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Do Dogs' Tails Have Bones? Exploring the Anatomy of Man's Best Friend - PawSafe

Do Dogs’ Tails Have Bones? Exploring the Anatomy of Man’s Best Friend

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

do dog's tails have bones

Dogs are known for their wagging tails, which often signify their happiness and excitement, but do dogs’ tails have bones? Even those with very short bunny tails raise eyebrows regarding their bone situation. 

Understanding the anatomy of a dog’s tail is essential, as it can help owners better understand their pet’s behavior and needs. We know our pups will wag their tails as soon as they see you reaching for their collar or harness for a walk, but are they boned? And wouldn’t they be heavy?

By knowing how many bones are in their dog’s tail and how it functions, owners can ensure they provide the proper care and attention to their furry friend. We have consulted experts like Miller and Evans in their book on Dog Anatomy for a complete answer to your questions. 

The tail also contains muscles, tendons, and ligaments, allowing movement and control. Soft discs separate these tail bones to provide flexibility and cushioning. The bones inside a canine’s tails are very flexible, explaining why you’re skeptical about the presence of tail bones. 

Pawrents have all sorts of anatomical questions because they want to know their canines more than they know themselves. So, if you’ve ever had questions you can’t ask out loud, like whether your dog has lips or eyebrows or arms and legs, check out our articles for answers.

The tail is essential to a dog’s body language, which they use to communicate their emotions and intentions. Whether dogs are happy, scared, submissive, aggressive, or extremely excited, you can trust their tails to let you know.

While the tail does have bones, it is essential to note that not all dogs have very noticeable tails. Some breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, are born with very short tails. This is usually due to selective breeding. These dogs are still perfectly healthy and happy without a tail.

Overall, dogs’ tails have bones, which are essential to a dog’s body language and communication. However, not all dogs have noticeable tails, which is normal and healthy for those breeds.

What Kind of Bone is in a Dog’s Tail?

The bones in a dog’s tail are called caudal vertebrae. They are similar to the bones in the spine but are smaller and more flexible and are also called coccygeal vertebrae. The number of caudal vertebrae in a dog’s tail varies depending on the breed, but most dogs have between six and 23 caudal vertebrae.

These vertebrae are flexible, which allows the tail to move in different directions. The flexibility of the tail is vital for communication and balance, as it helps dogs to maintain their center of gravity when running, jumping, or turning.

The caudal vertebrae are also crucial for protecting the nerves and blood vessels that run through the tail. The tail is a sensitive part of a dog’s body, and any damage to the caudal vertebrae can cause pain and discomfort.

How Much of a Dog’s Tail is Bone?

A dog’s tail consists of several parts, including skin, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones. While you can’t place an exact percentage on how much bone is in a canine’s tail, it’s the overwhelming majority since dogs have multiple tail vertebrae. 

The length of a dog’s tail also affects the amount of bone it contains. For example, a Great Dane’s tail can be up to two feet long and has a significant amount of bone, while a Chihuahua’s tail is much shorter and contains fewer bones.

In addition to the vertebrae, a dog’s tail contains small coccygeal bones. These bones are located at the tail’s base and help support the muscles and ligaments that attach the tail to the rest of the body.

Anatomy of a Dog’s Tail: What Are Dogs’ Tails Made Of

Vertebrae in the Tail

A dog’s tail is an extension of the spine, consisting of a series of vertebrae connected by joints. The number of vertebrae in a dog’s tail varies depending on the breed but ranges from six to 23. You will also find distinct intervertebral discs in a few caudal vertebrae regions.

The first caudal bone of the dog tail represents most of the features of a typical vertebra, but the rest slowly reduce to simple rods. The vertebrae are surrounded by muscles, tendons, and ligaments that allow the tail to move in various directions.

Muscles and Ligaments

The muscles and ligaments in a dog’s tail are responsible for its movement and flexibility. The muscles exist in two groups: intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic muscles are located within the tail and control its direction, while the extrinsic muscles are located in the body and attach to the tail, allowing it to move.

You’ll find other subgroups, like levator muscles (raise the tail) like the dorsal sacrococcygeal,  and depressor muscles (lower) like lateral ventral sacrococcygeal. Those are a mouthful but don’t worry because they’re the less important parts of whether dogs have tails.

The tail also has arteries and veins for blood supply, and eventually, the dog tail is covered with thick skin that contains hairs, varying in appearance based on breed.

The ligaments in a dog’s tail are strong, fibrous bands that connect the vertebrae and provide stability. They also help maintain the tail’s shape and prevent it from bending too far.

Dog Tail Bones and Docking Tails

Dog tail docking is a controversial practice involving removing a portion of the tail. This cosmetic procedure is usually performed on puppies when they are a few days old. The reasons for tail docking vary depending on the breed and the intended use of the dog, but generally, there’s no more reason to dock tails than to pierce a dog’s ears.

Some breeds, such as the Boxer and the Doberman Pinscher, are traditionally docked to prevent tail injuries during hunting and working activities. Others, like the Cocker Spaniel and the Miniature Schnauzer, are docked for aesthetic purposes.

A study showed that although prevention of tail injuries is the main reason for docking working dogs, the risk of injury is pretty low. The study found that 500 dogs had to be docked to prevent one tail injury. 

Research has also shown that docking causes trauma in puppies, mainly when done without anesthesia. It also causes infections, tail stump infections and neuromas, chronic pain, fecal incontinence, atrophy of pelvic muscles, and tail damage.

Tail docking is a painful procedure that involves cutting through the skin, muscles, and bones of the tail. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes tail docking of dogs unless it is medically necessary. The AVMA also recommends that tail docking should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian using appropriate pain management techniques.

What Do Dogs Use Their Tails For?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9yc0PPXAFg

Communication

A dog’s tail is a vital tool for communication. It can convey various emotions, including happiness, excitement, fear, and aggression. When a dog is happy or excited, its tail will wag vigorously. Studies show that dogs wagging to the right indicate positive emotions, and the left wags show negative feelings.

On the other hand, when a dog is scared or threatened, its tail will tuck between its legs. A high and stiff tail can indicate aggression or dominance, while a wagging tail held low can display submission.

Fun Fact: Dogs don’t wag their tails when no one is around. That would be the equivalent of a person talking to themselves. 

Balance

In addition to communication, a dog’s tail also plays a role in balance. When a dog runs or turns quickly, its tail helps to counterbalance its body.

 This is especially important for breeds initially bred for hunting or herding, as they often need to make quick movements to catch prey or control livestock.

Social Interactions

When dogs meet, they often interact with each other’s tails as a part of their social interaction. Sniffing the tail base can provide a dog with information about the other dog’s scent and identity.

Common Tail Injuries in Dogs

Studies show that tail injuries in dogs are relatively rare, at only a 0.9% incidence in working dogs. However, here are a few dog tail issues owners can encounter:

Fractures

Their thin and delicate structure makes dogs’ tails vulnerable to fractures. Tail fractures can occur for various reasons, such as accidents, falls, or being caught between doors.

 The symptoms of a tail fracture include swelling, pain, and difficulty moving the tail. In severe cases, it may even become paralyzed. Treatment for a tail fracture depends on the severity of the injury and may include rest, medication, or surgery.

Tail Sprains and Strains

Dogs can experience sprains or strains in their tails, especially if they wag vigorously and hit them against hard surfaces.

Tail Abrasions and Cuts

 Dogs might sustain abrasions or cuts on their tails, often from interactions with sharp objects or rough surfaces.

Tail Docking Complications

Tail docking, the removal of a portion of the tail for cosmetic or historical reasons, can sometimes lead to complications such as infection, excessive bleeding, and pain.

Limber Tail Syndrome

Limber Tail Syndrome, also known as Acute Caudal Myopathy, is a condition that affects the tail muscles. It is common in working dogs, such as hunting or sporting dogs. The disease is caused by overuse or strain of the tail muscles, leading to muscle damage and inflammation.

Symptoms of Limber Tail Syndrome include a limp tail, reluctance to move it, and pain when the tail is touched. Treatment for Limber Tail Syndrome includes rest, pain medication, and physical therapy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovsvuYQ-61g

Happy Tail Syndrome

Happy Tail Syndrome is a condition that occurs when a dog’s tail repeatedly hits hard surfaces, causing the tip to bleed and become infected. This condition is common in large-breed dogs with thick tails.

The symptoms of Happy Tail Syndrome include bleeding, swelling, and pain at the tip of the tail. Treatment for Happy Tail Syndrome includes wound cleaning, antibiotics, and tail bandaging to prevent further injury.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs-yYsPRmVM

How to Stop A Dog Tail Bleeding

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9h_5cNpscw

Apply Pressure

The first step is to apply pressure to the area where the bleeding originates. Use a clean cloth or gauze to apply pressure for about five minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply pressure for another five minutes.

Clean the Wound

Once the bleeding has stopped, cleaning the wound is essential. Use a saline solution or clean water to clean the area around the wound. Be sure to remove any debris or dirt on the site.

Apply a Bandage

After cleaning the wound, apply a bandage to the area. Use a non-stick pad and wrap around the tail to keep it in place. Be sure not to install the dressing too tightly, which can cause further damage.

Monitor the Wound

Monitoring the site to ensure correct healing is essential. Check the bandage regularly to ensure it’s still in place and not too tight. If the dressing becomes wet or dirty, replace it with a clean one.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop or the wound appears infected, you must take your dog to the vet. They can provide additional treatment and ensure the wound is appropriately cared for.

How to Treat a Dog’s Broken Tail Bone

Tail bones breaking can be a painful and distressing experience for the animal. Here are a few steps to take if you suspect your dog has a broken bone:

  1. Take Your Dog to the Vet

    The first step is to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. A vet will be able to diagnose the extent of the injury and provide the best course of treatment.

  2. Rest and Immobilization

    In most cases, the vet will recommend rest and immobilization of the tail. This may involve using a splint or bandage to keep the tail still. The dog may also need to be confined to a crate or small room to prevent further injury.

  3. Pain Management

    Pain management is vital in treating a broken bone. Your vet may prescribe pain medication or recommend natural remedies such as ice packs or warm compresses.

  4. Follow-Up Care

    Following up with your vet is vital to monitor your dog’s progress. Your vet may need to adjust the treatment plan based on how the dog is healing.

Do Dog Tails Break Easily?

The answer is yes; dog tails can break easily. The tail consists of bones, muscles, and nerves, and just like any other body part, it can injure. Dogs can damage their tails by getting caught in a door, by wagging too hard, or by being stepped on.

Certain breeds are more prone to tail injuries than others. Canines with long, thin tails, like Greyhounds and Whippets, are more susceptible to tail injuries than breeds with thick, muscular tails, like Bulldogs and Boxers.

Symptoms of a broken tail include swelling, bruising, and pain. If a dog has a broken tail, it is vital to take them to the vet as soon as possible.

In some cases, a broken tail may require surgery to fix. However, in most cases, the vet will simply recommend rest and pain medication. It is crucial to keep the dog’s tail still and prevent them from wagging, as this can exacerbate the injury.

Taking Care of Your Dog’s Tail

  • Keep it clean: Regularly clean your dog’s tail with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. Avoid harsh chemicals or soaps, as they irritate your dog’s skin.
  • Watch for injuries: Dogs can injure their tails by wagging them too hard or catching them between doors or gates. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any signs of injury, such as swelling or bleeding.
  • Don’t pull or twist: Never pull or turn your dog’s tail, which can cause pain and injury. Instead, gently stroke and pet your dog’s tail to show them affection.
  • Avoid tight collars: Tight collars can cause discomfort and even damage to your dog’s tail. Make sure your dog’s collar is fitted correctly and not too tight. Consider using a quality harness to ease the pressure.
  • Check for parasites: Fleas, ticks, and other parasites can hide in your dog’s tail. Regularly check your dog’s tail for signs of infestation, such as itching or redness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can dogs feel pain in their tails?

Yes, dogs can feel pain in their tails. Like any other part of their body, dogs’ tails have nerve endings that allow them to feel sensations, including pain. If a dog’s tail is injured or damaged in any way, it can be excruciating for them. 

What are dogs’ tails for?

Dogs’ tails serve multiple purposes. They are used for balance and coordination, as well as for communication. Wagging can indicate happiness or excitement, while a tucked tail can indicate fear or anxiety. Some dog breeds have been selectively bred for certain tail types, such as the pug’s curly tail or the husky’s bushy tail.

Are dogs’ tails sensitive?

Yes, dogs’ tails are very sensitive. They have nerve endings that allow dogs to feel even the slightest touch or movement. This sensitivity is essential for communication and balance, but it also means that a dog’s tail can be easily injured. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs have bones in their tails, spinal vertebrae to be more exact called caudal vertebrae. Dog tails are also composed of a combination of muscles, nerves, and tendons, allowing them to move their tails in various ways.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.