It’s not life threatening, it only happens occasionally, it doesn’t make them sick and it can easily be remedied with a quick and relatively painless surgery while they’re still babies. Sounds pretty harmless, nothing to be worried about or to take too seriously…or is it?
Over the years I’ve been privy to a few conversations among Gordon Setter people about puppies born with a kink in their tail. I once heard someone say that the puppy’s tail was kinked because it was a huge litter and the puppy was crowded in the uterus, so the tail didn’t have room to grow properly….really? Another time I heard it said that the bitch was crazy wild while she was pregnant and her rough-housing probably broke the tail before the pup was born and the tail healed wrong…uhmmm no.
So, understanding that there may be folks who don’t understand this phenomenon I thought I’d put a little something out here as food for thought. The best article on the topic that I’ve found so far was written by Ms MA J.H.C. Brooijmans-Schallenberg – “The Kink in the Tail“. “If we wish our pedigree dogs to have good futures, we will need to step up and take our collective responsibility for it.” I’d advise you to read the article in full, I am not an expert and cannot be responsible for fully explaining everything in as much detail. I will only attempt a brief summary to get you started.
The tail is an extension of the spinal column, which consists of vertebrae that are built differently depending on their function. Congenital aberrations of the tail shape can be found in many animals including the dog, and these generally cause no issue as long as the defect is only found on the tail. The warning is that breeding these affected dogs can result in offspring with serious defects in other parts of the body.
Starting with the fertilized egg three germ layers are formed, the most important layer, the Mesoderm is where the entire skeleton (excluding the crown of the skull), the heart, the blood vessels and the urogenital system are shaped. In the early stages of the embryonic development a great number of genetic factors pass on their information. Mutations occur often, and when they occur in the reproductive cells the changes are transferable to descendents.
As a result, there are many things (other than simply a kinked tail) that could be transferred to the offspring if Gordon Setters with kinked tails are used in breeding, and this is due to the formation of not only the skeleton, but also the heart, blood vessels and urogenital systems in the same layer, the Mesoderm. For example the offspring could have defects in the spinal column or any other part of the skeleton and jaw. Perhaps the defect could be an aortic atrium septum (undersized septum in the heart) or aortic stenosis (aorta too narrow in places), or the embryonic blood vessels fail to disappear after birth. Another defect could occur involving urethra running from kidney to bladder that is not implanted in the bladder past the sphincter. Females with this abnormality often display incontinent behavior. Males have two sphincters so this defect could be present but not evident. This is a very short list of the many abnormalities that can occur.
The Gordon Setter Health Survey conducted in 2004 for the Gordon Setter Club of America Inc. reported that 6.06% of the total population survey reported Kinked Tails under Musculoskeletal health problems. Certainly not a huge portion of the population but it does indicate to us as breeders that this occurs in the Gordon Setter. As breeders, I hope I’ve helped you gain a better understanding of what could be at play and the risk. I do hope our readers and others who may be much more expert on this topic than I, will share your thoughts, additions or additional information in the comment section below!
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ