Dogs have a unique way of expressing themselves and addressing their issues in adorable ways. A dog playing with its tail seems adorable, but what if they start chewing it? They can’t talk nor intelligently express themselves. So what do they do in case there is something wrong? They start barking, licking, or chewing the part that itches or hurts.
Many dog owners make the mistake of normalizing a dog biting tail base. They think it’s normal for a dog to lick their tail occasionally. But, a habit develops. They start biting and chewing the tail, and it starts bleeding – or worse, gets infected.
There could be some reasons your dog is chewing or biting his tail. It could be mites, stress, or allergies. And as responsible parents, you should never ignore these indications and figure out how to help your dog.
There can be several reasons your dog is biting his tail, so keep reading to learn more about the condition.
A dog occasionally biting its tail is fine as long as it doesn’t become a habit. A dog biting its tail out of habit could result in serious harm.
Why Is Your Dog Biting His Tail?
There can be several reasons why your dog is biting his tail. Most of them are related to infestations with fleas or ticks or can be due to some psychological problem your Fido is suffering from. But, no matter the cause, you should take due seriousness and get to the root cause of it right away.
Skin & Environmental Allergies
Allergies are one of the most common causes of a dog biting its tail. Many dog owners are unaware that their dogs can have allergies. They can range from a simple food allergy to environmental allergies or even something serious like chemicals. The list goes on and on.
Mold, dust, or pollen are a few common causes of environmental allergies. The allergy manifests as sneezing or coughing and can cause your dog to bite its tail. Allergies not only cause a dog to bite its tail, but you will also notice your dog scratching and licking its skin.
Food allergies manifest as skin problems. You can diagnose food allergies in dogs comfortably. Try eliminating the foods you are giving your Fido one by one. This process is called the elimination diet. That could be meat, poultry, or some uncommon protein or meat diet. For a little while, your dog must drink only water. If your dog recovers, then food allergy is to blame. Adjust your dog’s diet accordingly, and hopefully, it will recover.
Some dogs are also allergic to a few shampoo products. You will notice that your dog will start chewing on its tail after a bath. The shampoo may contain a chemical your dog is allergic to – and can cause its skin to itch.
Many dogs suffer from allergies, which could manifest as a dog biting its tail to provide relief. The allergens may be food based or environmental, or they may be serious, like chemical allergies.
Dogs infested with fleas or ticks will scratch themselves for relief against constant itching. The infestation can be seasonal occurring commonly in spring and summer. A dog will scratch all over its body, but most commonly at the base of the tail or around the neck.
Your dog will constantly try to scratch and, as a result, injure itself. Most owners use oral medication, collars, and medicated baths to treat the infestation. Sometimes dogs are sensitive to the flea’s saliva, which aggravates the itching by a flea’s bite.
Tapeworms or roundworms can also irritate your dog’s anus. The eggs of a tapeworm can be transferred due to flea ingestion or by a flea bite. The irritation of tapeworm infestation is so severe that dogs start bleeding from constant scratching.
Impacted Anal Gland
Another big reason your dog is biting its tail is swollen or infected anal glands. Anal glands are present on both sides of your dog’s anus. They contain a liquid or paste that dogs use to make their territory or greet another dog. That is why dogs often smell each other’s rear ends when they meet.
When swollen or blocked, they cause piercing pain, and your dog might start chewing on his tail to relieve the pain. You can diagnose impacted anal glands by their strong foul fishy smell, or your dog may be scooting on the floor. You may also find blood-stained or pus-filled stools.
If your dog has blocked material in its glands, it is best to visit your veterinarian. They can help you remove it by expressing the glands.
Anxiety & Stress
Sometimes you are busy in your personal life – hardly managing work/life balance. And if you have a canine at home that’s locked up all day and doesn’t get much attention or its daily jogs – it will start showing abrupt and destructive behavior.
Dogs are playful and love going on their daily strolls around the park. They are great walking companions and love spending time with their owners. But, if they are devoid of that, they will do stuff to get your attention – such as biting their tails.
Their tails are not the only target when they are stressed out. Your shoes, cushions, pillows, carpets, or any soft thing they can chew on will be a target.
In such cases, you should comfort them and give them time. Try to understand what is the root cause of this stress and anxiety. Take them out on daily strolls and socialize with other friendly neighborhood dogs.
Dogs are playful and love going out for strolls. Keeping your dog locked inside can cause stress and anxiety. As a result, your dog could show obsessive or compulsive behavior and start biting its tail.
The formation of an open wound by constant scratching is called a hot spot. The chances of it getting infected in the warm season are fairly high. Mostly bacteria find their way into the wound and cause secondary infections.
A hot spot isn’t a primary cause for a dog biting its tail. It can be due to an underlying cause that your dog is trying to relieve itself by scratching. And the continuous scratching results in a hot spot. The biting and scratching continue, and it worsens the wound.
Hot spots tend to get worse over time, so it’s best to consult your vet immediately. Your vet can determine the root cause, whether its hygiene, diet or any other factor responsible for its formation.
Licking a wound for dogs is the same for humans rubbing theirs for relief. It is their way of cleaning the injury. If there is a wound or injury near your Fido’s tail, he will try to lick it for relief.
The injury could be internal. Your dog might have suffered from a fracture – and as it cannot describe it intelligently – it starts licking it. In older dogs, it could very well be osteoarthritis. If your dog is licking the tail base, there can be arthritis of the lower spine or even hip dysplasia. Your vet should screen it and begin a management plan as soon as possible.
How To Treat Dog Biting Tail
Identifying the cause of your dog biting its tail makes it easier to find a solution. Stay in close touch with your vet, and follow his instructions carefully. There can be several causes, and some of them are dangerous. Here are a few treatment plans you can consider to help stop your dog from biting its tail.
Parasite infestation can be both internal and external. For external infestation such as that of flea or ticks, try changing the bedding, clean your house thoroughly, or if another animal is suffering from parasite infestation – isolate them. Put your Fido on medication as prescribed by your veterinarian. That will help your dog against future infestations.
Put your dog on oral medications immediately for internal parasites such as Tapeworms or Roundworms. For tapeworms, praziquantel is the best choice (available as an over-the-counter drug). Pyrantel Pamoate is the recommended medication against Roundworms and Hookworms.
Before giving any of the above medications to your dog, a veterinarian’s recommendation is strongly recommended.
There is a strong chance that your dog might be allergic to a component of its diet. Mostly it is a protein ingredient that isn’t commonly given in a diet. To check and assess the ingredient responsible, you should perform an elimination test. The best way is to keep eliminating and substituting dietary components until you determine the cause.
You will be amazed at how well and quickly your dog recovers from the attack. Its skin will start to recover, and as a result, it will stop biting its tail.
Correcting Compulsive Behavior
Treating compulsive or obsessive behavior in a dog is hard work. Mainly in the one that is constantly gnawing at its tail. Use a bitter spray or a collar on the part it is biting (in this case, the tail). Use positive reinforcement training to instill obedience.
Take them out on walks, exercise them daily (or increase it), make sure they aren’t stressed by anything, or reinforce their behavior. Many owners consider their dog’s obsessive behavior funny and reinforce it by laughing. Your dog will take it completely normal and continue with the abnormal behavior.
Take your dog out for daily strolls and exercise. Dogs are extroverts and love socializing with people and animals. Keeping them locked up inside all day can result in stress and anxiety.
Why Is My Dog Biting Tail at Night?
Have you noticed your dog angry and biting its tail at night? There can be several reasons, but mostly because of flea infestation. Flea infestation is bothersome for many pet owners. They can congregate around the ears and the anus and all over the body. They cause constant itching, and your dog tries to bite to relieve itself.
Try bathing your mutt with a flea shampoo, clean his bedding and isolate him from any other animal in your house that might have fleas. That can help eliminate fleas and prevent re-infestation.
If you have eliminated flea infestation, and the habit doesn’t go away, try taking your dog out for jogs before bed. Make sure your dog isn’t stressed and there isn’t something troubling your pet. The reason could be stress or anxiety, and you should provide comfort to your dog in such cases. Exercise your Fido daily and socialize him well with other neighborhood dogs.
Dogs bite their tails occasionally, and it’s a common practice for them. But, if the habit grows and starts happening frequently, it’s best to look at it.
There could be several reasons why your dog is biting its tail base. The common ones are parasites, impacted anal glands, injury, hot spots, allergies, and stress. Your dog scratching its tail is so alarming because it can result in bleeding or, even worse, secondary infections.
Flea infestation or roundworms in your dog’s anus can cause constant itching. Medicated baths and pyrantel pamoate is recommended to eliminate the infestation. If your dog is allergic to any ingredient in his diet, try eliminating it or substituting it for a better alternative.
There is a chance your Fido is stressed or has anxiety. And that’s why biting its tail. So, instead of showing aggression, comfort him. Take him out on daily strolls and socialize with neighborhood dogs.
It is also possible that your dog is showing compulsive behavior. Positive reinforcement training and not allowing it to bite its tail through a collar or bitter spray is the right solution. Sometimes, the situation worsens, and the wound gets infected or starts bleeding by constant scratching. It is best to refer to a vet in such cases. Treatment is immediate and shouldn’t be put off.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.