If your Labrador has been biting its tail, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you common reasons why they do it and what you can do about it.
So, why does my Labrador bite its tail? Possible reasons are that it has fleas, allergies, an injury, impacted anal glands, separation anxiety, it might be a compulsive behavior or it might have just been itchy if it just did it once.
There are many possible causes and it might be due to a combination of them. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main cause and there are a number of things you can do about it.
Why your Labrador bites its tail
Each of the different reasons that your Labrador does it will likely come with a number of clues.
Below, are a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely.
The reason why it has been biting its tail could be that it has fleas. This would be more likely if you have noticed fleas around the home, if your Labrador doesn’t only bite its tail and if it has started doing it suddenly.
It would help to eradicate fleas from your home by:
- Washing the bedding with hot soapy water
- Vacuuming the carpets and throwing the bad
- Applying an environmental flee control
- Applying a spray, pellet or non-toxic treatment for the yard
- Treating your Labrador with a monthly preventative
It might also be the case that your Labrador has gotten allergies or a rash. Allergies can be caused by things such as shampoo, other dogs, pollen or household chemicals (source).
When trying to figure out why your Labrador has been doing it, think about what happened at around the same time that it started doing it. For example, if it started doing it when you changed its shampoo then that could be the cause.
Labradors are a breed that are meant to be given a lot of exercise daily. When they do not get that much exercise it can cause them to behave abnormally and it might be why yours has been biting its tail.
Generally, it is recommended for them to get an hour of exercise daily as healthy adults. If your Labrador is not getting that much then it would help to make sure that it does. If it is a puppy, it is advised for them to get 5 minutes of exercise twice per day for every month of age.
The reason that your Labrador does it could be that it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is where your Labrador feels an irresistible urge to do it and it cannot control itself. This would be more likely if your Labrador has been doing it constantly, it is losing fur and if it has caused itself to start bleeding.
It would also be more likely your Labrador started biting its tail excessively when something happened that would cause it to do so.
Possible things that might have happened could include:
- Someone mistreated it
- Another dog was aggressive towards it
- It was separated from another dog
Look here for more information about compulsive behavior in dogs.
The cause might also be that it has gotten an injury. This would be more likely if it has been showing signs of injury such as fatigue or limping and if it has started doing it suddenly.
If it seems like injury might be the cause, then the best option would be to take it to a vet.
Impacted anal glands
Dogs have two sacs where their anus is that produce an excretion that has a scent that allows other dogs to know its age, sex and health. Sometimes, the anal glands will become impacted which is where the excretion is not able to escape.
This could be the cause of your Labrador’s tail biting. This would be more likely if it also started to do other things such as to rub its bottom along the ground or to have blood in its poop.
If it does seem like impacted anal glands could be the cause then it would help to take it to a vet.
The cause could be that it has separation anxiety. This is where it does not like being left alone and it becomes anxious when it is left alone. This would be more likely if your Labrador tends to start biting its tail when you are about to leave and if it acts anxious in other ways as well.
It was just playing
If it did it on just one occasion then it could be the case that it was just playing or that it had an itch at the time. However, this would be less likely if it has been doing it repeatedly.
How to stop your Labrador from biting its tail
Below, are a number of things that you can do about your Labrador biting its tail.
Take it to a vet
If your Labrador has been biting its tail excessively, you cannot figure out why it has been doing it or you can’t get it to stop then the best option would be to take it to a vet. By doing so you will be able to get expert guidance tailored towards your particular Labrador and to rule out medical causes.
Give it exercise
As mentioned above, it is important to make sure that your Labrador gets enough exercise. You can do this by walking it, teaching it to play fetch or by getting a dog walker to do it for you.
Avoid negative reinforcement training
It would also help to avoid rewarding your Labrador when it bites its tail. Instead of giving it treats, toys or more attention when it does it, try to reward it when it does not do it.
It would also help to recognize when it is about to start biting its tail and to redirect its behavior on to something else such as giving you its paw, rolling over or coming to you.
Things to consider
How often it does it
It would help to consider how often your Labrador does it and over what timeframe it has been doing it.
If it has been doing it over a long timeframe and it does it excessively then it could be due to compulsive behavior and it would help to take it to a vet.
If it only did it once then it would be more likely that it was just itchy at the time.
If it has suddenly started doing it recently, it could be due to things such as fleas, impacted anal glands or allergies.
When it started doing it
The timing of when it started doing it would also be something to consider.
If it started biting its tail and other parts of its fur at the same time that you started finding fleas around then it would be very likely to be due to the fleas.
Whereas, if it started doing it at the same time that you changed its shampoo then it could be due to allergies.
When and where it does it
It would also likely help to consider the timing of when your Labrador bites its tail.
For example, if it only seems to bite its tail when you are leaving or while you are not around then it would make it a lot more likely to be due to separation anxiety.