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What Is A Dog’s Tail Made Up Of?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • A dog's tail is made up of bones covered by muscles, skin, nerves, and tendons, with cartilage providing joint support and flexibility.
  • Dogs communicate through their tails, with different positions indicating different emotions and intentions.
  • Dogs use their tails for balance, movement, stability, and as a rudder when swimming.
  • Some dog breeds have unique tail shapes, such as the bobbed tail, corkscrew, otter tail, and carrot or whip tail.
  • Dog tail injuries can include fractures, cuts and scrapes, limber or happy tail, and nerve damage, all of which require vet attention.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 10 August 2022
Last updated on
Friday 2 June 2023
What Is A Dog's Tail Made Up Of
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As dog owners, we’ve all seen the different types of tails that dogs have – some are short and fluffy, while others are long and pointed. Dogs can wag, tuck, or point their tails, and they seem quite flexible. But have you ever wondered what a dog’s tail is made of?

Is it all soft fur, or is there some bone in there too? To satisfy your curiosity, check out this article about the anatomy of a dog’s tail!

What Is a Dog’s Tail Made Of?

According to veterinary expert Matthew McCarthy, a dog’s tail is an extension of its spine, made up of small bones called vertebrae. These bones are connected by cartilage, allowing the tail to be flexible and move in different directions without breaking. Muscles, skin, nerves, and tendons cover the tail, enabling dogs to wag, shake, and bend their tails in various ways.

The number of vertebrae in a dog’s tail can vary depending on the breed. For instance, Bulldogs have 6 to 13 vertebrae, while German Shepherds have 18 to 23 vertebrae in their tails

Dog Tail Shapes

It is a known fact that dogs have bones in their tails. Yet, some canines seem to have none since they appear to have no tails at all. Hence, if you want to know more about them, check out the different types of dog tails listed below.

Bobbed Tail

A study regarding a dog’s tail genetics found out that dogs with short or bobbed tails had a genetic mutation in their protein production. According to the results, the mutation was first detected on a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Moreover, certain dogs carrying the mutated gene will have naturally short tails or even no tails.

Meanwhile, in contrast to bobbed tails, some dogs also undergo surgical docking to shorten their tails. Also, Pedigree stated that docked tails occurred before as rabies prevention.  Further, owners began to shorten their dog’s tails to adhere to breed standards.

Corkscrew or Ringed Tail

According to VCA Animal Hospital, corkscrew or ringed tails in dogs is a result of genetic malformation of bones. Moreover, they added that affected dogs suffer an abnormal tail structure. Also, breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers have corkscrew-shaped tails.

Twisted dog tail anatomies are more prone to infections. Further, Hobart Animal Clinic explained that corkscrew tails are not exposed to light and air conditions. Thus, it can be a place where some germs and bacteria grow. Also, that area can be so itchy that it has to be surgically removed by veterinarians.

Otter Tail

Among the different tail shapes is the Otter tail. Vet Organics expressed that otter tail is rampant in dogs with dense and rounded tails.  Also, dogs with otter-shaped tails are Labrador Retrievers and Otterhounds. Further, otter tails in dogs act as a rudder that aids in swimming.

Moreover, an otter’s tail, like the name itself, looks like the animal’s tail. Yet, dogs only have it longer. According to Iffat Kawsar, DVM, an otter tail is one of the most common dog’s tail anatomy. Further, a tail like that has fur that’s parted on the sides.

Whip Tail

A whipped tail is also known as a Carrot tail. Moreover, dogs with this tail type have a thick tail base that ends with a narrow end. Well, like its name, that tail looks like a vegetable, a carrot. According to Hepper, whip tails are quite longer than bobbed tails.

Further, dog breeds with this particular type of tail include the English Setters, Border Terriers, and Dalmatians. Also, dogs with this type of tail anatomy have two things in common. One is that they are short-haired breeds. Whereas the other is that they are underground hunting dog breeds.

What Are Dog Tails For?

A dog’s tail is made of small bones connected by cartilages, muscles, nerves, and tendons. Though, as humans, we see dog tails as ordinary. Yet, to dogs, their tails are very useful. Thus, take a look at the different functions of tails listed below.

To Communicate

National Geographic stated that dogs talk through their tails. For instance, a wagging tail communicates happiness. Whereas a tucked tail may indicate submissiveness. Hence, a dog expert, Monique Udell said that dog tails are crucial in animal communication. But, she also added that non-tailed dogs use their hackles instead for communicating.

Moreover, research in 2007 found that tail-wagging positions could also indicate canine feelings. For instance, a tail wagged to the right shows a positive emotion. While a tail wagging to the left portrays negativity. Further, a vertical tail shows aggression, and a vigorous wagging could indicate excitement. A tail wagging also indicates that dogs want to interact with you.

To Keep Their Balance

Dogs have tails because it acts as their counterbalance equipment when they’re running. For starters, dogs are prone to swinging in the opposite direction. So, they move their tail in the same direction as their bodies to provide balance in their movements. 

Moreover, dogs also use their tails when walking on narrow roads. Hence, their tail keeps them from losing their balance. Also, according to Vital Vet, dogs use their tails as a rudder. So, when they want to speed up, they lower their tails. Yet, they move their tails up when they want to walk slower.

For Movements

A dog’s tail may also aid in movement and stability. For instance, the tail is very useful in simple movements like jumping or leaping. Further, a tail was built to prevent dogs from falling over while doing their daily routines. On the contrary, dogs’ tails are not mostly used for actions like standing.

Meanwhile, their tails are effective for running, swimming, and even hunting. Also, their tails can act as propellers to increase their swimming speed. Moreover, according to North Hill Vet, runners have long, thin tails that help increase their speed while sprinting. 

Tail Injuries To Look Out For

The bones in dog tails may be flexible, but that doesn’t mean they don’t break. Dogs, like any other creature, are prone to injuries. Thus, here is the list of the different tail injuries that we need to look out for as dog owners.


Dogs can hit their tails on chairs or tables while running around the house. Katie Grzyb, DVM, stated that the common result of a dog tail injury involves less wagging. Also, a broken tail may show signs of wounds, limping, and bruising. Yet, Dr. Grzyb added that to rule out a fracture as a sign of injury, an x-ray is needed to be conducted.

Moreover, according to Earth Rated, broken dog tail bones are hard to treat in homes.  Fractures will heal once they are given proper treatment. So, to ensure that bones will grow back, visit a veterinarian.

Cuts and Scrapes

Dog tails are covered with skin, so that means they can easily be cut by a sharp object. According to VCA Animal Hospital, dogs sometimes inflict self-harm by licking and biting.  Well, they do that to flea-infested areas. As a result, that behavior can break the skin and cause cuts or, worse, infection. 

So, as dog owners, it’s a must that we check our dogs for any tail injuries. Also, some cuts and scrape injuries can be treated with proper first aid. Yet, cuts like lacerations can be deep enough to require medical attention from a veterinarian.

Limber and Happy Tail

Dogs can sometimes overuse their tails. As a result, they suffer a condition called Limber, which they can get from over exhaustion. Also, this injury can be caused by cold weather, swimming, or sometimes cage confinement.  Further, hunting breeds like retrievers, hounds, and beagles are prone to suffer limber.

Meanwhile, dogs can also suffer from “Happy Tail Syndrome,” which leads to skin breaking and tail injury. According to West Park Animal Hospital, dogs wag their tails very hard, thus hitting nearby objects. Yet, as serious as it may look, this can be treated by veterinarians.

Nerve Damage

Dogs’ tails are also made of networks of nerves. So, when they’re overused, nerves can be pulled and thus results in limping. Moreover, that injury is called avulsion trauma. Also, an injury to the tail bone is a defect of the spinal cord as well. Hence, nerve damage in the dog’s tail can lead to incontinence.

Nerve damage is a serious case. This kind of injury requires a more hands-on approach. Also, the main treatment for nerve damage is surgery. So, as owners, if you notice your dog limping and peeing anywhere, better bring it to the nearest vet.

Tail movements can state emotions. But, sometimes tail positions show injury. A dog’s tail is made of tiny bones called vertebrae. Well, no matter how flexible they look, they can still bend and break. So, the first thing to do when dogs injure their tail is to seek medical attention.

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