Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM
Corkscrew tail, aka screw tail, is a common condition in certain dog breeds where there is a vertebral malformation of the tail. It is common in English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers but it can occur in other breeds as well. It’s an inherited condition. Often times the affected dogs have deep skin folds surrounding the malformed tail that causes them to be predisposed to skin infections. In severe cases, the tail is so malformed that it affects the dog’s ability to pass stools normally.
Clinical signs of corkscrew tail are usually seen due to the skin infection from it. Dogs may scoot their hind end on the floor, they may try to bite at their hind end, there may be feces accumulating around the base of the tail, and there can be a foul odor from the hind end area. Diagnosis is usually made by the veterinarian on exam. The veterinarian may want to take x-rays to look at the severity of the vertebral malformation. They may also want to do tests to determine the best antibiotic to help with the skin infection.
Treatment of corkscrew tail can be medical or surgical management. Medical management is lifelong and includes cleaning the tail area regularly and in some cases after every bowel movement. There are many dog shampoos and wipe products out there to help keep the area clean. Even with the most stringent cleaning, dogs will still get periodic skin infections and require treatment from your veterinarian. Surgery is the other option and can be curative. Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog.
Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.