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Why Dogs Lick The Base of Their Tail: 10 Causes & What To Do

If you notice your dog licking the area at the base of their tail, it’s important to understand the reason behind it, whether it’s a cause for concern, and how you can address it effectively.

Dogs often engage in weird behavior like this one, so thankfully many experts over the years have studied this and come up with several causes.


10 Reasons Why Dogs Lick The Base of Their Tail

Let’s cover the main reasons why dogs persistently lick the base of their tail. As the reasons are so varied, it’s important to consider your dog’s daily routine, past routine, diet, lifestyle, and health in order to find the correct cause.

I’ll discuss when it’s necessary to see a vet in the next section.

1. Environmental allergies

Many dogs suffer from different kinds of environmental allergies. This includes allergies to dust mites, mold, trees, grass, pollen, and different weeds.

If your pooch has been laying down or rolling on the grass, field, or any dusty area, it could cause a reaction anywhere on the body.

As well as licking the base of their tail, your dog may itch constantly, sneeze, have watery eyes, or show bald patches (from excessive scratching).

How would you know if it’s this?

It’s hard to know exactly, but if you notice excessive licking or scratching right after their daily walk in the park or after being in a specific area, it could suggest it’s something in that environment causing the reaction.

2. Flea allergy dermitis & fleas

Fleas and flea allergy dermitis are an issue for most dogs at some point throughout their life.

If it isn’t fleas themselves causing your dog to lick their base of tail, or could be due to having an allergy to fleas.

For dogs with this allergy, even a single flea bite could cause a negative reaction like licking or scratching.

How would you know if it’s this?

It’s always important to give your dog thorough inspections regularly, this way you’ll be quick to see a flea or fleas should there be any.

You may see a flea (brown in color) or their eggs (whitish color) throughout your dog. You may witness excessive and constant scratching where your dog goes.

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3. Food allergies

Yup, still with the allergies!

While most owners rightfully associate food allergies with sensitive stomachs and digestive upset, they can also cause itching, excessing licking and other negative reactions.

It turns out that A LOT of breeds (particularly working dogs) are allergic to certain foods and ingredients.

It surprises many that chicken is actually a common allergen, despite being the most used ingredient and flavor for both dog treats and commercial dog food.

Chicken, chicken eggs, beef, lamb, pork, soy, gluten, and wheat are the known allergens that affect many dogs.

Food allergies usually happen over time, and can be caused simply by over-exposing your dog to one single food for too long…

How would you know if it’s this?

If you observe your dog carefully for long enough you may notice a pattern of irritable behavior, digestive upset, itching, or licking after eating an ingredient or their daily meal.

If this is the case, it suggests a specific ingredient is to blame.

You may also witness food refusal or unusual behavior when it gets to mealtime.

4. It’s become a habit (OCD)

What’s surprisingly common is for a dog to engage in a behavior long enough to the point it becomes an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Your dog may start licking their base of tail for a legitimate reason, only for it to become a reinforced habit after just a short time.

For some dogs it may take just several days of repeating an action for it to become a habit, for others it takes a little longer.

How would you know if it’s this?

The reality is that if your dog has been engaging in this behavior already for at least a week, it’s possible that it’s now ingrained into their natural behavior.

Of course, it still helps to consider the root cause, resolve that, then train against this unwanted habit.

It’s fair to say, however, training a dog out of an obbsessive compulsive disorder can be tough.

5. Contact dermatitis

Contact dermitis happens when your dog’s immune system overeacts to a certain substance that’s come into contact with their skin.

Some dogs react negatively to products such as shampoo, pesticides, washing powder, perfume, air freshener or other lotions, powders or ointments.

When this happens you’ll notice your dog scratch, lick, or see visible red inflamed skin around your dog’s body.

A classic example of contact dermitis is when a harsh pet shampoo is used to bathe your doggo, and some residue remains on their backside. This is one of the most common causes of CD.

Our favorite: Natural ingredient dog shampoo

6. Anal sacs issues

Does your dog scoot their bum along the ground as well as like their back end?

If so, it likely means they’ve got an issue with their anal sacs.

Anal glands are two small sacs located just inside the rectum. These sacs contain a very strong fish odor liquid that naturally secretes during regular bowl movements.

This is for the purpose of scent marking. It’s actually super important for dogs to mark territory and learn about their surroundings!

Sometimes, these sacs may not express naturally, then what happens is there’s a build of the liquid and it can potentially rupture or get infected.

How would you know if it’s this?

If your doggo has an anal gland issue, you’ll likely see them:

  • scooting their bum on the ground
  • licking the base of their tail
  • paying extra attention to their genital area
  • smell something extremely foul coming from your dog

Some owners manage to express these sacs themselves, but it’s advised to ask your vet or local groomer (yep, some dog groomers will provide this service too!)

7. Parasites

So far we’ve spoken mostly external irritations, but it could be an issue coming from inside.

Parasites, including worms (roundworms and tapeworms being most common) may be the cause of this licking behavior.

Tapeworms happen when your dog ingests an infected flea, infected flea egg, or from ingesting anything from an infected animal like a rabbit.

Roundworms are typically passed down from the mother to the offspring. They may also happen if your dog ingests feces from an infected animal or dog.

Worms typically cause a lot of discomfort and will result in bum scooting, itching, licking, unusual behavior.

How would you know if it’s this?

Worms are typically visible in the poop. Roundworms are fairly easy to see and look like typical spaghetti style worms.

Tapeworms are much shorter and have been compared to grains of rice or seeds.

Both kinds of worms are whitish in color.

Other symptoms typically include weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive eating.

If you think your doggo may have worms it’s important to call your local veterinarian as soon as possible.

Related: How Long Do Puppies Poop Worms After Deworming? Vet Info

8. Hormone imbalances

There are many hormones in a dog’s body. And If a certain hormone is producing either too much or too little, this can lead to specific diseases and ultimately affect a dog’s coat and skin.

Hormone related issues include:

  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes.

These kinds of diseases can affect the coat and skin in different ways, some make the coat dull, patchy, can lead to hair loss or even change the skin’s natural color.

On top of those visible symptoms, your doggo may be scratching, licking themselves, experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, gaining weight, experiencing lethargy and other unusual behaviors.

9. Pain or injury

If your dog is suffering from an existing injury, wound, or even internal pain, their first instinct will be protect and lick it.

Experts believe that dogs may not know the difference between a surface wound and an internal pain…

So, even if your dog has an internal sprain or pain, it could still cause them to lick at the affected area, just like they would if they have a surface cut or wound.

Of course, all dogs of all ages are at risk of accidents and injury, but it’s in puppies and seniors that we see most problems.

Puppies have vulernable bodies while they’re still growing, and seniors have progressively weaker bodies as they age.

How would you know if it’s this?

For surface wounds a quick inspection will suffice, but internal pain is harder to detect.

Consider the recent events leading up to know, perhaps your dog fell, jumped a little too high and landed on their back, or has been over-exercised in general.

If you have a senior dog, issues with their joints happen easily so keep this in mind and consider calling a vet.

10. Stress or anxiety

Last but certainly not least, is stress and anxiety.

Just like us, many things can cause our pooches to become overly stressed or anxious.

When a dog is stressed or anxious, it’s common for them to engage in pacifying behaviors such as licking.

This gives them a feeling of safety, and helps relieve some of the stress or anxiety they may be feeling.

Licking of the paws or lips is very common, but licking the base of their tail is also possible.

How would you know if it’s this?

All owners should have a rough understanding of how their pet is “doing” overall. Are they truly receiving everything they need? Is your pooch happy with their daily routine?

A dog that’s stressed or anxious can exhibit this in a plethora of ways, some more subtle than others.

On top of observing their behavior carefully, you can consider their daily routine. Do they receive enough exercise? training? attention from the family? do they look happy and energetic? are they left alone for many hours per day?

A lot can be understood when you consider their body language and daily routine.

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What To Do Next…

First and foremost, ruling out health issues is a must.

Contact your local veterinarian if you suspect any of the following:

  • Pain or injury
  • Parasites (worms)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Serious skin irritations
  • Hair loss
  • Wounds
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Sudden unusual behavioral changes

Any of the above could indicate an issue that you’ll need veterinary help with.

Now it’s time to consider your dog’s

  • Daily routine
  • Basic needs

Is your dog otherwise happy? energetic? enthusiastic when you see them…? Are their exercise, training, stimulation and diet needs sufficiently taken care of?… If so, then it’s safer to rule out stress/anxiety as a cause.

Consider the recent events that built up to this behavior… Did you take your dog to a new park or field? have you recently switched washing powders or dog shampoo?

It’s important to consider these questions because here could be the simple answer.

If anything recently changed, it could be related to the licking behavior if it falls under one of the causes above.

If you think you’ve identified something it could be, avoid it in the future and see if the licking gradually stops.

If the licking persists for a few more days and you can’t figure it out, be sure to contact your vet for some professional advice and a check up.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.