A healthy German Shepherd Dog (GSD) exudes charisma and confidence by standing tall, loyal, fearless, and responsible. While your intelligent German Shepherd will do anything in his power to protect you, you need to be very versatile in keeping his health in check. Ensure that he weighs approximately 70 pounds and lives for more than a decade. While good pet food, proper grooming, and rigorous training and exercise should be part and parcel of taking care of your best buddy, you also need to watch out for German Shepherd tail problems and address any underlying issues promptly.
While the tail of a German Shepherd is a functional, significant part of the dog, “tail wagging the dog” is an expression that idiomatically indicates that the dog is being controlled by a less important part than the more important part. German Shepherds are largely known to rely on their long tails for steady balancing and expressing their feelings. When the dog is resting, the tail hangs with a slight curve (raised when moving) and reaches the hock. Regardless of the shape, however, the tail of your German Shepherd should tell you the current emotional state of your buddy.
Common German Shepherd Tail Problems
Aside from communicating their feelings using their tails, German Shepherds can display several health-related problems through their tails. While some of the German shepherd tail problems can be resolved, others simply don’t have solutions. Therefore, as the owner, you should always be on the look-out for the following German Shepherd tail problems:
This is a chronic tail problem that is often genetic or caused by the inefficient response of the animal’s immune system. It’s a skin disease that causes inflammations around the anus and under the dog’s tail. Partly, however, the thick coat around the anus of your German Shepherd may also be cause Anal Furunculosis.
Apart from the inflamed anal region, your buddy will suffer extreme pain during excretion and have this constant disgusting odor around the perineum. German Shepherds with hyperactive sweat glands in the perineum area and extensive tails are more likely to suffer from this tail problem.
A German Shepherd that doesn’t feed on a balanced diet and thus has a weak immunity is also likely to suffer from tail diseases. Remember, weak immunity in the intestines causes increased bacterial growth.
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your German Shepherd, you must have her examined by the vet immediately. Your best friend will have to be sedated in readiness for the examination because the procedure is usually very uncomfortable. The diagnosis of this disease will include medical therapy that is likely to last up to a month. A surgical procedure, which is usually considered to be very effective, may also come in handy. But, your German Shepherd is good to go even with medical therapy.
Some of the medical therapy’s side effects include bone pain, weight loss, fecal incontinence, and incessant stomach upsets. Proper diet, regular grooming, and clipping will all go a long way in helping your buddy avoid this tail problem. You should also make sure you breed your Zeus with an unaffected German Shepherd to prevent the disease.
A German Shepherd’s tail doesn’t have much extra skin, and thus it’s prone to different types of skin infection. If certain allergies such as chewing, itching, and hair loss on your dog are left untreated, they can eventually cause a skin infection that is difficult to treat on your dog’s tail. In addition, bites and scrapes on your Duke’s tail may also cause skin infections on her tail.
Any dog that is generally not cleaned thoroughly for long is likely to catch a skin infection. Your German Shepherd is likely to keep chewing her tail or fidget to ease the discomfort caused by the skin infection. The itch, if left unattended, will further cause more infections to your dog or skin hyperpigmentation. A GSD that has contracted a skin infection will show the first signs of the problem; hair loss.
The most important thing is to ensure your dog is clean and take him to a vet to treat the infection. Otherwise, if the infection has unfortunately spread to other areas, don’t try performing any kind of home remediation unless you’re a professional vet. The vet will help you out professionally and prescribe the right antibiotics to help your best friend, and recommend regular cleanings. The best solution to this German Shepherd tail problem is administering the right dosages of antibiotics.
Limber Tail Syndrome
If your GSD spends too much time out in the cold, he can catch Limber Tail Syndrome, also referred to as Broken Tail, Swimmer’s Tail, Cold Tail, or Acute Caudal Myopathy. His tail muscles will gradually start swelling and hurting after being exposed to cold temperatures or water for a prolonged period. Your GSD sleeping in cramped spaces for long periods can also cause this problem. While the syndrome may go away on its own, you should use some painkillers and apply a warm compress to lessen the swelling and the pain he undergoes.
The disease makes the tail of the German Shepherd seem weak and droopy. Since your GSD uses the tail to walk and balance himself while swimming, the weak wagging tail you may be seeing in your dog is a sign of this syndrome. Your dog will always seem sickly and unable to carry out even some of the simplest tasks due to the extreme pain.
The syndrome has also been associated with the over usage of the tail during intensive activities such as swimming, which strains the tail muscles. Other diseases that can cause this syndrome include osteoarthritis, infections, infected intervertebral disk, and prostate diseases.
To solve this German Shepherd tail problem, a vet will check the dog’s tail palpation to determine the exact point of the pain. Fortunately, this is not a life-threatening condition to your sweet dog. The doctor will only prescribe some anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the swollen tail muscles and recommend sufficient rest for the dog.
Your German Shepherd will rarely develop the syndrome again after treatment and enough resting. So, there is no need to worry about exposing her to fun-intensive activities that make her happy after full recovery.
German Shepherd Tail Behaviors and Meanings
Besides these GS tail problems, your pooch uses his tail and ears to communicate a lot. Here are some common German Shepherd behaviors and their meanings:
1: Tail Chasing
In general, puppies and adult dogs chase their tails occasionally in a manner that suggests that they’re constantly trying to catch their tails. Upon the chance to catch the tail, the dog growls to show some level of disgust or disappointment. German Shepherd is obsessed with tail chasing. By closely observing your GSD, you can easily detect when she starts chasing the tail and identify the cause. That way, you can find a viable solution to the dog tail problem.
Keenly observing your GSD is the keyword here because many factors contribute to this irritating behavior. Once you’ve identified the cause, you can initiate the right dog training programs or introduce certain dog diets to help solve the dog tail problem. Furthermore, training is more applicable in puppies as adult German shepherd dogs can be best helped through distractions.
Some of the causes of tail chasing in German shepherd dogs include:
- Keeping your GSD in a cramped space for several hours
- An idle German shepherd that doesn’t engage in physical activities or exercise with the owner may find ways to entertain herself, including tail chasing. The dog might be too idle that the only entertaining activity she can find is chasing her tail in wide circles. Therefore, the best solution to a tail-chasing problem caused by lack of exercise is to reduce the boredom by making her work or exercise.
- Tail chasing problems may also be caused by genetics. So, it’s crucial that you only allow your German Shepherd to breed with healthy GSDs.
Sometimes, a stressed GSD will chase her tail for hours to the extent of injuring herself. It’s important to always check for anxiety or stress triggers.
2: Tail Curling
Tail curling is another common genetic fault that many dog owners deal with. A German shepherd that curls her tail is said to be having a gay tail. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to fix the German shepherd tail curling problem through training or a balanced diet. Some dog breeders and owners have sadly tried to solve the problem through surgical procedures. But, even the show-quality German shepherd puppies still inherit the gay tail from their parents.
Thankfully, the tail curling problem can be reduced and eventually eliminated in German shepherd puppies through training. This can be possible if the tail curling issue is just a mannerism that was copied from other dogs. Through Clicker training, the GSD is trained to hold her tail in a particular way whenever she stands. However, you need to be very consistent and patient when training your dog to stop curling her tail through this method.
Other Tail Movements and Positions
It’s important to be aware of the various movements and tail positions of your GSD so you can understand their meanings and perhaps find the right solutions to any apparent problems if necessary. For instance, while the up and down tail positions may help you determine how energetic she feels, wagging her tail left or right displays negative and positive feelings, respectively.
Therefore, by observing the tail position alone, you’ll that that your GSD is feeling nervous and calm her down through play and companionship. Some of the other common German shepherd tail movements/positions and what they mean:
- A German Shepherd that keeps wagging her tail on end is trying to express her happiness.
- A GSD that positions her tail between the hind legs in a downward position is trying to tell his owners that he’s upset and sad about something or simply feeling unwell.
- A GSD that lowers her tail to hang between the legs is trying to save energy or is simply relaxing.
- A German Shepherd that wags her tail slowly is somewhat confused about something or uncertain about a new environment. When she starts observing the surroundings keenly, she’ll hang the tail horizontally low away from her body.
- A GSD that hides her tail between her legs is trying to plead not to be hurt or simply scared of someone or something. This is often accompanied by pinned-back ears.
- A German Shepherd that stiffly straightens out her tail is ready for a fight. When she wants to initiate a fight with another dog, the tail will be moved over its back to show a sign of aggressiveness.
- A GSD that raises her tail stiffly high up while barking a lot is asserting confidence that she is the leader of the pack and sort of trying to be the boss. The tail can be curled at times.
- A GSD that is barking a lot, apparently for no reason, is trying to attract her owner’s attention.
Caring for your German Shepherd
GSDs are generally big creatures that shouldn’t be kept in crumpled places that are unhygienic. Keeping your GSD in a confined space will affect your dog’s mental health. If you notice that your GSD is constantly chasing her tail, then know she’s uncomfortable, bored, tired, stressed, anxious, or unwell. Overall, German Shepherd tail problems often tell that something is off with your best friend.
No one solution is suitable for solving all these tail problems! If you’re careful in observing your German Shepherd and committed to ensuring he stays healthy and well-groomed, you’ll find out about the problem and consequently apply the right solution to help save your buddy.
Just like the other body parts, the German Shepherd’s tail is equally very essential to her everyday life. Your dog will use her tail to communicate to you and stay balanced when walking or swimming. However, your buddy may still genetically inherit certain German shepherd tail problems that may be confusing to address. Your best approach is always to consult your dog’s vet regularly to ensure her tail is healthy.
Dr. Belinda Hawks earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 2006 and has been practicing veterinary medicine since then. Dr. Belinda currently works as a passionate rancher and mixed animal veterinarian in a rural town in South Carolina. When not practicing veterinary medicine or writing, she spends her free time with her lovely husband and three kids (2 boys and a lovely girl) in South Carolina.