Dog Holding Tail to One Side? Top 5 Reasons Why!

As dog owners, we always know exactly what our dogs are doing and how they behave. Therefore, for many owners, it comes as a surprise when their pups suddenly start holding their tails unusually and on one side. 

Dog holding tail to one side, what could it mean? A dog holding its tail to one side can mean a lot of things – some normal and other red flags. Common reasons include tail injuries and conditions, problems with the anal sacs, and different communication methods. Since you cannot find the culprit on your own, you need to call a vet if your dog is holding its tail to one side. 

In this article, we will talk about dogs holding their tails to one side. We will go through the different reasons and give tips on what to do. We will also emphasize the importance of seeing the vet if the condition lingers. 

Dog Holding Tail to One Side

Why Is My Dog Holding Their Tail to One Side?

As mentioned, there are different reasons dogs can hold their tails to one side. Some of them are completely normal, and there is no need to be worried. However, others are indicative of more serious underlying issues and require proper attention and treatment. To give you an idea of what we are talking about, let’s go through the possible reasons dogs hold their tails to one side. 

Reason number 1: Communication method 

It is no secret that dogs communicate using their tails. The position of the tail, together with the intensity of its wagging and the side of the wagging, can tell a lot. So, if your dog is holding its tail to one side while interacting with another dog, there is nothing to be worried about. 

Reason number 2: Tail injuries 

Tail injuries in dogs are not uncommon. Dogs are reckless and clumsy and usually wag their tails non-stop, which leaves these otherwise sensitive structures prone to accidents and injuries. Here is a more detailed review of the different types of tail injuries in dogs. 

Fractures and dislocations 

Fractures and dislocations of the tail occur after traumatic events – grabbing, hitting, rough handling. Both injuries are serious and require immediate veterinary attention. 

Wagging-related injuries 

Some dogs wag their tails more than others – in terms of both frequency and intensity. In such cases, injuries are common, especially if the tails hit against objects and furniture while fiercely wagging. 


Tail sprains in dogs are usually associated with overuse – for example, a dog that is constantly wagging its tail or swimming and using the tail as a ruder. Either way, sprains are painful and uncomfortable. The good news is that they are transient and usually subside after several days. 

Dog bites 

Biting and fighting are part of canine social behavior. A dog can bite another dog accidentally during play or purposely. Either way, the tail is a commonly bitten area. Depending on the location and strength of the bite, dog bite tail injuries can be minor or severe. 

Nerve damage

Nerve damages are the most serious issue on this list. The most common cause of nerve damage in dogs is car accidents. A dog that has lost control over its tail will probably have other issues such as urinary and fecal incontinence. 

Trapped fecal matter

This is usually common in dogs that are poorly groomed by the owners. Namely, the fur beneath the tail and around the anus can get matted. Over time, the fecal matter will add to the matt causing irritations and infections. In such cases, the dog is likely to carry its tail to one side to prevent putting pressure over the mat, which would be painful. 

Skin infections 

Skin infections can occur anywhere on the dog’s body, including the tail. Such skin infections can be triggered by bacteria, parasites, or allergic reactions. Also, certain breeds are prone to tail pocket infections


Fleas are a common nuisance in dogs. Interestingly, fleas tend to gather at the base of the tail, and flea bites cause irritation and discomfort. As a response, the dog may hold its tail to one side. 

Reason number 3: Limber tail syndrome

Limber tail syndrome is a common issue in working and hunting dogs that are put to work after a long rest and in cold conditions. Luckily, the issue sounds more serious than it actually is. 

Reason number 4: Peak of a heat cycle 

A female dog in heat is likely to carry its tail to one side in order to let other males know she is ready for mating. This is normal dog behavior. Usually, the female will start holding the tail to the side if there is a male nearby. 

Reason number 5: Issues with the anal sacs

Anal sac issues are widespread among modern dogs. Some dogs cannot properly eliminate the content of the anal sacs causing impaction. Impacted anal glands lead to infections. Dogs will hold their tails to the side to prevent the pain which will be caused if the tail touches the area around the troubled anal glands.  


If your dog is holding its tail to one side, first, you need to take a step back and evaluate the overall situation. Before calling the vet and seeking help, you should consider several factors (which will be beneficial for the vet as well). Here is what you should consider:

  • Is your dog acting normal 
  • Are there any other troublesome signs and symptoms
  • When did the issue start 
  • Is the dog holding the tail to the side constantly 
  • If the issue is periodical, what is different 
  • Whether your dog has had a similar issue in the past. 

Once you answer these questions, you need to call the vet and explain the situation, providing as much information as possible. In most cases, you will be instructed to go to the clinic. 

Once at the veterinary clinic, the vet will start with a physical examination. Then, based on the findings, they can suggest additional tests and diagnostic procedures. Once the vet has a definitive diagnosis, it is time for the treatment strategy. 

Obviously, the treatment will depend on the underlying issue. Here are some possible treatment options based on the different triggers: 

  • Fractures and dislocations – if possible, the vet will try to save the tail by putting a bandage and hoping it will heal properly. In the meantime, the vet will recommend rest and prescribe anti-pain medications. However, in some cases, a tail amputation is necessary. Tail amputations are surgical procedures and, as such, would require having the dog anesthetized. 
  • Wagging-related injuries – managing the wound is the treatment of choice. However, if it is re-occurring frequently, the vet may suggest amputation of the damaged part of the tail. 
  • Sprains – in the case of tail sprains, the vet will recommend rest to avoid further pressure on the tail and, if necessary, anti-pain meds (usually from the group of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs). 
  • Dog bites – in most cases, the treatment will include cleaning the wound and, if necessary, a course of oral antibiotics. 
  • Nerve damage – when it comes to nerve damage, we cannot really talk about treatment as the condition is usually permanent. 
  • Trapped fecal matter – removing the matt and fecal matter will solve the issue. The vet will explain to the owner the importance of keeping the dog’s butt region neat and clean. 
  • Skin infections – the treatment is based on the exact infection trigger. While the culprit is managed and eliminated, the vet may prescribe soothing oatmeal baths and topical ointments. 
  • Fleas – luckily, the solution is simple and includes getting rid of the fleas via spot-on products, collars, or chewable treats. Fleas can transmit infectious diseases, and the vet will emphasize the importance of keeping your dog up to date on its anti-flea preventives. 
  • Limber tail syndrome – rest and anti-pain meds are all it takes to treat the limber tail syndrome in dogs. Also, the vet will explain the importance of keeping dogs in well physical condition year-round to avoid similar issues in the future. 
  • Anal gland issues – the vet will empty the anal glands and suggest more frequent visits for preventative emptying. 


From communicating with other dogs to painful and dangerous tail injuries – a tail held to one side can mean a lot of things. In the past, we did not know much about the dog’s tail. Today, we know this body part is not just an accessory – it is vital for keeping balance, swimming, and communicating. 

Considering the severe nature of some of the underlying tail issues, it is imperative to seek veterinary help as soon as you notice something wrong is going on with your dog’s tail. 

As a pet parent, you will encounter many tricky situations. A dog holding its tail to one side is one of them. When it comes to your dog’s health, it is better to be safe than sorry. Call your vet and schedule an appointment! 

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