younger owners are more sophisticated and educated and dogs are getting better attention compared to 2 decades ago when I started practice.  
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