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It's possible that it wasn't just infected, but actually dead.
That happened to my Lily, after she was hit by the car and while we were trying to save her.
If you have a weak stomach, stop reading now...
The end of her tail was literally stripped to the bone. No skin, no muscle, just bone. The tissue around that area was damaged so badly that it was literally dying. They amputated part of the tail (about 3-4 joints were gone), put her on steroids and antibiotics. Wrapped it really well and sent her home. We were to unwrap it every 48 hrs, flush it, and reapply the topical steroids. When we unwrapped it the first time, the flesh had literally disappeared. There were tendons, muscle, that kind of thing just exposed. But no skin. That was a Sunday, so we flushed it, put on the steriods and took her back to the vet first thing Monday morning.
Obviously, being hit by a car she had many other things wrong as well (the story is here on HF if you haven't read it and want to). We ended up putting her to sleep - one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. But if we had tried to save her, they would have docked her tail completely, all the way up where it connected. Since it was deteriorating so fast, they couldn't risk the infection/dead tissue spreading and getting into her spinal column.
So I don't know what was wrong with this poor little guy, but maybe that was the story with the tail? Something similar?