Why do dogs chase their tails? If you own a pup, you've probably asked yourself this question at least once. Although this habit may seem adorable and even funny sometimes, it may be a sign of a serious health issue for your fur baby. According to experts, it all comes down to how often your doggo does it.
In an interview with the American Kennel Club, veterinarian Steve Weinberg, DVM, explained that occasional tail-chasing could be a dog's nervous habit or part of playtime. However, if your pup is chasing after his or her tail nonstop, it might be worth taking a closer look.
"Obsessive chasing could be due to a brain abnormality akin to seizure-like activity," Weinberg said. "Other reasons could be a painful area where a tail was docked, an infection, or even cancer."
Weinberg added that excessive tail-chasing can potentially lead to self-destructive behavior. Some poor pups have even ended up chewing their own tails as a result. If left untreated, this habit could get even worse as time goes on.
Certain pups may have a genetic predisposition to tail-chasing. Experts say tail-chasing is particularly common in dog breeds such as bull terriers, German shepherds, and Staffordshire bull terriers. So if you own one of those breeds, it's important to keep your eyes peeled for any excessive tail-chasing. Something else to keep an eye out for is excessive "spinning," which is a variant of tail-chasing in which a dog runs around quickly in tight circles without any obvious interest in the tail.
It's worthwhile to note that tail-chasing may simply be age-related, as veterinarian Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, explains in an article for VCA Hospitals. She writes: "Young pups chew their tails as they become aware of their body parts. Imagine puppies thinking, 'What is that thing following me around? I’ll grab it and see.' Pups consider the tail as a toy rather than anatomy."
She adds, "On the opposite end of the spectrum, older dogs chew their tails due to decreased awareness. When mental acuity diminishes, dogs may engage in more repetitive behaviors such as tail chewing. In this case, chewing indicates a cognitive disorder that may require behavior modification medications."
If you notice that your dog is chasing after his or her tail constantly — or more than usual — it's probably a good idea to make an appointment with the vet. After all, we want to make sure those tails are wagging as happily as possible.