Tail Biting and Chewing in Dogs
Most dog owners readily admit to smiling at the silly sight of their dog chasing his tail. But when an occasional tail chasing episode becomes a habit or if it devolves into tail biting or chewing, what was once viewed as cute may, in fact, be worrisome.
Consider then, the six most common causes of canine tail biting and chewing.
1. Parasitic infestations: Fleas and ticks are both seasonal annoyances and afflictions for countless dogs. Rather than reacting to the presence of the pests themselves, some dogs are allergic to the saliva in their bites, resulting in dermatitis (skin inflammation). A dog with an undiagnosed flea or tick allergy may repeatedly bite at the affected area, breaking the skin, in an attempt to find relief from the itching. Tapeworms can also cause extreme discomfort -- this time, in the area around your dog’s anus -- often driving him to gnaw or chew at the base of his tail which, in turn, leads to even more pain.
2. Allergies: Environmental allergies – including outdoor pollen and household chemicals, mites and mold, shampoos and soaps, and contact with other animals – are also extremely common in dogs. Studies show that reactions are most severe between the age of three months and six years, and that, like people, a pup’s first instinct to an allergy’s itchiness is to scratch it, which can ultimately progress to biting and/or chewing.
3. Hot spots: These are areas where repeated scratching or chewing, exacerbated by warmth and moisture, has led to the creation of open wounds on your dog’s body. Easily recognized by the presence of blood, pus and matted hair, should stray bacteria enter the site before it’s been properly treated, the result is a secondary infection. If your dog is biting at the base of his tail so often that he draws blood, a secondary infection may not be the root cause of his problem but a symptom of some other issue. Only your vet can determine precisely what that issue is.
4. Stress, anxiety and boredom: Any or all three can lead dogs to exhibit a variety of repetitive and often destructive behaviors – including biting and chewing their tails. For some, it’s because they’re left crated too long while their owners are gone during the day. For others, it’s because they’re not getting enough physical exercise, interactive playtime and mental stimulation – all of which can be easily remedied by providing them with sufficiently satisfying outlets for their pent-up energy.
5. Injury: Any type of rear or hind end injury, such as a broken or fractured tail bone, may, under normal circumstances, go unnoticed by even the most conscientious of owners. Perhaps your sole clue will be the sight of your dog, wracked by intense pain, licking, biting and/or chewing the affected area. Only a visit to the vet and x-rays can accurately pinpoint the problem.
6. Impacted anal glands: The final, possible reason for a dog to bite at the base of his tail until it bleeds is an impacted anal gland. Scooting – when he sits and drags his butt across the floor or any other surface – is the most obvious sign. Other symptoms may include an especially foul odor coming from his rear end, constipation and, in severe cases, blood or pus in his stool.
Whatever the reason behind your cherished canine companion’s tail biting or chewing, once it’s been addressed and treated, he’ll be free to enjoy his life in good health and high spirits.
Article by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her adopted Maltese, Mini, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.