Dogs’ tails are a wondrous thing, aren’t they? They can express everything from joy to curiosity to sadness. But have you ever wondered what’s inside a dog’s tail?

Dog tails are an extension of their spine, meaning most tails have between 7 and 20 individual bones inside. This appendage is vulnerable to injury and even broken tails are not uncommon.

Today, we’re going to explore what exactly goes into the anatomy of a dog’s tail. From bones to diseases, here’s everything you need to know about what makes your dog’s tail unique.


  • Dogs’ tails have approximately 20 bones that form the supportive structure of their tail. 
  • Dog’s tail bones are an extension of their spine and are important for communication and balance.
  • Skin, muscle, nerve and bone problems can cause pain and debility of a dog’s tail.

Do Dogs Have Bones In Their Tails?

dog skeleton showing tail bones

Yes, dog tails certainly do contain bones! But there’s more to tail anatomy than bones. 

It’s a complex structure made up of bones, muscles, and more. On average, a full-length canine tail has around 20 vertebrae, essentially making it an extension of the dog’s backbone. Let’s explore the basic anatomy of a dog’s tail…

The Basics of Tail Anatomy

Part of the TailFunctionAdditional Notes
VertebraeProvide structural support for the tailApproximately 20 bony vertebrae in a full-length tail
Arteries and VeinsSupply blood to the tailBranch off from arteries and veins in the pelvic region
NervesSensory functions, including painRun throughout the tail
Muscle and Connective TissueEnable a range of movementsHold the vertebrae together and allow movement
Skin and FurProtective layer and visual cue for communicationTexture and length vary between breeds

Tail Anatomy Details

  • Vertebrae: These are not just random bones; they’re actually an extension of your dog’s spinal column. They provide the tail its basic structure. In some breeds have shorter tails and some have curly tails but they all have vertebrae in their tails.
  • Arteries and Veins: Besides the caudal vertebrae, a dog’s tail gets its blood supply from arteries known as caudal arteries and veins termed caudal veins. These branch off from more significant arteries and veins in the pelvic region and are very important for keeping the tail healthy. 
  • Nerves: Don’t let anyone tell you dogs don’t feel pain in their tails! Nerves run all throughout the tail. They send signals to the brain about temperature, pressure, and even pain. This allows your dog to react appropriately to different stimuli, such as moving away from something that might be causing discomfort. 
  • Muscle and Connective Tissue: The bony vertebrae in a dog’s tail are bound together by connective tissue, creating a stable structure. Wrapped around these vertebrae is a layer of muscle, which enables the wide range of movements we associate with wagging tails.
  • Skin and Fur: The outermost layer of a dog’s tail consists of skin and fur, serving as both a protective layer and a visual cue for communication. The texture and length of the fur can vary greatly between breeds, from the sleek, short-haired tails of Greyhounds to the luxuriously fluffy tails of Siberian Huskies.
Tail end of a brown and white bulldog on a beach
Bulldog tails are curly but they still have bones!

Functions of the Tail

A dog’s tail serves multiple purposes beyond just being a continuation of its spine. From communication to balance, the tail is an indispensable part of a dog’s physiology and behavior. Let’s delve into some of the critical functions.


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Olivia Gordon of SciShow explain dogs’ tail communications


You’ve likely noticed that your dog’s tail is a barometer of their emotions. Wagging often suggests happiness or excitement, while a tucked tail might indicate fear or submission. The speed and direction of the wag can also convey different messages. For instance, a slow wag might signify a relaxed dog, while vigorous wagging could indicate extreme excitement or agitation. 

A 2022 study found that individual dogs have unique wagging patterns, and tails often wag more to the right during longer interactions with humans. This right-sided wagging could indicate a dog’s social comfort or familiarity with a person. (1)

Understanding these tail movements can offer unique insights into your dog’s emotional state.

More from Your Vet Friend

Why Is My Dog’s Head So Bony?

dog skull

Balance and Orientation

But a dog’s tail is not all about communication; it plays an important role in balance as well. You’ll notice that when a dog runs, the tail is often extended, acting as a counterbalance to the head and front limbs, aiding in sharp turns and maneuvers. 

Similarly, in breeds that are good swimmers like the Labrador Retriever, the tail serves as a rudder, helping the dog steer and maintain balance while in the water.

Broken Tails: What You Need to Know

Tail fractures can be tricky and painful to deal with for both dogs and owners. Treatment is challenging because of the tail’s frequent movement. 

Contrary to common belief, bandaging is not usually advised as it can cause more harm than good. A cautious “wait and see” approach, along with pain management, is often the best course of action.

The dog’s tail in the photos below healed with this approach and avoided surgery.

dog with broken tail
radiograph of broken dog tail

For pain relief and infection prevention, veterinarians usually recommend medication and sometimes even therapeutic lasers. Amputation is a last resort, typically only when other treatments have failed and the dog is in severe pain.

Note: Always consult your vet if you notice redness, swelling, or other signs of complications on your dog’s tail.

More Common Tail Conditions in Dogs

There are other conditions that can affect your dog’s tail. From wagging injuries to skin issues, tails can really take a beating!

Here’s a quick guide to some common tail conditions dog lovers might encounter. Find a description of each one in the FAQ section below.

dog tail problems infographic

Dog Tail FAQs

Dogs, especially large breeds, can hurt their tails by wagging them into hard objects, leading to issues like bleeding and inflammation. Treatment often involves bandaging and may require surgical tail shortening to prevent re-injury.

Dogs may experience a limp or stiff tail, often linked to cold exposure or confinement. While the exact cause is unclear, treatment usually consists of rest and pain medication. (2)

Common in short-faced breeds like Bulldogs, Screw Tail involves skin fold infections at the tail’s base. Standard treatment includes cleaning and antibiotics, but some dogs may require surgery.

Stud Tail is an oily skin condition at the base of the tail, affecting both male and female dogs. Treatment involves cleaning the area and may require medication or hormonal management.


Knowing about your dog’s tail isn’t just interesting—it helps you take better care of them. A dog’s tail does a lot more than just wag; it’s a key part of their body that can tell you about their health and feelings. 

By understanding what can go wrong and when to call the vet, you’re helping your dog live a happier and healthier life. So, the next time your dog wags their tail, you’ll understand just how special and important that simple movement really is. provides content for informational and entertainment purposes. You should always seek care from a veterinarian to diagnose and treat your unique pet. Visit the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use section of this site to learn more.

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  1. Ren, W., Wei, P., Yu, S., & Zhang, Y. Q. (2022). Left-right asymmetry and attractor-like dynamics of dog’s tail wagging during dog-human interactions. Iscience, 25(8).
  2. Steiss, J., Braund, K., Wright, J., Lenz, S., Hudson, J., Brawner, W., … & Home, R. (1999). Coccygeal muscle injury in English Pointers (limber tail). Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 13(6), 540-548.