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Mira Mar Vet, your local vet in Albany

Tales of tail chasing

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Latest Monthly Newsletters, Pet Care

If you’ve watched any funny animal video compilations, you may have giggled once or twice at footage of dogs chasing their own tails in a ridiculous fashion. But is this behaviour a harmless canine quirk, or does it represent a problem?

What is tail chasing?

Tail chasing is a behaviour mostly seen in dogs, involving the pet spinning in circles in apparent pursuit of their tail (which they may or may not actually catch and bite).

Why does a dog tail chase?

Some dogs chase their tail occasionally in play or excitement, particularly if they get a positive response from their owner (such as laughter) by doing so. This is considered reasonably normal, provided it occurs infrequently, and the pet can be distracted from the behaviour.

However, repetitive tail chasing can be a symptom of an underlying problem, such as:

  • A behavioural issue, e.g. anxiety or an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Pain or discomfort around the pet’s back end, e.g. spinal pain, bottom or tail irritation, hip pain, abdominal pain, or skin irritation

In dogs with obsessive-compulsive disorders, the tail chasing tends to increase in severity and frequency over time, becoming increasingly difficult to distract from. Other symptoms, such as aggression, fear, or seizures, may occasionally accompany it.

What should I do if my pet tail chases?

Regardless of the underlying cause, early intervention is always best. If your dog is tail chasing frequently, we recommend a prompt check-up so we can examine them for any potential causes of back-end pain or discomfort. We may also suggest imaging (such as X-rays) to assess their joint health.

If your dog’s tail chasing appears to be OCD or anxiety-related, we can arrange a behavioural treatment plan for them, which may include:

  • Avoiding any triggers for the tail-chasing behaviour
  • Increased physical activity and mental stimulation
  • Encouraging and rewarding calm behaviour, whilst ignoring tail chasing
  • Medication to help calm your pet and support their retraining
  • Treatment of any tail wounds

For more help with your pet’s behaviour, consult our experienced team.