Have you noticed your dog has been licking the base of his tail fairly often? If so, you may be wondering why he’s doing this! Well, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve put together some information about this behavior and things you can do to help your dog. Let’s get started!
Why is My Dog Licking the Base of His Tail?
If your dog is licking the base of his tail regularly, then it’s a symptom of a problem he’s having. First, it’s important to understand your dog may have rectal itching. That means he may have an itch near the anal area.
Symptoms of this type of problem can include scooting their behind across the carpet or grass outside. It may also include licking or biting near the anal area. Dogs with this problem may be having pain or other types of discomfort (such as itching) in this area. The problem can be caused by a number of issues.
Here’s our list of the most common reasons a dog may lick the base of his tail.
1. Anal Sac Problem
Dogs that are licking or biting the base of their tails may have a problem with their anal sacs. A dog has an anal sac on each side of his anus. The sacs are filled with fluid that smells bad to us; however, it contains information about the dog’s health and more for other dogs to “read” with their noses. Dogs also use these fluids to mark their territories.
Sometimes the anal sacs may become blocked with dried fluid. When this happens, there’s a greater chance for an infection to set in. This can lead to the formation of pus and more.
Anal sacs need to be emptied on a regular basis. However, this should be done by the vet or a groomer familiar with the procedure. Not all pet parents want to deal with this job because it can be really gross and smelly. Plus, it’s also possible to injure your dog if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, it’s best to let the vet or groomer take care of this.
2. Hormonal Imbalances
Dogs, just like us, go through hormonal imbalances from time to time. The problem may come to light by itching skin at the base of the dog’s tail. It’s possible the dog may be producing too much or not enough of certain hormones. This can be caused by different health issues, including:
- Cushing’s disease
Other signs of these conditions could be a thickening of the skin or changes in skin pigmentation. Hair loss and a dull coat are also common symptoms of a hormone imbalance. The symptoms may appear anywhere on the body but usually on the tail.
These conditions can be serious if left untreated. What’s more, a dog that’s constantly licking and biting his tail could end up with a bad skin infection due to irritation. You may also notice other symptoms, including:
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Excessive hunger/thirst
So, if you notice these symptoms and that your dog is biting his tail, it’s time to call the vet. The conditions that may be causing these symptoms need to be treated as soon as possible.
3. Food Allergies
Food allergies are another common reason that a dog may be biting his tail. Allergies are caused by an immune system that overreacts to certain proteins in the dog’s environment. These proteins can include dust, mold, pollen, and more. However, the proteins may also be found in the dog’s food.
Symptoms of food allergies in dogs may include:
- Itchiness/irritation near the base of the tail
- Swollen, irritated skin
- Breathing difficulties
- Rash, hives
- Stomach and digestive problems
- Weight loss
Here, again, if a dog is constantly licking near the base of his tail, it’s possible an infection may arise. The irritated skin allows bacteria to enter the dog’s body, leading to a secondary infection. Some of the most common food allergens in dogs include:
- Dairy products
If your dog is showing these symptoms, along with biting the base of his tail, it’s best to call the vet. Your fur baby may need to undergo allergy testing to see what he’s allergic to. Thankfully, there are many allergy treatments for dogs. And it’s possible to remove offending foods from your dog’s diet. All of this can work together to help your dog feel and look better. And he’ll probably stop biting the base of his tail with treatment.
4. Environmental Allergies
While we’re on the subject of allergies, we should also explore the possibility of environmental allergies in dogs. We touched on this briefly in the last section; however, it’s important to also check your dog for these allergies.
Dogs can develop allergies to just about anything we can, including:
- Dust mites
- And more
You may notice these symptoms in your dog if he has an environmental allergy:
- Itchy skin (near the base of his tail or in other places)
- Runny nose & eyes
- Lesions (on top or under his feet/paws)
- Hair loss
Environmental allergies can vary in severity from dog to dog. Some dogs may have an anaphylactic reaction to some allergens, while other dogs only sneeze when around that same allergen. It just depends on the dog and their immune system.
If you notice these symptoms in your dog, along with biting the base of his tail, then it’s best to call the vet. Here, too, the vet may run allergy tests to find what your dog is allergic to. Effective allergy management means avoidance as much as possible of the allergen, along with medication to treat and control symptoms. Dogs with environmental allergies can live long, comfortable lives once their allergies are properly managed.
5. Hot Spot
This is another common condition in dogs. Hot spots are areas that a dog constantly licks, such as at the base of his tail. The hot spot becomes red, itchy, and inflamed. These spots can be caused by:
- Ear infections
- Too much licking (that is caused by a habit or behavioral issue)
- Anal gland problems
- Poor hygiene
6. Pain from an Injury or Orthopedic Problem
Another reason that a dog may lick the base of his tail is due to pain from an injury or an orthopedic problem. Dogs lick painful areas to try to relieve the pain. If your dog seems to be in pain, then call the vet right away.
Dogs can suffer tail injuries or develop orthopedic problems caused by:
- Disc disease
- Hip dysplasia
You may notice these symptoms if your dog has this type of health problem:
- Licking the base of his tail
- Reduced appetite
- Arched back
These are all signs it’s time to call the vet to see what’s causing the problem.
7. Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Another common problem in dogs is flea allergy dermatitis. It’s possible that fleas and flea bites may cause a dog’s skin to itch and become irritated. This can lead to constant licking. Fleas love to bite near a dog’s tail. That’s because that area is harder for a dog to reach.
And it may not even be that you have a flea infestation problem. That is possible; however, in dogs that are allergic to flea bites, one bite is enough to cause an allergic reaction. Some favorite spots for fleas to bite are:
- Base of the tail
- Middle of the back
These are all difficult places for a dog to reach, meaning the fleas have almost free access to these places on the dog’s body.
Flea bites may cause other problems, too, such as anemia. So, if your dog is showing symptoms of being allergic to flea bites or other signs of fleas causing problems, then it’s time to call the vet.
Dogs that have not been dewormed may also suffer from tapeworms. One of the symptoms of a tapeworm infection is a dog biting his tail.
Tapeworms are bad because they are formed in segments. Each segment has male and female sexual organs, which means each segment can produce more worms. That’s pretty gross; however, the infection can be life-threatening for dogs.
When the worms or their segments are ingested, they live in the dog’s intestines. The eggs or segments can produce mature worms, which then produce more eggs. A dog that’s infected with tapeworms may even poop the worms out, which can cause a lot of irritation. The dog may be licking and biting the base of his tail.
Female dogs may develop a condition called vaginitis. One of the symptoms is that the dog will lick the base of her tail or her private areas.
Vaginitis is inflammation and infection of the dog’s vagina. The organ becomes swollen and produces mucus, which the dog tries to clean off. Just like humans, dogs may suffer from these conditions, which can lead to vaginitis:
- UTIs (urinary tract infections)
- Foreign body in the vagina
- Vaginal trauma
- Bacterial infection
Dogs with this condition must be treated by a vet right away.
10. Contact Dermatitis
Another problem that dogs may develop is called contact dermatitis. This can be caused by an allergen that dog has encountered that affects their skin. The dog may have an allergy to grass or other things in the environment. However, contact dermatitis can also be caused by chemicals, such as lawn fertilizers and pesticides.
It’s also possible for a dog to develop contact dermatitis from doggie shampoo and more. You may notice these symptoms if your dog has contact dermatitis:
- Licking the base of his tail
- Skin rashes
- Eye irritation
- Itchy private parts
- Skin thickening and changes in pigmentation
This is another condition that must be treated by a vet.
11. Lack of Stimulation
Licking the base of their tail can also be caused by behavioral issues, such as lack of stimulation and boredom. Dogs that are bored may take up bad habits such as licking the base of their tail or other parts of the body. They may also become destructive and chew things up and more.
Dogs that don’t get enough exercise may also suffer from boredom. Too much pent-up energy causes the dog to try to find ways to relieve their lack of stimulation.
How to Help Your Dog to Stop Licking the Base of His Tail
If your dog is showing symptoms such as licking the base of his tail and more, then here are some things you can do to help him!
Call the Vet
One of the first things to do if your dog is licking the base of his tail is to call the vet. The vet can examine your dog and find the cause of the problem, whether it’s a medical or behavioral condition. Once they find the problem, the vet can then prescribe medication and other methods to help your dog find relief.
Deworm Your Dog
If your dog has worms, then the vet may prescribe deworming medication. They can make the right diagnosis as to the type of worm and then determine the best medicine to prescribe for this problem.
Does your dog have fleas? Have you noticed fleas in the house or on you? If so, you may be dealing with a flea infestation. In that case, the entire yard and home must be treated to get rid of the fleas. You may need to call in a professional pest control company for such a large job. If not done correctly, you could make the problem worse for you and your dog.
The vet can also prescribe medications to help your dog find relief from irritation caused by fleas and their bites.
Once your dog, yard, and home are free of fleas, it’s necessary to repeat the process of applying chemicals to keep fleas under control. In addition, regular vacuuming can help keep carpets and furnishings flea-free.
If your dog has allergies, then treating his condition and helping him avoid the allergens are necessary. The vet will provide you with information on how this can be done effectively. For instance, if your dog has a food allergy, he may need a special diet or food that doesn’t contain the offending ingredients.
If your fur baby is allergic or sensitive to chemicals or other products, then you’ll need to either stop using these products or limit their use.
Dogs can also take allergy medication to help control their allergy symptoms.
Summing It Up
The main message to take away from this article is that if your dog is licking the base of his tail, then it’s time to see the vet. The problem can be caused by so many different things that it may take testing to find the problem and a solution.
The goal is to help your dog feel better and to stop licking the base of his tail. So, be sure to call the vet if your fur baby is having this problem or other symptoms.