Tail Biting in Dogs: What Are the Causes?

Are you going crazy listening to your pet dog biting his own tail (or the base of his tail) all night long? If that makes you uncomfortable, imagine what your canine fellow must be going through. Since they can’t talk, you need to be able to understand their feelings in an intelligible way. You might get a little frustrated about their tail biting behavior, but this could signal you about several other potential conditions.

Although it’s common for your pet dog to show scratching, chewing, and licking behavior, sometimes the reason behind this habit can be causing them harm. Therefore, you need to look for the causes of tail chewing in dogs. Some of the common causes are:

  • Parasites: worms, ticks, and fleas
  • Skin allergies as an effect of environmental changes
  • Stress
  • Food allergies
  • Boredom
  • Hotspots and other infections
  • A sudden injury that you’re not aware of
  • Impacted anal glands

Here’s an elaborate explanation of why your dog might be biting his/her tail.

1. Parasites: Worms, Ticks, and Fleas

Parasites are a common seasonal ailment for dogs. You must’ve seen your canine scratch a particular spot and when you wanted to see what’s going on, there were fleas bouncing around! It’s not that tough to get over these parasites with proper medication, regular showers, and a visit to the vet. There’s nothing surprising for these parasites to dwell in your canine’s tail, making them scratch or bite it repeatedly. Ultimately, it’s this itchiness that causes excessive chewing of the tail. This even leads to whining behavior.

pug in the grass

2. Environmental Allergies

Allergies in dogs are pretty common. Starting from food allergies to environmental allergies, there are numerous other allergies that they can encounter. Look around you. Do you see any household chemicals, molds, or pollen? Probably that’s what is causing environmental allergen in your canine, leading to tail biting behavior. In order to test this, your vet may carry out an allergy test to see what your dog is suffering from.

Many times, dogs were seen to bite their tails can be seen to experience some allergic reaction. It’s even worse when they are younger, possibly the age of three months to six years. Make sure that your canine is not allergic to the products that you use on their skin. Sometimes that’s the reason for their skin to become inflamed and irritated, leading them to bite their tail to ease themselves from their discomfort.

3. Stress and Anxiety

Yes, dogs do experience stress and anxiety at least once in their lifetime. This could be separation anxiety, when their parent leaves for work, whereby, they might start showing destructive behavior. Or they might also chew their tail. While the destructive behavior is completely unacceptable, the chewing behavior cannot be encouraged either. You may take up exercising for your canine. This way, you would be able to get engaged with some light workout and occupy your canine with some activity too. It would keep them mentally stimulated and they would forget about chewing their tail out of stress or anxiety.

4. Food Allergies

Fleas aren’t that tough to treat. However, if food allergies arise, it might give your canine a really hard time. That’s because your canine will not be sneezing and wheezing. Instead, they will manifest themselves in a number of skin problems that need immediate vet attention. If your canine is, in fact, suffering from a food allergy, your vet might recommend you to switch to a single protein diet for the time being. It usually consists of a diet containing uncommon meat such as kangaroo, rabbit, or duck. If the tail-biting in your dog stops after changing the diet, it means that they were suffering from food allergy. This also brings attention to you that you’ll have to carefully plan your canine’s meals. You can re-introduce another type of meat once they have recovered. However, if the allergy flares up once again, now you know what you should do.

5. Hot Spots

Hot spots are likely to develop on the surface of a canine’s body due to which, the tail is the easiest target for hot spots. Your pet dog might repeatedly scratch, bite, and chew their tail until they have an open wound. Normally, hot spots manifest in warm and moist conditions, whereby, your dog is susceptible to thrive these secondary infections. Your pet dog may have formed a hot spot on their tail if you notice them biting it frequently. They could do this to comfort themselves from the itchiness.

6. Impacted Anal Glands

As a dog parent, you need to know that your dog’s anal glands are very important for their overall health as well as a social tool. Their anal glands help them socialize with other dogs and get to know them. When we human beings meet one another, we are likely to shake hands. Whereas dogs secrete a fluid from their anal glands for other dogs to smell it and eventually become friends. Therefore, if you notice that your canine is biting his tail up to his butt, it simply means that there’s something wrong with their anal glands. Although this is an early sign of showing that they have an impacted anal gland. In some severe cases, the dog may have difficulty defecating or release pus or blood in their feces.

7. Injury

Your playful furry creature might injure their behind areas and you might not even be aware of it. That’s okay, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent. It’s just that they are good at hiding their injuries. An injured hindquarter could lead to chewing and biting their tail in order to draw attention to their injury. Your dog may also have fractured his tailbone if an injury occurs. They might comfort their pain by constantly biting it.

8. Boredom

Of course, your canine gets bored easily. More often than not, a bored dog is likely to develop this type of unusual behavior; it’s a fun activity for them to expend some of their energy. Just like we humans bite out nails when we are bored or shake out a foot, canines bite their tails. Some dogs might get obsessed with such behavior. If your canine is doing so out of boredom, try to engage them in activities so that they stop it. This can be harmful to their skin and they might end up injuring themselves from biting their own tail.

9. Hormonal Imbalances

This may sound a little bit weird but the hormonal imbalance can also lead a dog chewing tail. Understand the functionality here. If your dog’s body is not producing enough thyroid or if they are producing an excessive amount of cortisol, they are prone to developing superficial skin infections. Some canines may develop bald patches in the infection affected areas of the skin along with biting their tail to ease themselves from the discomforts.

dog trying to bite its tail

10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This is a psychological condition where your dog might encompass stereotyped behavior such as tail biting, tail chasing, and fly biting. It was first reported by Thompson et al. (1956) in Scottish Terriers. A group of Scottish Terriers was housed in an isolated cage for about 1 – 10 months and they seemed to exhibit behaviors like staring at their own tail, growling, and biting.

11. Learned Behavior

If all of the aforementioned problems have seemed to rule out, we might conclude it to saying that you’re dealing with a learned behavior or another abnormal behavior of your pet dog instead of an underlying medical issue. At first, it might have begun with a health issue, but it could’ve turned into an obsessive behavior that persists even after the initial problem had been resolved. In such cases, you’ll need to re-train your canine. Usually, it’s advisable to start off with staving off boredom and ensure that your canine’s physical exercise needs are met on a daily basis.

To ensure that your dog is entertained, you need a lot of energy and motivation yourself; providing them with a lot of playtimes as well as fulfilled life. Redirect their behavior when you spot it by diverting their attention into something more spectacular. When they stop focusing on biting their tail, praise them! Try to build up enough positive associations in your dog’s mind so that they leave their tail alone.

By doing so, you are assuming that your dog’s tail obsession is replaced with something else and that they should stop bothering their tail all the time. We’re sure you’ll be able to correct their behavior all by yourself, but if it seems impossible, consult a dog specialist and seek help.

Determine What’s Right for Your Canine

Have you identified that cause of your pet dog biting his tail? If yes, then move on to the next step, and determine what’s the right solution for them to resurrect their behavior or possibly treat this underlying cause. It’s better not to generalize the solutions. Your canine is unique and will require a solution based on his own needs. A lot of pet parents consider home remedies for dog biting tail. While it doesn’t sound like a bad idea, we’d recommend you always to coordinate with your vet and determine the best solution of it. Anyway, we’ve listed some handful of treatments to help you stop your canine from biting themselves:

  • Use Medications

By now you must have come across an array of medications that are possibly suitable to your canine’s skin. Make use of it to release them from flaky, dry skin that’s causing them to scratch themselves more than normal. If you haven’t visited the vet in a while, try visiting them so that they can help your canine with a topical treatment that they need. They might also need antibiotics, steroid or other anti-itching products to stop them from biting their tail.

  • Preventing their behavior

If this is the first few times you notice your dog exhibiting this behavior, this is when you should intervene and take steps to discourage it. This might be done by spraying something bitter on their tail so that they don’t bite or chew it. In tune, you could even use dog cones that are also equally helpful in such cases. And obviously, you can always use commands like “No” and “Leave it” when you think that they shouldn’t be doing something that they are already into. Nonetheless, if you feel that saying “no” to everything is a bit too harsh on your canine, positively reinforce some commands and give them something as a reward when they obey your order of not biting their tail.

  • Dealing with Anxiety or Boredom

Some overly pampered dogs might act up because of boredom. Therefore, you need to make sure that they are getting enough exercise, affection and most important mental stimulation. They will only stop their destructive behavior when all their needs are met. The best option is giving them a toy or bone that they can chew all day long rather than their tail.

You May Also Like: Dog Toys and Dog Bones

dog licking themselves

How Have You Been Dealing with This Issue?

Now that you know about the possible reasons why your dog might be giving a lot of attention to their tail; how have you been dealing with the issue? It’s a really interesting tapestry as to why they can lead to this compulsive tail biting habit. But the good news is, whether it’s because of a secondary infection, for addressing small wounds or simply because of hygiene, it’s all treatable with the right tactics. You need not to worry.

Let us know: have you ever had a dog or a puppy who had a problem on their tail? Were you able to isolate the problem and address it successfully, with or without the help of your vet? Share with us your experiences and stories of dog tail biting in the comment section below!

Leave a reply

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!