Can Dogs Feel Their Tails: Find Answers Now

The dog is chasing his tail again. Sometimes he catches it, and bites it, which is hilarious, but doesn’t that hurt? If you know anyone who’s a fan of Yorkies or Dobermans, then you’ve seen dogs with their tails partially removed. Some breeders and supporters of this look will tell you that the tails get nipped when dogs are too young to have a developed nervous system. However, anyone who’s stepped on a dog’s tail (at any age) can tell you it hurts. They yelp to tell us so. I’m here to share the hard facts about tails and clear up the debate once and for all.

Can dogs feel their tails? Dogs can feel their tails. Despite the rumors perpetuated by til docking enthusiasts, dogs are born with a fully functional nervous system. The only parts of their bodies that dogs cannot feel are the hair and ends of the nails because these are made of keratin and have no nerves or blood inside them. 

What’s In a Dogs’ Tail

For a dog or any animal to feel their tail, there have to be nerve endings to transmit sensations to their brain. Whatever the rumors to the contrary, your pet was born with a fully functioning nervous system. From the moment they take their first breath (or before then), your pet can sense their whole body.

Like all mammals, dogs have bones, blood, and nerves inside their tails. This unique biological system lets your dog feel, and the ability to sense pain and enjoyment physically is vital to survival. It helps animals with reward and risk assessment.

When something feels nice, like a scratch behind the ear, it’s teaching the animal that something is ‘good.’ Alternately, pain helps us all understand when something has gone wrong. From a cut or scratch to a significant break or infection, when dogs are hurt, it’s a warning from their bodies that tells them they’ve made a mistake that could affect their survival odds.

Naturally, a tiny cut is usually no big deal. However, even the smallest problem can get infected. Damaging any part of a body makes it less effective. Hence animals evolved the ability to tell when something is not right.

Nerves, Bones & More

Although it doesn’t directly carry messages of pain or enjoyment, the blood inside your dog’s tail feeds the cells and keeps them alive. Without functional blood vessels and free flow, your pets’ tail would die and eventually fall off.

Some dog owners and breeders use rubber bands to cut off this essential blood flow. The tail will hurt at first and eventually lose all sensation. Sadly, unless blood flow is restored (which it isn’t), dead tissue will fall off as the appendage dies. When this happens, the bones in that section are lost as well.

Depending on its breed, your dog was born with up to twenty-three bones inside its tail. Docked dogs can have as few as one or two. These bones are the last section of his spine, just as your tailbone is the final section of yours. The length and mobility of your dog’s tail depend on the number of bones and breed of the animal.

The nerves running the length of a dogs’ tail are very sensitive. They communicate with the brain through electrical impulses sent along nerve pathways all the way into your pets’ brain. These sensations help the dog know when he is hurt.

In addition to everything else packed into that fuzzy tail, dogs have muscle. The ability to move their tails is entirely due to the musculature inside. It may surprise you to learn that a dog can pull a muscle in their tails just like any other part of the body.

Can a Dog Control Their Tail

When Rover smacks you in the face or knocks something off the table, it can certainly look like an accident. Did your pet mean to do that, or was it pure chance? Some people believe dogs have no control over their tails, and that all the motions are subconscious responses to their feelings.

While it’s almost certainly true that some of those wags are thoughtless, just as some of our gestures seem to be on autopilot, the rest are not. Your dog has control over where his tail goes. He may not care about your new vase, but he can decide when to raise lower and wag that appendage.

Learned Skills

Because tail wagging is a controlled action, dogs aren’t born with this habit. Perhaps this quirk is part of what leads some people to falsely believe the tails can’t feel anything when dogs are young. Think of it like a human infant’s neck.

The control comes later, but everything they need, including a sense of pain, is present at birth except the muscle development, and practice. Around six weeks old, puppies are ready to ramp up their communication efforts. This is generally when they begin to shake their tails back and forth.

Wagging takes work. Pups pick up the skill and use it to communicate with their mother and littermates first. Over time they ‘speak the language’ fully just like human children learning to talk.

Learning to wag isn’t the only thing young pups need. Keep your puppies from chewing up the house with a great toy to occupy their time and satisfy their need to gnaw. I recommend the Houndgames Puppy Toy Mat. It’s soft on little feet and has plenty of different fun and chewable attachments that are safe for your new pet. You can pick one up when you click right here

Dogs Need Their Tails

Regardless of how they feel, dogs need their tails to communicate. These specialized appendages exist in many species, and they aren’t all used the same way. For example, some lizards can detach and regrow their tails to escape enemies. Monkeys use theirs for holding branches in trees.

For your dog, having a tail is part of their ability to speak, not unlike having vocal cords. The signals your pet gives with his tail are part of the doggy language. A dog communicates alertness, fear, and joy with their wiggly wagger.

Without a tail, your dog couldn’t speak his intentions clearly. Although there are other indicators for a dog’s mood, like growling, the tail is critical. When you understand your pets’ tail positions, it can give you insight into how they feel and what they’re thinking.

Your pet can warn you of danger with their gestures. They can show you they need to play, or that there’s something that needs your attention. If you learn to listen to your dogs’ tail, you’ll understand them much better.

Tail Positions

Feeling your tail means something else for dogs. Among fellow canines, the position of a tail can indicate many things. A new friend will have a high tail and wag hello. This shows openness and good intentions.

Meanwhile, in dog packs, a lowered tail can indicate submission to the leader. A willingness to follow the pecking order is vital in successful groups of hunters. This skill is essential for wild dogs, but your domestic pet may exhibit the same behavior with you.

A wagging tail isn’t always happy. Depending on the motion and body posture, your dog can also indicate aggression or nervousness. Pay close attention to how they move the rest of their body in conjunction with the wags.

A dog with a stiff tail can be telling you a couple of things. Depending on their body posture, it may be a holding position. Listening and paying attention are crucial to assess new situations and potential threats.

Sometimes a dog’s tail will stiffen when they know there’s a problem. The lack of motion or short jerky moves may indicate a willingness to fight. Angry, frightened, or defensive dogs show their intent to attack if they have a reason to do so. Other dogs, some humans, and many animals can read this posture as a threat.

A Strange Tail

One of the most unusual and little known facts about your dogs’ tail has to do with how they move it. The dominant hemisphere at the moment rules the wag. Each direction the appendage moves are governed by different hemispheres in your pet’s brain.

Depending on the animal’s mood, the tail will tilt or move to one side more than the other. Although most humans don’t distinguish which side of the tail is wagging, to other dogs, it’s undeniable. For them, it can mean the difference between getting bitten and making a new buddy.

Animal experts learn to keep an eye on the tilt and wag of dog tails. Furthermore, if you’re observant, you can learn to see the difference for yourself. Knowing what’s on your dogs’ mind may help you with bonding and training exercises.

Treating Tail Injuries

Tail pain is no joke for your dog. It’s sad, and often frightening when your pet gets hurt. Unless you’re looking at a small scrape or something similar, you should never try and treat your dog at home.

From torn and strained muscles to mange, broken bones, and burns, a hurt tail needs professional help. Your dogs’ tail is more than just an appendage. It’s a communication device they need to be social. When in doubt, head to the vet for assessment.

If your dog suffers from constant pain, you should consider a good supplement like PetHonesty Hemp Supplement from Amazon to help them feel better. Hemp and tumeric help reduce swelling and pain. Plus, it’s easy to feed your pet a powdered supplement like this since it can easily mix into wet food. Find out more when you click here

Doggy Tail Problems

It’s not extremely common for dogs to have serious tail issues. Limber tail syndrome, also known as acute caudal myopathy, may affect sporting or working dogs. In this case, you’ll see the dog holding their tail in a limp position.

Dogs with LTS hesitate to wag because of damage near the base of the tail.  However, most canines with tail problems have something far more common wrong with them. Here are nine of the most frequent tail-complaints for dogs.

  • Bites- Nips from other dogs are extremely common.
  • Breaks- Anywhere there’s a bone, it can break.
  • Dislocation- An over-enthusiastic tail can end up dislocated, which means a bone is out of place, but not broken.
  • Fleas- These parasites will suck your dog’s blood and may even make him ill.
  • Infection- When bacteria get on or under the skin and overpopulates, your canine companion has an infection.
  • Irritation- Some breeds like pugs are prone to skin irritation from trapped fecal matter.
  • Nerve Damage- If your dog has been docked or otherwise had a severe tail injury, they can suffer from regular pain that’s a result of damaged nerves.
  • Sprains- Doggy tails have ligaments inside them as well. When they overexert these, they can tear, causing a sprain.
  • Wagging Injury- Although this is a general term rather than a specific problem, overzealous waggers can hurt themselves.

What Will the Vet Do

Your vet will want to know what happened, so if you know, tell them. When you have to guess, it’s okay to share what you think, but make sure they understand you are unsure. This will help treat your dog appropriately.

Most of the time, the vet will examine your pups’ tail visually. They may ask you or a veterinary assistant to help hold and calm the dog. Injured animals can behave unpredictably. It’s not that your dog is ‘bad.’ It’s normal to defend yourself from pain, whether you’re a dog or not.

Some wounds are apparent. For example, if a dog has burns or lacerations on the tail, the vet can see that. However, other problems are less evident at a glance. The vet may need to push, squeeze, or bend the tail gently to figure out what’s going on.

If there are still questions about what’s causing the pain, the vet will want to do more extensive examinations. They may ask for x-rays, blood work, or even tissue samples depending one what the problem looks like and how much they can be sure of on cursory examination.

All of this is normal for an injured dog. Moreover, if there’s lab work, you may need to wait a few days for answers. Not every issue is as simple as a broken bone or a cut. Be patient. They’re doing all they can for your pet.

Once your doggy doctor knows what’s wrong, they will treat the issue and give you directions for home care. In extreme cases, they may need to keep your dog overnight, though this is rare for tail problems. Follow all the instructions exactly.

When a dog has an infection or severe pain, there could be prescriptions to fill. You need to pay close attention to the schedule for any medications. Similarly, you should always follow doctors’ orders where changing bandages or cleaning wounds are concerned. Doing this will help your pet heal up properly.

Home Tail Treatment Tips

Unless you’re a trained veterinarian, you should never touch an injured dog’s tail without expert advice. If you have to change bandages, it may be best to break out the head cone to help prevent injury. Your dog doesn’t want to hurt you, but biting is an instinct when something causes them pain.

For those who prefer to avoid the problems with a traditional hard-sided ‘cone of shame’ design, there’s a fantastic alternative. A UsefulThingy Dog Recovery Collar doesn’t have the usual cone shape. Instead, this soft alternative is circular. It will still prevent their head from reaching your fingers but without blocking your dogs’ peripheral vision. To check prices and availability, click here

It’s always best to wear gloves if you’re handling an open wound. Though there’s little chance of getting an infection from your dog, it will help keep their wound clean. Furthermore, whether you use the gloves or not, always wash with antibacterial soap before and after handling a doggy’s tail wounds.

The only exception is when the damage is internal. For example, if your pup has a strained tail muscle or other injury and needs a bath, you can skip the gloves. There’s no way for you to get germs inside their body without an opening.

Be extra gentle when the hurt isn’t visually obvious. Your dog wants to trust you, but when they can’t see a problem, and then you touch them, causing pain, they may think you did something mean to them. Dogs are smart, but they don’t grasp medical problems they can’t see.

Final Thoughts

There’s no question about it. Dogs can feel their tails. Some dogs are extra sensitive about them because they’ve had trauma. Always respect your dog if they express displeasure about being touched there. Many dogs had their tails pulled, or are simply too sensitive to enjoy the sensation.

The rumor that dogs have no sensation in their tails is probably related to the practice of docking. Cutting the end off for beauty or false notions of injury prevention is an act that causes damage and pain to a dog. As a result, people tell themselves what they need to believe to justify the practice.

Treat your pets’ tail with the same love and respect as the rest of them. After all, a doggy tail is vital to them for communication.

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