Anyone who knows what dogs are knows they wag their tails. For millennia dogs have been the proverbial best friends of humankind, and there is no better symbol of this friendship than the familiar, friendly wag of a dog’s tail. This is why a wag-less tail can be unsettling to a dog’s owner. So, what might be causing a wag-less tail? Read on to find out!
Why Won’t My Dog Wag His/Her Tail?
Surprisingly, there are a number of reasons your dog may not wag her tail. Some of these reasons are cause for concern, and some of them are not. If your dog has a wag-less tail, and it has not always been this way, she may be frightened, depressed, bored, injured, ill, or simply tired. Sometimes a dog can even overuse her tail!
This may all sound scary, but a wag-less tail isn’t always a sign of something sinister. However, if your dog has been an avid wagger, and suddenly she isn’t, finding out why should be a priority.
If your dog isn’t wagging her tail, the first thing you want to consider is her breed. Some dogs have tails that aren’t naturally waggy. Breeds with tightly curled tails, or cork-screw tails, are often not naturally waggy. If you’re the proud pet parent of a pug or a Boston with a tightly curling tail, you are not likely going to see a lot of wagging. Sometimes you will get a wiggle or a body wag, but tail wags are simply not possible in tails that are naturally tight to the body.
Some breeds who are not naturally tail-waggers are:
● Boston Terrier.
● Finish Spitz.
● Shiba Inu.
Wag-less tails can signal more serious health conditions, such as arthritis, tendonitis, brittle bones, and even some cancers. Fortunately, the majority of wag-less tails have nothing to do with serious illness, but if your dog stops wagging along with other signs of illness, a trip to the vet is certainly best practice.
Older dogs, like their human companions, can develop a number of joint and bone problems as they age. Arthritis is a common joint disease found in both humans and dogs, but not all arthritis is the same. Some forms of arthritis begin earlier, progress faster, and are harder to treat. Not all dogs with arthritis are old. Some forms of inflammatory arthritis can be found even in puppies.
Autoimmune arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, occurs when a dog’s immune system begins attacking its joints.
Autoimmune arthritis occurs when a dog’s body mistakes its own tissues as foreign. In rheumatoid arthritis, the cartilage in a dog’s joints is the target. Symptoms may come and go with seemingly no triggers, or they may get worse during certain weather.
Autoimmune arthritis can occur in dogs of any age. Limping in one or both legs, an inability to walk, reduced playfulness, reduced tail wagging, yelping when standing up, and aggravation or aggression when touched on affected areas are all signs of arthritis. If your young dog exhibits these symptoms, getting her treatment right away could prevent the early onset of degenerative joint disease.
Like arthritis, brittle bones are not uncommon in older dogs. As with humans, dogs can develop osteoporosis, the degeneration of dense bone mass throughout the body. With osteoporosis, bones become brittle and break easily. A dog with brittle bones could actually break her tail if she wags it against something. If your aged dog has stopped wagging and seems tender-tailed, an x-ray could help determine if she has suffered a silent break.
Cancer of the tail.
No one likes to think of cancer forming in their dog, but cancers do occur. Cancers that affect the tail can form in a number of tissues, including bone, skin, muscles, and connective tissues. If your dog has stopped wagging her tail and has become protective of it, cancer isn’t the most likely cause. Nevertheless, it can happen.
It’s hard to imagine a dog getting depressed, but dogs are emotional creatures. They are sensitive to changes in their routines and environments. They miss people and companions who go away, and they grieve the death of those they love. If your dog’s wag-less tail happened shortly after her routines, environment, or companions have changed, she may be feeling depressed.
Limber tail, a kind of overuse, is a medical condition that occurs most often in dogs who have engaged in high-energy activities without prior conditioning. It happens most frequently in hunting breeds such as hounds and retrievers and can especially affect dogs who swim because a dog’s tail acts as her rudder while swimming.
Preventing a limber tail is easier than treating it. If your dog spends her winters living a more sedentary life, she is more likely to suffer from a broken wag in the spring. Keeping her active throughout the winter and conditioning her properly before strenuous activity will help keep her tail up and running.
Like limber tail, tendonitis can be caused by overuse. Tendonitis, however, can also be caused by multiple factors. Some things that can cause tendonitis in dogs are tail pulling and other traumatic injuries, repetitive tail strain (even from wrestling or romping with her puppy or people pals), obesity, inactivity, or an inflammatory response to some other external factor.
Tendonitis occurs when the tendons that connect muscles to bones become inflamed and cause pain when used. If your dog has pain while wagging, tendonitis could be the cause. A trip to the vet can help her manage the pain and inflammation and can rule out other potential problems.
If your dog is tucking her tail rather than wagging it, there’s a problem. It’s true that some dogs, like whippets and greyhounds, are habitual tail tuckers, but even their tucked tails can be a sign that something is wrong. A dog who feels threatened or intimidated may tuck her tail and try to slink away. Not all tail-tuckers will slink away, though. A dog who is threatened or intimidated may tuck her tail as she’s preparing for a confrontation.
If your dog has always seemed excited and waggly, but she has suddenly changed, look for the cause. While illness may cause a tucked tail, usually, the cause is external. Pay especially close attention if there are new people (adults or children) or animals in the house or neighborhood. If a new person or animal is intimidating your dog, whether intentionally or unintentionally, figuring out how and why is extremely important for the safety of all involved.
Waglessness Does Not Equal Unhappiness
Dogs have a complex body language, and the tail is one that tells you much more than if they are happy or not. There are many kinds of wags, even wags that mean fear and aggression! Surprisingly, a tail that isn’t particularly waggy may simply mean she is content. If your dog isn’t as waggy as you’d like her to be, try giving her something special, a new toy, or a new treat. Give her something to get excited about, and you may find her wag was simply resting in contentment.
When to See the Vet
Anytime you notice changes in your dog’s behavior, it’s wise to investigate. If your dog’s wag-less tail is sudden, accompanied by new or changing circumstances, or accompanied by signs of illness or trauma, a trip to the vet is certainly not an overreaction. In fact, being in tune with your dog’s body language, including her tail, can help you catch problems before they become serious or even fatal.
A wag-less tail can be unsettling to a dog’s owner, but not all causes of a wag-less tail are sinister. Sometimes a content dog is simply comfortable and doesn’t feel the need to wag her tail. Also, some breeds have tightly curled tails that do not naturally wag.
If your dog has always wagged her tail but has suddenly stopped, there is a reason to be concerned. Some of these reasons are that she may be frightened, depressed, bored, injured, ill, or simply tired. If she seems out of sorts, consider her current circumstances and take note of any changes in her routines, environment, or companions. Also, pay close attention to any new people (adults or children) or animals in the house or neighborhood, as her behavior could be a reaction to their aggressive or confusing behavior.
Anytime you notice changes in your dog’s behavior, it’s wise to figure out the cause. If you suspect illness or trauma, a trip to the vet is best practice. It can help you determine the reason she is behaving differently, such as no longer wagging.