Your Dog’s Tail is Telling You Something

December 12, 2012

This article originally appeared on my ongoing series of articles for Flexcin International, Inc as Your Dog’s Tail is Telling You Something

Recently, the FlexPet blog featured a popular article about how our pets express themselves using body language.

The topic of tails was highlighted, as a dog’s tail carriage or movement certainly reveals a wealth of information for human observers. One commonly held belief is that a wagging tail equates to a friendly dog. I wish such were always true, but I’ve been fooled by the appearance of a wagging tail only to barely escape a dog bite.

Although many dogs wag their tails with good intentions, a moving caudal (hind end) appendage merely indicates a dog’s willingness to engage or interact. Alternatively, a fearful or timid dog can tuck his tail between the hind legs. Dogs can also show changes in their tail carriage and movement when there is an underlying health issue.

The tail is composed of a series of vertebrae (backbones) connected by small joints (facets) that are surrounded by thick muscle and skin. Just like other parts of the body, the tail houses nerves as well as blood and lymphatic vessels. All components of the tail must function in unison to work as a proper behavioral indicator or rudder when swimming.

The tail connects to the base of the pelvis at the hind end of the sacrum (tail bone). Discomfort at this site can lead to changes in the tails’ carriage or wagging tendencies. Arthritis and its progression to degenerative joint disease (DJD) are common abnormalities that cause pain in our canine companions (covered in 5 Most Common Reasons Your Pet May Develop Joint Pain). Reduced tail wagging, resentment to being touched near the tail base, and unusual tail position are symptoms of dog arthritis, DJD, muscular overexertion, and other conditions that merit an examination by a veterinarian.

Besides a physical exam, your dog may need X-rays or blood tests to determine the cause of the problem and the best course of treatment. Anti-inflammatory medications are commonly prescribed to reduce arthritis pain in dogs, but there are side effects associated with their use. My goal is to reduce my patients’ reliance on these drugs. For my patients that have arthritis in their tails (and other locations), I recommend using FlexPet as a means to build joint health and improve comfort and mobility.

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).

Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TheOldBroad December 13, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I’ll add to that, “Don’t trust a cat with a wagging tail!”

Been there. Done that. It wasn’t pretty.

Molly Mednikow December 13, 2012 at 4:30 PM

I love this article. Thanks for the information, Dr. Mahaney. I often notice the tail behaviors of my various dogs when at play or when intimidated by another dog.

Patrick Mahaney December 26, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Yes, we must take extra precaution when a cat is displaying a wagging tail. Claws and teeth come next!
Dr. PM

Patrick Mahaney December 26, 2012 at 1:00 PM

You are welcome! The tail can really tell us so much about a pet’s behavior/energy and help to prepare us for the potential friendly greeting or attack from an interested dog.
Thank you for your comments,
Dr. PM

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