Do you see your dog habitually chewing its tail and wonder why is my dog chewing her tail? This is quite a challenge and it might make you frustrated and worried about your dog’s behavior.
In this article, you’ll find answers to your question along with:
- 6 Tips to prevent tail chewing in dogs
- 18 Possible Reasons why your dog is chewing its tail
- And a lot more
Why Is My Dog Chewing Her Tail?
If your dog is chewing its tail, it may be suffering from environmental or food allergies. Environmental allergens like pollen, dust, and chemicals can cause your dog to chew her tail. Fleas and parasites infestation can also cause excessive tail chewing. Other than this, stress, infection, and injuries can be the possible causes.
Why Is My Dog Chewing Her Tail? Top 18 Reasons
1. Suffering From Skin Allergy
According to Pet MD, dogs can develop skin injuries like contact dermatitis or atopic dermatitis from their tails touching grass that contains pesticides or from touching the sap of poison ivy or from plants, fertilizers, rugs, environmental allergens, mold spores, metal, concrete, soaps, and so on.
Did you know that there could also be harmful allergens in your house?
A study reported that the most common allergen causing atopic dermatitis in dogs was house dust mites. 69% of the dogs had skin allergic reactions when exposed to house dust mites.
This causes their tails to develop red rashes or bumps. Biting the tail temporarily relieves the itch or the pain which is why you see your dog doing this constantly.
Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to contact dermatitis such as:
- French Poodles
- Golden Retrievers.
- German Shepherds
- Scottish Terriers
- Wire-haired Fox Terriers
- West Highland White Terriers
Is it a seasonal tail chewing habit?
If your dog only chews its tail during certain seasons, he/she may be allergic to certain seasonal plants, pollens, or even a specific outdoor area.
Monitor your dog’s behavior during this period to find the offending culprit. The most important, yet challenging way to resolve this habit is to remove your dog from the allergen that brought on the condition.
2. Flea Infestation
According to WebMD, the base of the dog’s tail and together with the back of its leg is one of the favorite hangout places for fleas.
In a study where researchers collected monthly flea samples from domestic dogs in Bullock County, Georgia, USA, researchers found that the most common flea was the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) followed by the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis).
Therefore, if your dog has a flea problem, it is most likely that they have cat flea.
This study also showed that the peak season for fleas is in the late summer or autumn period. This is the time where the atmosphere is very moist and humid, thereby encouraging the abundant growth of fleas.
Dr. Jennifer Kvamme, DVM says that fleas become most active when temperatures are favorable (35°C with a relative humidity of 70 percent are ideal conditions for flea populations).
Did You Know?
Fleas can suck up to 15 times their body weight in blood! That’s a lot of blood from your dog that could result in anemia which can be dangerous.
As mentioned by Dr. Kvamme, fleas are very active insects and can jump from pet to pet or pet to human. If your dog starts to chew its tail all of a sudden after playing with other dogs, it is likely that it may have gotten the fleas from other dogs.
If you notice your dog biting and chewing the base of its tail fervently, look out for other signs of flea infestation including:
- Scratching or biting at its fur all over the body
- Loss of hair from intense itching and scratching
- Fleabites are usually small raised red dots.
- Pale gums show the danger of anemia or a loss of red blood cells.
- “Flea dirt,” that looks a little like pepper either on your dog’s skin or on surfaces like its bedding or carpet
3. Parasites and Ticks
Parasites like tapeworms and ticks are another cause of why your dog is itching its tail. Ticks like dark and warm places and thus the underside of a dog’s tail makes a great breeding place for them.
According to Dr. Ryan Llera from VCA Hospital, dogs may chase their tails when they are infested with intestinal parasites like tapeworms that migrate out the rectum. The irritation around the anal area makes your dog gnaw in that area as well as chew on its tail.
Since many owners fail to check that area, these parasites grow larger in number and cause dogs discomfort. To curb this, your dog may engage in an obsessive behavior of tail biting.
“Ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes are dangerous because they can carry and cause malicious diseases,” says Dr. Gary Brummet.
In addition to tail chewing behavior, these parasites can spread dangerous diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Therefore, it is urgent to treat your dog of these parasites before they get worse.
The AKC has provided a list of 11 internal, intestinal and external dog parasites that could infect your dog at some point in its life:
Internal Dog Parasite:
Intestinal Dog Parasites:
- Coccidia, Giardia, and Spirochetes (non-worm parasites)
External Dog Parasites:
You can also check the CAPC website for the prevalence map of these harmful parasites, from low to moderate to high, broken down by state across the U.S.
4. Lack of Hygiene
According to this study which polled American dog owners, 56% of pet parents don’t bathe their dogs as frequently as they should, and 60% of pet parents use the sniff test when deciding when to bathe their dog.
Dr. Alison Diesel explained that many skin conditions can be prevented with routine bathing and grooming.
If your dog is often dirty and not cleaned, chances are high for it to develop rashes and infections around the anal area, tail, and the area under the belly.
The dirty moist skin is a breeding ground for bacteria which can result in an infection if there is an open wound. These infections cause your dog to bite their tails to stop the itch.
Signs of poor hygiene in dogs are:
- Dull or greasy fur
- Matted fur
- Dry and itchy skin
- Foul smell
Did you know?
A dog’s skin can hosts an estimated 350 bacteria per square centimeter. Yes, that’s per centimeter!
Some of the common bacteria found on dogs are:
5. Incorrect Diet
According to Pets WebMD, an adult dog needs around 10% of its daily calories from proteins and around 5.5% from fat. Their diet needs to include 50% carbs and 2.5-4.5% of fiber content.
If these requirements are not met either due to poor diet, too much snacking from table scraps and so on, chances are that your dog might develop skin conditions and allergies, especially near the tail and belly area causing them to chew on it.
Research by Dr. Catherine Barnette and Dr.Ernest Ward from VCA hospitals indicates that dogs are usually allergic to things like soy, chicken eggs, kangaroo, duck, dairy products, or lamb meat.
So, if your dog has eaten any of the mentioned things, it may cause him to have superficial skin infections or rashes which then causes itching on various areas of the body. If the skin infection is near the tail area, your dog will probably chew on the rash.
You can determine if your dog is suffering from a food allergy by the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
Also, refrain from feeding these food items to your pet friend.
Physical injury anywhere near the near or hindquarter may cause your dog to feel uneasy and experience pain. These injuries sometimes go unnoticed. To bring your attention to it and to curb the distress, your dog might excessively bite or chew the tail area.
Another possible injury is a tailbone injury. Dr. Krista William states that it causes nerves and blood vessel damage. This physical discomfort then causes your dog to bite or lick its tail. It is important to get an X-ray and check this with your vet to get a diagnosis.
7. An Open Wound
An open wound or a scab near the tail area or on the tail may cause your dog to again itch or bite it with its teeth.
Pro tip: Check for wound infestation near the tail area if you see your dog compulsively biting or gnawing on it. If you find any such wound or a scab take your dog to the vet and get it treated to avoid getting any further infection.
You can also use a recovery collar so that your dog doesn’t bite the wound near the tail.
Sometimes your dog may experience stress from say a loud sound outside, a strange object, or a loud child. This may always put them on alert mode and to curb the stressful feelings they may find pleasure in chewing on their tails.
Pro tip: Identify the things that cause your dog and try to reduce external environmental discomforts like shutting the windows, calming down a child, and removing objects that your dog may be afraid of to stop with the tail biting.
Below are a few signs of stress in your dog, as researched by Dr.Malcolm Weir from VCA hospitals.
- Excessive yawning
- Licking and chewing to self soothe
- Dilated pupils
Separation anxiety is a common type of anxiety seen in dogs. Sources like Pet MD state that it is a serious condition that often leaves pet owners feeling frustrated.
If you go out for work and you return home to see your dog having eaten half your shoe or torn the pillow or sofa cases, it is probably because he is anxious about being alone and home and that he definitely misses you.
If this is not taken care of at the very beginning, it causes your dog to draw his attention inward and seek pleasure in tail chewing.
Pro tip: While training your dog to be alone, you could use some anxiety and stress relief toys to keep them occupied which will help redirect their focus from the tail to the toy in front of them.
Sometimes, simply out of boredom and because there is no other thing that is mentally stimulating you might see your dog chew its tail. Just like we humans bite our nails or play with our hair when bored, dogs engage in tail biting as it is a good way to pass the time and expend their energy.
11. Impacted Anal Glands
Like we humans shake hands to form a social or personal connection, dogs sniff each other’s rear ends to establish contact. Thus anal fluid secretions are an important part of dogs.
Any sort of problem like rash or bleeding in that area causes your dog to feel pain and discomfort and thus try to gnaw on that area.
One of the most common signs that your dog is experiencing impacted anal glands is scooting where they drag their butts across the ground or experience constipation, puss, or bleeding. This too is a cause of them to chew their tail.
Dr. Tammy Hunter has explained this condition very well in his research, stating that the anal sacs will become impacted due to duct inflammation.
You can take a look at the best foods available for dogs with anal gland issues.
12. Hormonal Imbalance
If your dog is not producing enough cortisol and thyroid hormones it may cause your little four-legged pet to have skin infections. They may get bald patches and irritation around the infected area.
If it is near the tail then your dog will be seen itching in that particular area. To get this checked you should talk to your vet about your dog’s behavior and imbalance of hormones.
13. Curiosity In Young Puppies
Young puppies who are exploring the world and their own bodies are often seen chasing their tails. They think of it as a toy hanging around in the back and do not know it is actually a part of their own body. This causes them to run around and chase their own tail and bite on it.
Thus, if you have a small puppy doing this they will soon get over it and you do not have to worry about it too much.
14. Cognitive Disorder Due to Old Age
Older dogs tend to chew their tails due to a decrease in awareness. They begin to engage in repetitive behaviors like tail biting once their mental acuity diminishes.
A study on aging and cognitive dysfunction in dogs showed that 30% of dogs who were 11-12-year-olds and 70% of dogs who were 15-16-year-olds exhibited cognitive dysfunction. This often leads them to produce repetitive and disoriented behaviors.
Many owners fail to disclose declines in cognitive functions in their dogs, maybe because they believe they are minor or that little can be done about them.
However, according to the VCA, early detection provides the best chance of improving symptoms and slowing cognitive deterioration. These disorders can sometimes be reversed with behavioral modification techniques.
15. Trying To Gain Attention
If you laughed or giggled whenever your dog chewed its tail, it would probably do it over and over again to get your attention and reaction. This is nothing but a positive reinforcement that reinforces your dog to maintain the chewing behavior.
Thus, it is important that you take notice of the feedback you are giving your dog while he performs certain types of behaviors. Owners are encouraged to ignore their pets whenever their dogs are chewing or biting their tails. This ‘no feedback mechanism’ eventually reduces the frequency of them doing it.
16. A side effect of an Ongoing Medication
If your dog has been on medications due to some underlying condition, it could have a side-effect like an allergy or a rash near the tail area or it may cause pain and discomfort in that area. This again causes them to bite their tail to relieve the distress.
17. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in humans, there is something called Canine Compulsive disorder in dogs that causes them to perform repetitive behaviors like chasing or biting their tails or fly biting.
OCD was first reported in Scottish Terriers who were isolated for 1-10 months and started exhibiting behaviors like biting their tails and growling. If you watch your dog repetitively doing this for months on end, you should probably get it checked with your vet.
Here’s a video of what canine compulsive disorder looks like and more information on the same.
18. Tail Trauma
If your dog has experienced an injury on their tail from either a muscle sprain, droopy tail, fracture, genetic anomalies, and injuries, they are very likely to bite or chew on it. If you suspect tail trauma in your dog, call your vet right away.
Here is a video of Dr.Becker talking about tail injuries that you should watch!
6 Ways To Prevent Tail Chewing In Your Dog
Now that we have looked at the causes of tail chewing let’s look at remedies for the same.
1. Flea, Tick and Parasite Treatment
If you notice a flea infestation in your dog, treating it is the first step. You can use a flea comb to start with. Brush off your dog’s fur until all visible fleas and ticks are removed.
You can then bathe your dog using a suitable shampoo to get rid of all the fleas and ticks stuck to their skin.
Make sure to clean their rear end as fleas usually crowd around that spot. This might help to get your dog to stop biting its tail. For parasites and worms, your vet might suggest you use a dewormer.
Dogs spend a lot of time in their bedding. Thus, if they are flea or tick-infested, these insects will probably stay in your dog’s bed. So, even if you wash and clean your dog, it will keep contracting fleas if their bedding area is not clean. Hence, keep your pet’s bedding clean by washing it every couple of days.
2. Changing Her Diet
Like we have seen above, one major cause of dogs biting their tail is a poor unhygienic diet. To overcome this issue, make sure your dog is fed well. You can switch to a high protein diet for your little canine friend. Ask your vet for more diety suggestions.
3. Maintaining Proper Hygiene
Keeping your dog clean and tidy will help reduce infections and skin allergies near the anal and tail area. This will reduce your dog’s tail biting behavior. Bathe them every 3-4 weeks and brush their fur hair often.
4. Preventing The Behavior
If your dog doesn’t seem to be affected by things like infections, worms, and fleas, the behavior is occurring due to you positively reinforcing it. You can use this positive reinforcement to change your dog’s behavior.
Every time your dog stops chewing his tail when you say “Stop”, give him treats. With gradual practice, your dog will learn to make an association between the appropriate behavior and obtaining a treat. Soon, he will stop with the tail chewing behavior.
5. Provide Ample Mental Stimulation
A good option for your dog to stop with the chewing behavior is to give him chew toys. In that way, he can take all of his aggression and pent-up energy on the chew toy which will reduce the tail-biting action.
Here is an extremely cute video of a puppy playing with puzzles that will just make your day better!
6. Provide Ample Attention
Shower your dog with attention every now and then so that he doesn’t feel left out or lonely. Also, play games with them, run around with them, and make them feel loved.
This will cause them to pay less attention to themselves and more to you and to things around them which will eventually reduce the biting behavior.