For most dogs, chasing and chewing their tail is just for fun, and nothing a dog owner needs to worry about. However, a dog chewing his tail excessively, until it loses its hair and starts to look raw, does have a problem that you will need to take swift action on, as they can cause permanent damage to the tissues in the tail.
There are a number of different reasons for dog chewing problems which could be caused by a medical, behavioural or environmental issue, so identifying which one is affecting your dog is important so you can treat it in the right way.
Medical Problems That Cause Tail Chewing
Itching due to a skin irritation or allergy is one of the most obvious problems and can result in your dog chewing until they break the skin on their tail. This increases the risk on an infection in the area, so watch out for ‘hot spots’, which will be red, irritated, wet and sore, and if you come across them consult with a vet as you may need to get either topical ointments or oral antibiotics to clear it up.
If your dog has intestinal worms, they may be irritating the rectal area and cause your dog to chew his tail close to the base. These are easy to treat with regular canine de-wormer treatments, which are widely available.
Food allergies are also known to make dogs itch and can cause excessive chewing, so a change to their diet could eliminate the problem. You could try switching to a hypo-allergenic food that doesn’t use wheat, corn, or chemical preservatives, as these are the most common causes of allergies. Alternatively, get your vet to recommend a different diet.
It is said that continual chewing or licking can also be an indicator of an orthopaedic problem such as back pain or hip dysplasia. If you think this could be the case in your dog, see your vet promptly.
Environmental Issues That Cause Excessive Chewing
Anything your dog is regularly exposed to in the indoor and outdoor environment they live in can cause chewing too. Check your dog’s tail for parasites such as ticks or fleas, but remember that some mites cannot be seen, so don’t assume that your dog isn’t affected because you can’t see them.
There are a variety of products your vet can recommend to deal with these parasites. If fleas are the cause of the chewing, make sure you treat any other pets in the house that may have been affected as well as your carpets, furniture and dog’s bedding to avoid the possibility of re-infestation.
Pollens, grasses, dust mites, mould, pesticides, soap, fabrics or toxic chemicals could also be affecting your dog, so observe what they come into regular contact with and if possible try removing that item for a while to see if it makes a difference to the chewing.
Behavioural Problems Associated with Tail Chewing
A dog chewing his tail can also be a sign of attention seeking, anxiety or even a kind of OCD that is sometimes seen in dogs.
Attention seeking behaviour is relatively easy to deal with. Obviously, to get your attention they will be chewing their tail where you can see them, so the best way to stop this behaviour is to ignore your dog when they chew. This means that you don’t look at them, speak to them or touch them in any way. Equally you can get up and walk away out of sight as soon as they start to chew. They should stop chewing and follow you fairly quickly. Dogs do what works for them and if this bit of attention seeking behaviour does not get what they want they should give it up.
Separation anxiety in dogs is another cause of tail chewing and this behaviour will largely happen when they are left on their own. Just as people might chew their nails when they were feeling anxious, dogs can chew on their paws or tail. This is because the act of chewing releases natural endorphins that helps to calm the system.
Dealing with the issues of separation anxiety in dogs is not as straight forward as sorting out attention seeking behaviour, but with a good programme of dog separation anxiety training and a lot of patience, this is possible to do. Without anxiety problems, the tail chewing problems should also disappear. To find out more about dog anxiety watch this video now.
How To Stop Your Dog From Chewing
To prevent any further tail chewing, a lamp shade collar will immediately stop your dog accessing the area, but they are rather cumbersome for a dog to wear. Some people also use bitter sprays, but it isn’t effective on all dogs as some manage to ignore the taste. These measures will help temporarily, but you will also need to identify the cause of this behaviour and treat it accordingly.