A Pug’s Tail: Why They’re Curly And Issues To Be Aware Of


One of the most defining physical features that a pug has is their curly tail. Many owners liken their double curled tail to a cinnamon roll because of how it is tightly wound up. But exactly why do pugs have curly tails?

The pug’s tail has a natural curl due to a spinal deviation, by which their vertebrae is comprised in a shape of a wedge. It is advised not to pull on the tail of a pug or attempt to straighten the curl. Doing so can cause damage to their spine and lead to numerous issues.

There are many different looks and variations to their tails. Pugs will often express their intentions and visually communicate their feelings through the action of their tails. At times, it can help owners detect pain and unrest, usually indicating that there is a medical problem associated. It’s important to know what signs to look for so it can be managed accordingly.

Variations In A Pug’s Curly Tail: Single, Double & Weak Set Tails

Single curled tail – There is a natural lift of the tail on the back. It is commonly seen in most Pugs as the tail only has one natural curl. The usual reason for single curled tail offspring is having mated two pugs with the same single tail curl.

Double curled tail – This is a desirable trait among pug enthusiasts, as it is rarer and often labelled as “perfection”. Only about a quarter of registered pugs with the AKC, KC, and CKC have the double swirled tail. Usually, the tail will have one larger and loose curl, which is then followed by a tighter second curl. Most show dog or pedigree level pugs will have this trait, and it is the result of having two pugs with double curly tails mated together.

Weak tail set – This is characterized by one loose tail on the pug’s back and is not uncommon for this breed. There is a possibility that the curl will tighten as the pup matures, but it will be unlikely to develop into a double curled tail. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for pugs to have straight or uncurled tails. Different factors can contribute to this, which we will discuss in more detail below.

Pugs Have No Curled Tail At Birth

Pugs are born with a straight tail, which may come to as a surprise to many. Owners should expect to wait for a few weeks before a pug shows their tail’s natural curls. Sometimes it can even take a month or two before your pug gains this trait. There is also no specific direction for a pug’s tail to curl – it can lean towards the left, right, or in the middle.

The pug will most typically start wagging their tail from seven weeks old. They will use their tail to express their emotions, and the wagging can be fast or slow depending on their mood. If your pug has not shown any tail wagging even after seven weeks, it’s advised that you check in with your local vet. They will be able to provide a full diagnosis on any potential issues.

Tail Behavior & Self-Expression

The tail of a dog can convey many different feelings. For instance, excitement can be show when a tail is wagging. And even with a curly tail, pugs can do the same to express happiness and appreciation. You’ll often see a pug wriggle its bottom side-to-side while wagging their curled tails – it’s very cute!

Pugs sometimes uncurl their tail when being disciplined. It’s not unusual to see their tail straighten and have it hidden between their legs when in trouble and feeling ashamed. This is a remorseful reaction to your stern body language and the tone of your voice, and is common among all dog breeds.

Aside from feelings of guilt, owners should see their dog’s tail as a communication tool. For example, a straight tail can indicate feelings of sadness, stress, exhaustion, and even sickness. But it does depend on the situation and how it’s viewed in conjunction with their overall mood. Because an uncurled tail can also signal that the pug is in a very relaxed state.

While this might sounds confusing, each individual dog has their own personality, and owners will find it easier to interpret overtime. Expressions can differ depending on the situation as well.

During Sleep and Relaxation

When your Pug is in dreamland, its tail muscles relax, and this will also keep their tail straight. You will notice this with your pug, especially when they are in a deep and comfortable sleep. When relaxing with their owners, i.e. lazying around watching TV, this can also unfurl their tail since they are most satisfied. Other times they’ll have a curled tail that moves in a slow swatting motion to signal contentment.

Feeding Time

When a pug is eating, they will be oblivious to their surroundings and put their full focus on their food. As mentioned, their reaction will vary based on the dog’s personality. Some feel relaxed while getting their fill so will uncurl their tail during meals. While others will exude extreme excitement by vigorously wagging their tail. Pugs are highly motivated by food and they definitely show it.

As They Age Into Their Golden Years

As a pug ages, they eventually lose the ability to keep their tails curled all the time. The firmness of their muscles may loosen for senior pugs, and it is natural to see an uncurled tail or even a straight tail most of the time.

This is also true when the aged pug is nutritionally deficient and unwell. The lack of strength makes it harder for them to keep their tails curled naturally, and by doing so may even weaken them further.

A straight tail in older dogs may also signal that arthritis is setting in. They no longer have control over their tail. If they’ve also stopped wagging their tail, then it’s crucial that you take your aged pug to the vet for a check-up.

Health Issues Related To A Pug’s Tail

Tail Pockets

Sometimes pugs can suffer from having a tail pocket or an indentation near their tail. This collects dirt, dust, and other debris. It makes the area prone to infection if not cleaned every so often, which will cause your pug a lot of discomfort once the inflammation sets in.

This dimple-like indentation can also bring about an unpleasant smell, and is not an obvious issue to spot until the offending scent hits you in the face. If thorough cleaning does not do the trick and infection keeps reappearing, then it may require surgery for tail removal. However, this is the last solution, and the vet will do everything they can to avoid such surgery.

Tail Infections

Speaking of infections, the anatomy of a pug’s curly tail can also make it prone to bacteria. The curled tails can hold in moisture, thus making it a breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful organisms. Infections will lead to swellings, skin redness, and extreme itchiness. You will notice your pug trying to rub their lower back on the furniture and even on the floor.

The vet will check the extent of the infection and can prescribe a topical ointment or advise on using antibacterial shampoo to keep the area clean. If the infection is more severe, antibiotics may be given orally or injected into your dog. Antibiotics will depend on the organism present. Corticosteroid can also be prescribed as it helps reduce inflammation and itching.

Tail Trauma and Injury

Although pugs have a curled tail and often have it safely tucked behind them, tail trauma is not unusual. This can happen from unexpected and freak accidents, such as rough play with other dogs, having a bad fall, and getting their tail slammed when shutting the door. It’s also advised that children are supervised when playing with curled tail dogs. That’s because some kids have a tendency to pull on it to see if it’s detachable. When the tail is aggressively stretched, it can cause nerve tearing.

In cases where other sections of the spine is impacted, it can lead to tail paralysis. Their spinal discs can shift, compress, and move out of place. Unfortunately, this can result in their tail going limp and permanently losing its curl. As a consequence, your pug will become hesitant of jumping, hunch their back, lose their appetite, and move much slower than usual.

When this happens, an X-ray can help determine the issue. It’s imperative that you consult with your vet to figure out the best possible options for treatment. Your pug may be required to undergo a neurological exam to check the extent of the injury, and then MRI scans to pinpoint the problem.

Fleas on your Pug’s Tail

The anatomy of a pug’s tail can make them prone to flea infestations. That’s because pugs can’t reach their tail or the surrounding area, so fleas can easily hide in plain sight. You will notice your pug scratching continuously, and if you’re not seeing signs of a typical skin infection, then check carefully for fleas. They’ll be hiding and hard to detect at first, but fur loss and dry skin is a sign of an infestation.

Fleas are hard to kill, yet fast to multiply. A female adult flea can lay more than 50 eggs per day, which can really put your pug’s well-being in jeopardy. They usually cling to your dog’s fur in outdoor environments. Usually, the vet will prescribe a shampoo for you to bathe your pug in. Ensure that every step is carried out. You may also need to treat the house and surrounding areas thoroughly with an anti-flea to fully get rid of them.

Ingrown Tail or Screw Tail

When a curled tail burrows into and impacts the skin of a dog, this is known as an ingrown or screw tail. It will cause the dog pain and the severity of it will depend on the depth of the tail fold. Ingrown tail in pugs can even obstruct their anus, which makes this condition extremely discomforting. Symptoms include itching, irritation, and redness.

Treatment will depend on the vet’s advice, and it can be as simple as cleaning the area and treating the affected area with an antibiotic. However, there is also a risk that the infection can worse if treated incorrectly. Improper care and cleaning can promote continuous moisture in the area, thus repeating the cycle.

If the condition keep recurring, vet bills can pile up. To avoid it being too costly, you can look at taking out a suitable pet insurance plan. Worst case scenario, the vet will advise on surgery to remove the infect tail end area. A surgeon will look to remove as little skin as possible, and only what is compromised.

Hemivertebrae

Hemivertebrae refers to a spinal disorder whereby the spinal cord becomes compressed (Schlensker & Distl, 2013). This is the result of their screw tail causing a malformation of the spinal bones. If you start to notice weakness in your dog’s limbs, get it checked out by a vet as this is a sign of the condition, as it can eventually lead to paralysis. An X-ray is usually performed to diagnose this condition.

Symptoms include spinal deformation, visible pain, increased aggression, wobbliness (ataxia) and function loss of the hind legs, and an inability to control urination and defecation (incontinence). Bone and joint supplements containing glucosamine can be especially helpful in alleviating skeletal pains related to hip/joint dysplasia and hemivertebrae. However, you’d want to speak to your vet first before introducing them.

Anal Obstruction

Your pet’s tail can obstruct the anal passage, which can eventually lead to an anal gland infection. Enlarged anal glands must be expressed, as it’s very uncomfortable if left untreated. Additionally, your pug will likely hold their tail in a downward or odd position. This is another signal that something is potentially wrong.

Often, this is caused by the formation of abscesses because of an infection brought about by the bacterias found in their feces. The excretion of the fluid is extremely smelly, and constant bathing won’t fix the issue. Watch out for signs, like difficulty sitting, discomfort, attempting to reach their behind, scooting their butts on the floor, traces of fluid on the floor, and snapping or growling when attempting to touch the tail.

A vet can help express your pug’s anal glands. Depending on the severity of the impaction, it may need to be flushed out to remove the foreign material. Some dogs may require an anaesthetic for the treatment if it’s too painful. For anal sac infections, your pug will be prescribed antibiotics and some pain relief medications. It may take a few days before the swelling and inflammation subsides.

Related Questions

Why do pugs tails go straight? A pugs tail can uncurl and go straight when feeling shame or guilt during moments of discipline. However, it can also be due to them being in a relaxed state of mood. Injuries can also cause tail paralysis, thus making their tail permanently straight.

Are pug puppies born with curly tails? No, pugs are born with a straight tail. Owners should expect to wait for a few weeks before a pug shows their tail’s natural curls. Sometimes it can even take a month or two before your pug gains this trait.

How many curls does a pug’s tail have? It can have one curl, two curl, or be completely loose. Usually, the amount of curls a pug has will be determined by the genetics of their parents.

References

Schlensker, E. & Distl, O., 2013. Prevalence, grading and genetics of hemivertebrae in dogs, Hannover: European Journal of Companion Animal Practice.

Barrington, K., 2017. Does Your Dog Have a Tail Pocket?.

Hunter, T. & Ward, E., n.d. Anal Sac Disease in Dogs.

PetMD, 2020. 8 Common Tail Problems in Dogs.

Zeltzman, P., 2014. Screw Tail: Strange Name for a Bad Condition.

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