As a pug owner myself I’ve noticed that my pug’s tail can sometimes straighten out. So, I did some research to find out why.
So, why is your pug’s tail straight? There are many potential reasons why a pug may have a straight tail. The pug may be simply feeling sad, relaxed, sick, tired, or nervous. It may be also due to age, or in more serious cases a spinal injury, a need for the anal sacs/glands to be expressed, or tail paralysis, or ‘hemivertebrae’.
Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of pugs from other breeds is its signature curly, or ‘screw tail’. In fact, this is one of the breed’s aesthetically distinguishing features that has been bred into the genetics through countless generations by breeders. However, this doesn’t mean that pugs can’t uncurl their tails from time to time. In fact, this is not uncommon, and many pug owners will notice their pug’s flaccid tail at least once. Every pug is different, and some may even curl and uncurl its tail several times during the day.
Contrary to popular belief, pugs are not actually born with their signature curly tails. Rather, when a pug is born, it is usually straight, but will develop its curly tail somewhere between its first few weeks and months. Pug puppy owners will tend to find that the tail will tighten up as they mature.
On the other end of the scale, senior pugs are also more likely to be prone to ‘straight-tail syndrome’. This happens as older pugs lose the firmness in their muscles to keep their tail curled. It can also be a symptom of arthritis, which is more common in older pugs.
Just like humans, pugs can express their mood through body language, whether consciously or subconsciously. For pugs, and dogs in general, the movement of their tail is one of their best ways of self expression. Amongst other things, a straight tail can signify sadness, tiredness, and nervousness. This can also show your pug is feeling guilt, say for example when you return home to find its been trashed and your pug knows it did wrong.
Relaxation and Sleep
When a pug is feeling relaxed, their tail may uncurl naturally as the muscles around the tail also relax, causing it to lose its curl. This may also happen when a pug is sleeping, as their muscles are naturally in a more relaxed state. So if you do notice your pug’s tail is straight when they’re asleep, don’t worry it’s perfectly normal.
Pugs may also be seen to uncurl their tail when they are concentrated at a task at hand, such as eating food, chewing on a treat or playing with a toy. They will usually curl straight back up afterwards, so there isn’t too much to worry about if this is the case.
Sickness and Injury
Some pugs may uncurl their tail when they are not feeling well. This may appear more as a ‘limp’ tail where the muscles appear to lose its ability to contract. If you suspect that the tail may be fractured, an X-ray may be appropriate in order to determine a more accurate diagnosis. Along with other signs that you may detect such as body language that may indicate pain and other unusual symptoms that may be present, if you suspect that your pug is feeling unwell, you should visit your veterinarian.
The curled tail of pugs and other dog breeds is caused by a condition called hemivertebrae, or a distinct wedge-shape of the spine, as opposed to a more common cylindrical shape found in most other dogs. This causes the tail to curl up naturally, and is a result of the pug breeding practices which specifically targeted curled tails as a desirable trait.
Unfortunately, this abnormality may also cause other sections of the spine to develop hemivertebrae, such as the thoracic spine area. As the spinal area connects the body through the central nervous system, hemivertebrae may cause other significant issues such as back pain, tail paralysis, paralysis of the hind legs, and lack of control over their urine and faeces.
If you do suspect your pug is developing limpness in its tail and/or rear end of its body, or you suspect it is experiencing pain in this area through other mood indicators, you should consult your veterinarian. An X-ray should be able to determine whether or not hemivertebrae is an issue. In serious cases, surgery may be required to realign the spine.
Another common problem with breeds such as the pug with curled screw-shaped tails is that its tail may obstruct the anal passage. In other words, your tail may be in the way of your pug’s poop. This can lead to an anal gland infection. You should be able to tell if there is an infection as there will be a strong, unpleasant odor coming from the anal area. Other signs may include excessive licking around the tail area and rubbing its butt along the ground after doing its business to wipe off. If you see some of these signs and suspect this is the case, you will need to ‘express’ or remove the build up of fluids inside these glands as soon as possible. Although this can be done yourself, if you haven’t done this before it is recommended that you take your pug to your veterinarian for this job as improper technique can damage the glands.
Should I Consult a Vet?
Generally speaking, a pug’s tail uncurling itself is not a big issue. The straight tail is most often only temporary, and the tail will return to its normal curly state. You should notice your pug’s tail curl back up. If it does persist however, or it is obvious that there is a deeper underlying issue from you pug’s behaviour such as signs of discomfort, it would be best to consult your veterinarian for advice.
Related Tail Problems
Tail Fold Dermatitis, and Tail Fold Intertrigo are common conditions found in pugs, as well other cork-screw tailed dogs, such as English Bulldogs. This occurs when the folds of excess skin around the tail screw cause irritation against the pug’s own skin. The friction caused by movement may lead to inflammation in the skin. In addition to this, the skin in this area may not be well aerated, leading to a warm, moist environment for yeast and bacteria to cause infections.
Ingrown tail is another condition that is not uncommon in pugs, where essentially the tail will grow in such a way that it is growing into the pug’s skin. For this condition, clinical treatment usually only relieves symptoms temporarily and surgery may be needed to remove excessive skin. In severe cases, amputation of the tail may be required.
Which way does your pug’s tail curl?
Just like right-handed and left handed people, some pugs will curl their tail to the left, while others will curl to the right. There is no right or wrong. Some pug owners even claim that their pug has switched the direction of their curl once they reached a certain point during their growing years.