Most dogs enjoy a game of tag with their own tail and will bite or chew on it if they manage to catch it. From time to time, they will also pin it down for a really thorough clean, but none of this should give a dog owner reason to worry. It’s only when they continue to chew their tail until it’s red and raw that you need to be concerned.
Dog chewing problems can be caused by medical, environmental or behavioural issues, so you’ll need to work out what is behind your dogs chewing before you can treat it properly.
Medical Issues That Cause Tail Chewing
A skin irritation or allergy that causes itching can make a dog chew on their tail until they break the skin, often resulting in an infection. This can create hotspots that are red, wet and sore, which will need treating with antibiotics or a topical application of ointment.
Intestinal worms can irritate the rectal area, causing your dog to chew his tail close to its base. De-worming treatments are easily available and should clear up this problem fast.
Food allergies can also make dogs itch and cause excessive chewing. A change of diet to hypoallergenic food should solve this problem.
Continual chewing can also indicate some kind of orthopaedic problems like back pain or hip dysplasia. If you think you dog might be tail chewing because of a medical issue, get in contact with your vet.
Environmental Issues That Cause Tail Chewing
Look closely at the things your dog is exposed to in their outside or inside environment which could be causing excessive chewing.
Pollens, dust mites, moulds, pesticides, soap, fabrics or toxic chemical could be the cause, as could parasites they come into contact with such as fleas.
If fleas are the cause, make sure you treat all animals in the house as well as the carpet to stop the chance of being re-infested. With other potential irritants you will need to go through them one by one, removing each to see if it makes a difference to the chewing. For instance, start by changing the soap you use for their bedding.
Behavioural Problems That Cause Tail Chewing
Separation Anxiety, attention seeking or a compulsive disorder (like OCD in humans) that is sometimes seen in dogs, can be behind their excessive tail chewing.
Separation anxiety in dogs can mean they chew their tails whenever they are left alone, much like people who chew their nails when anxious. They do it because the process of chewing helps release natural endorphins that are calming on the dogs system, they just don’t seem to be aware of the damage they are doing. You’ll need a good separation anxiety training programme and a lot of patience to get rid of your dog’s anxiety.
You can spot attention seeking behaviour because your dog will be chewing their tail where you can see them. If you react to it, even if you get cross, they are likely to carry on doing it because they have found a way to get your attention whenever they want it. The only way to stop it is to ignore them completely. Don’t let them catch your eye, don’t speak to them or touch them. In fact the best thing you can do is leave the room or move out of their sight. If it is attention seeking behaviour, they will give up this behaviour when they can see it doesn’t work.
Although compulsive disorders are not common in dogs, you should talk with your vet if you think your dog is chewing their tail for this reason, as it may need medication and a special retraining programme to sort it out.