Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seriously, this needs to stop.

How to Perform Surgical Tail Docking in Draft

Draft horse tails are commonly docked. The need to dock the tail of an adult draft horse occasionally
occurs. Surgical amputation will produce a cosmetically docked tail.

1. Introduction
Custom dictates that tails are docked in many draft breeds. A high percentage of draft horses shown in halter and hitch competition have bobbed tails. Commonly, breeders will dock the tails of foals within 2 weeks of birth using elastrator bands, allowing the tails to necrose and fall off. Occasionally, a client will present an adult draft horse and
request cosmetic tail docking. In this case, surgical tail docking is performed on the standing horse as opposed to banding the tail. This procedure is also effective when surgical amputation of the tail is warranted because of trauma and/or infection.

2. Methods
Surgical tail docking is performed on a standing horse within restraint stocks. Heavy sedation is achieved throughout the procedure using detomidine 2.2 to 4.4 μg/kg IV. Anesthesia of the surgical site is achieved by an aseptic caudal epidural using a combination of xylazine 50 μg/kg and 2% lidocaine q s to 6 ml. A tourniquet placed high around the tailhead serves as the best means of controlling hemorrhage during the surgical process. Determining the desirable length of the tail can be the most challenging aspect of the surgery; however, the following technique has proven to be the simplest and most efficient method. The tail is firmly grasped at its most proximal portion. The intercoccygeal space approximately 15 cm from the tailhead is palpated, identified and marked. This landmark will become the last coccygeal vertebrae of the docked tail. If the determined length appears too short, the next intercoccygeal space is identified and will become the end of the docked tail. Tail hairs are clipped 3 to 4 cm cranial to the marked intercoccygeal space and as far caudally as needed, being certain to leave adequate tail hairs above the surgical site for cosmetic purposes. These hairs are wrapped up and kept out of the surgical field. After aseptic surgical preparation of the site, the favored intercoccygeal space is once again palpated. A surgical incision is made on the dorsal surface of the tail in a U shape beginning at the level of the intercoccygeal space and extending approximately 4 to 5 cm from each lateral side of the tail toward the center while still remaining on the dorsal surface. This procedure creates a flap of skin that can then be folded over the end of the tail toward the end of the
surgery. The soft tissue underlying the skin flap is bluntly dissected, permitting the flap to be displaced out of the way. The ventral surface of the tail is incised in a circular fashion extending from each lateral side toward the other.

A no. 10 surgical blade is then used to incise the intercoccygeal space on the dorsal surface; at the same time, bending pressure is placed at the point of the intercoccygeal space. With the intercoccygeal space exposed, the remaining soft tissue, including muscles, nerves and blood vessels, is sharply incised to permit complete removal of the caudal portion of the tail. Ligation of blood vessels is not necessary if skillful tourniquet placement and postoperative bandaging techniques are implemented. The skin flap created earlier is then folded over the end of the tail and sutured to the ventral skin surface using no. 2 nonabsorbable suture in a simple interrupted pattern. The skin edges generally come together neatly, and the surgical incision heals exceptionally quickly. Before removal of the tourniquet, the surgical site is bandaged with gauze 4 3 4s, vetrap, and 4-in stretch tape. The bandage should be changed at least once during the first 48 hours of postoperative care.

3. Results
The result of surgical tail docking is a clean incision that heals by first intention, resulting in a cosmetically docked tail.

4. Discussion
The draft horse community is a small but thriving part of the equine industry comprising multiplegeneration breeders, exhibitors (at both hitch and halter), pulling competitors and hobbyists. The draft horse functions primarily as a work horse but also serves as a companion animal in parades, weddings and exhibitions. The draft horse industry has seen steady growth in recent years, as indicated by increased sales and transfers of horses.

First-time horse owners and long-term equine enthusiasts alike are buying draft horses because of the breeds’ gentle nature, versatility and popularity. Not only is our practice composed of at least 50% draft horses, but all three veterinarians within the practice are actively involved in the draft horse industry through breeding, exhibiting and promoting. Therefore, we are familiar with common practices and norms. In our experience, draft horse clients, especially show horse people and breeders, tend to consent to commonly accepted procedures. More than likely, especially if you practice in the Midwest, you will have some clients who own draft horses, and you may be asked to dock a tail. As in many instances in equine medicine, your ability and willingness to perform particular procedures may gain you a long-term client. Surgical tail docking in draft horses by this method has provided our practice with quick, efficient and successful results. We certainly hope this insight will do the same for others’ practices.

This is something that has been bugging me for a long time. Docking draft horse tails is wrong. It is just another in a laundry list of unnecessary, cruel and inhumane procedures that is performed out of tradition and because somebody stands to make some money from doing it. Whether it's tail docking in young horses or old horses - it needs to stop!



WarPony said...

This has been a personal pet peeve of mine for a long time. I spent two years looking for a black Percheron gelding with a natural tail back in the early 90's with no luck.

lytha said...

i found it strange at first how here in germany cocker spaniels as well as shire horses have natural tails.

then i read that since 1987 it has been illegal to dock dogs' ears and tails. horses followed later, because it is considered cruelty.

you still see the occasional docked animal, but chances are it came from another country.

somewhat related--most people here do not spay and neuter their animals. although i've been told it's due to it being unhealthy, i wonder if it is also considered cruel like docking.

there are also a lot of stallions here, and it's rare to find a male shetland pony who is gelded.


Anna said...

I have a Haflinger gelding and a lot of people have come up to me thinking he's a young Belgian and asking, "When are you going to dock his tail?! He'll look so handsome!" I don't find it handsome...I find it painful and unnecessary. I never know what to say to them...

Pat said...

How interesting that people think horses are more handsome missing their tails.

The tail is an extension of their spine. Maybe we should suggest removing part of the person's spine who makes comments like that.

And maybe we should crop their ears too! Or how about let's put a ring in their nose!

You know, I can understand with some animals, that tail docking benefits them healthwise. Like sheep. I've seen sheep get very dirty and even have problems with infestations of maggots when their tails are not docked and the animals are not properly cared for.

But draft horse have been replaced by tractors in most cases and we have no "real" reason to dock their tails anymore.

I don't know what genious started the practice, but it was commonly done at one time to keep long tails from becoming entangled in the equipment they pulled.

Now, it's done purely for looks. But surely, the tail hair can be shortened enough to stay clear of any interference from carriages they are hitched to.

I think, we need to really take a hard look at most all the practices that were typical in “the day.” Tradition, should not be the reason to dictate whether animal cruelty is justifiable or not.

We need to question old practices and toss out what is no longer necessary, but still done purely because “we’ve always done it that way.”

Thank you for commenting.
Lytha, how do they control the animal population in Germany?


lytha said...

i don't know much about how they control the dog/cat population in germany, except that you hardly ever see a dog or cat running free. almost every german family has a dog, and keeps it indoors/restrained. dogs rule this land, they are allowed in shops, malls, and restaurants.

cats, i wonder where all the cats are. i live in the country and i've only seen 3 cats in our town. i keep looking, cuz i love cats, but you just don't see many cats. especially in the cities. people who have them keep them indoors i guess.

there are animal rescues, but they seem to be filled with dogs and cats from other countries. most of the adopted animals i know are from turkey.

the shire horses i've seen here all have shaved (but regular length) tails, i guess to highlight their engines: )


phaedra96 said...

I raised a few Percheron foals and refused to dock their tails. None of them were going in hitches or halter; so why? I think it is ludicrous that drafts are docked and gaited breeds and QH have fake tails added on to their long tails. I am not sure it is funny.

briarlee said...

I work every day, reaching out to breeders, op/ed pages, horse owner organizations and on and on trying to spread the word about the cruelty of docking horse tails. In particular, I continue to ask Budweiser to stop doing it because they are so visible and because they mutilate their horses...everyone thinks it is just fine! How sad...very sad.

Please contact the lawmakers in your state...ask to have legislation put into place banning it. Currently there are currently 14 states that regulate tail docking in some form. Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Washington prohibit the docking of a horse’s tail. Connecticut, Michigan and South Carolina prohibit tail docking of a horse unless it is determined to be medically necessary by a licensed veterinarian. In New Hampshire, permission must be granted by the state veterinarian before a licensed veterinarian may perform a tail docking procedure on a horse. Illinois prohibits the tail docking of a horse unless it is proven to be a benefit to the horse and California prohibits the docking of horses’ and cows’ tails except in emergency situations. Docking is banned in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. You can also add parts of Australia and New Zealand. These countries and states recognized the cruel nature of this procedure and BANNED IT!

my petition (please sign!!): https://www.change.org/p/carlos-brito-kees-storm-anheuser-busch-budweiser-beer-i-want-budweiser-to-stop-mutilating-their-horses