Even if you just went out to the mailbox, your dog is ecstatic when you come in the door. There's nothing like a good tail-wagging greeting. Your canine expresses so many emotions through their tail. If a dog keeps biting their tail or rear end, they're telling you something is very wrong.
Fleas, ticks, and tapeworms in dogs
If your dog keeps biting their tail, they may have some type of parasite infestation. Such parasites may take the form of fleas, ticks, tapeworms, or a combination of pests.
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The base of the tail along with the back of the head are areas where fleas tend to congregate. Untreated, flea bites can cause hotspots, or skin infections. Tapeworms, segments of which look like rice around the dog's anus, can also cause constant irritation. Dogs can get tapeworms from ingesting fleas that carry the worm larvae; ingesting these fleas can occur when the dog grooms themself.
Fortunately, eradicating fleas, ticks, and tapeworms and relieving your dog's discomfort is relatively easy. Ask your veterinarian about the best preventative medication to protect your pet from fleas and ticks. If you spot those telltale tapeworm segments, deworm your dog with a medication specifically designed to eliminate tapeworms. Your veterinarian can prescribe a suitable dewormer.
Impacted anal glands in dogs
Your dog has two glands on either side of their anus. In the canine world, the fluid from these anal glands, which is similar to what skunks spray, are a form of dog ID. When dogs meeting each other for the first time sniff each other's tail area, they're obtaining information about the newcomer from the secretions. Think of it as their version of "here's my card." The fluid is also a way to mark territory.
Anal glands often become impacted, resulting in pain and possible infection. Chewing the tail area, which is sometimes preceded by a dog suddenly looking at their rear end, is just one symptom of impacted anal glands. Scooting across the floor is another common sign. You might also notice your dog has a foul odor despite being bathed, and they may struggle to defecate or have blood or puss in their feces. Take your pet to the veterinarian for an examination.
If impacted anal glands are the underlying cause of your dog's tail chewing, your veterinarian can express the anal glands and release the nasty material. If an infection is present, antibiotics are prescribed. Some dogs, particularly those with allergies, are prone to anal gland impactions. If you're up to it, your veterinarian can teach you how to safely express the anal glands at home.
A dog biting its tail from food allergies
Fleas and flea bites are usually simple to treat. That's not the case with food allergies. While sneezing and wheezing is a common allergic reaction in people, in dogs environmental allergies and food allergies usually manifest themselves in skin problems like dermatitis with itchiness and scabs on the dog's body. Identifying and combating the issue requires veterinary attention.
If your veterinarian suspects a food allergy, an elimination diet is usually recommended for up to 12 weeks. This involves feeding your dog a diet provided by the veterinarian or a single-protein diet. The latter often consist of one uncommon meat the animal has never been fed, such as rabbit, duck, or even kangaroo. Other than water, nothing else should enter your dog's mouth for the prescribed period. Talk to your veterinarian to see if you should discontinue any meat-flavored toothpastes and chewable meat-flavored medications or supplements.
If your dog stops biting the tail area and the skin improves, it's likely that food allergies were to blame. From now on, you'll have to manage your dog's diet very carefully. You can try reintroducing another single meat source at some point, such as beef or chicken (two of the most common allergens), but if your dog's allergy flares up again, you know at least one of the triggers.
Dogs chewing their tail due to anxiety
Sometimes, there's no external reason for a dog biting his tail. Instead, it's a way for the dog to let you know something is missing in their life, whether it's exercise or mental stimulation. They're stressed and anxious, and they take that stress and anxiety out on themself. It's up to you to provide them with an outlet for their pent-up feelings.
Help your dog by spending as much time with them as possible, including going for long walks. Such exercise benefits both of you. Play with them and provide them with toys and suitable chew objects so that they pay less attention to their tail. You can also talk to your veterinarian to see if your dog might benefit from being on medication to alleviate anxiety.
The bottom line
A dog's behavior can tell you a great deal about their health. If your dog keeps biting the area near the base of their tail, it might be indicative of a problem such as impacted anal glands, fleas, food allergies, or tapeworms. Take your dog to the veterinarian to receive a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.