One of the most recognizable and most beautiful features of the Akita dog breed is its gorgeous curly tail! It’s so distinctly Akita that it’s a Hallmark of identifying the breed.
I had a student of mine recently asked me what makes the Akita tail so curly and of course, knowing me, no question can go unanswered so I took some time to Paws and Learn all about Akita’s tails.
An Akita’s tail is large and full, held high and carried over its back against its hindquarters. The tail distinctly curls and can have a three-quarter, full, or double curl that rests on its back. On a three-quarter curl, the tip will normally be below the flank (between the end of its chest and rear leg).
The fur on an Akita’s tail is my favorite part. It’s so nice and fluffy and just plain beautiful! According to the AKC, the fur on an Akita tail should be even all around without the appearance of a plume.
Why Are Akita Tails Curled
Akitas are members of the Spitz group which includes many northern snow breeds. Their close relatives include Huskies, Malamutes, Chow-Chows, Norwegian Elkhounds, and others.
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As a dog who originally comes from cold temperature climates, it needs extra protection against the elements. Genetics and selective breeding have done its job over many generations giving Akitas that distinct curl in their tail that will be advantageous for their own protection.
When Akitas lay down to sleep at night they curl up in a ball their curly tail is in the exact position needed to tuck over top of their noses. This keeps them warm and prevents their tender noses from getting frostbit. This is a genetic quality that has been passed down through many generations.
A dog’s tail is an extension of its spine and has bone and cartilage in it just as its spine does. For a dog with a straight or slightly curved tail like a Dachshund, the tail bone goes straight out with little deviation.
For dogs like Akitas, the curl in their tails is caused by something called hemivertebrae. This is a genetic or congenital condition that basically means when the vertebrae in your dog’s tail formed it fused together in a curl or a wedge shape.
Now most of us can agree that we would definitely not consider this adorable trait to be a “condition” and rightfully so because for Akitas, having a curly tail is considered completely normal and does not cause the dog any pain or discomfort.
Akita Tail Wagging and Communication
Do you ever wonder what your Akita’s tail wagging means? They wag their tails for many different reasons. It’s a big part of how they communicate with you.
Wagging their tail doesn’t always mean they are happy. They could be conveying other emotions like nervousness or fear as well.
The key to understanding the meaning behind their tail wagging is to put it together with all the other contextual clues they are giving you. What are their ears doing, their eyes, how is their posture? Noticing these things as well will help you know why your Akita is wagging their tail.
Here are some things your dog could be communicating to you with its tail.
- Calm and chill – Tail in the natural curled and resting position. Sleeping or resting or casually walking around.
- Greeting or I love you – Usually, a big carefree wag, accompanied by eye contact, coming to you and jumping on you or trying to get your attention.
- Curious or unsure – Backwards and gentle wagging. Maybe sniffing around a little, intense and curious staring. Looking to you for reassurance.
- I’m nervous or scared – The tail between their legs and possibly slightly moving. Body tense, eyes down, ears laid back. Could also be trying to communicate a submissive position.
- Aggression – Tail high in the air and rigid. Poised, rigid, and making eye contact. Could be barking or growling as well.
- Playful and Happy – Fast care-free wagging. Wiggling body, happy facial expressions. Body not tense, possibly going in circles around the object causing excitement such as a treat or toy.
There’s also been a study done that shows the direction that your dog wags their tail can show positive or negative emotion.
Fun Fact: Wagging their tail towards the right side of their body can indicate more positive emotions such as relaxed, and happiness. Wagging their tails on the left side of their body is a sign of more negative emotions such as nervousness or fear.
Some dogs are bigger tail-waggers than others. If your dog doesn’t wag its tail a lot it’s most likely nothing to be worried about. You will just need to work on identifying other body language cues to help you understand what they are trying to tell you.
If your Akita has suddenly stopped wagging their tail then that could be a cause for concern. You will want to think about the entire picture of what may be happening before jumping to any conclusions about the cause.
If your dog’s environment has drastically changed like moving somewhere new, or there has been a big shift in your household dynamics like a new spouse or housemate then it may just take some time for you Akita to feel up to using that furry tail again.
It’s possible it could be something a little more concerning which is what we are going to discuss next.
Akita Tail Problems
Nothing can be more concerning than when your furry companion has a problem. Tails problems can be truly troubling since it’s such a big part of how our dogs communicate with us.
If there is ever a major concern about your dog’s tail it is always recommended that you reach out to their vet to seek professional medical advice and help.
However, as a dog owner myself, I know that learning everything we can about the possibilities of what it could be while waiting for a call back from the vet can help to put my mind at ease.
Here is a list of the possible problems you might come across with your Akita’s tail.
Limber or Swimmers Tail in and Akita
If you notice your Akita’s tail hanging down and it looks limp and unnatural then he may have a condition known as Limber Tail.
Limber tail Also known as swimmers tail, frozen tail, dead tail, broken wag, or cold tail is a condition that causes your dog to hold his tail limp and down instead of the usual upright position. Its official name is Acute Caudal Myopathy.
It is most likely to happen after your dog has had a very active or strenuous play, exercise, or excessive tail wagging. Sometimes a lot of swimming can cause it, being in cold wet weather, if they are confined to their crate too long, or if your dog’s tail is wagging and getting whacked on various surfaces.
This condition may cause your dog pain and swelling in their tail, make it difficult to sit. Usually, it will go away on its own after a few days of rest.
Most Akita owners report that the tail goes back to normal with rest after a few days to a week.
It’s important to try and limit exercise and movement if you notice that your dog is experiencing this problem. If it is causing your dog a lot of pain then consulting your vet is a good idea.
Usually, this isn’t a chronic problem, but it is a good idea to figure out what may have triggered it in the first place and try to avoid that activity if possible. Coldwater play, or being confined in a crate too long are often things that could trigger this condition.
Swollen or Full Anal Glands
If you notice your Akita chasing its tail a lot more than usual or scooting its bum across the carpet it could be that its anal glands are blocked and swollen.
This is sometimes the cause of your dog’s hanging tail as well. Making sure that your dog is eating a clean healthy diet can help to avoid this, but sometimes it’s as simple as our dog’s anal glands needing to be expressed. You can have your vet do it, or learn to do it yourself.
For more information on this you can read this article on Wag Walking.
Akita Tail Losing it’s Curl
Another form of Limber tail that tends to happen as Akita’s age is a slow steady drooping of the tail over time. If your Akita’s tail is slowly starting to droop or lose its curl it could be a joint issue, arthritis, or a sign of another ailment brought on by old age.
Some owners I talked with said that this happened with their dogs around age 9-13. Even if your dog is not whining or displaying any obvious signs of pain they may still be feeling a lot of discomfort from the issue.
Talk to your vet about medication or tests that would help your Akita remain comfortable.
Hair Loss on an Akita’s Tail
There are several reasons that your Akita may be losing hair on its tail. We will discuss a few, but it’s important that you consult your dog’s vet to get a professional medical opinion.
- Atopy – Environmental or food allergies that cause hair loss on the tail and other parts of your dog. Could be seasonal. You may want to treat it with antihistamines prescribed by your vet.
- Mange– a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites. Look for patches of fur missing and a lot of itching. Many cases will clear up on its own, more severe cases should be treated by a vet.
- Fleas – Very tiny wingless insects that will bite and feed off of your dog. Look for small red bumps on your pet’s skin. Fleas may irritate your dog enough that he will be biting or scratching so much his fur starts to come off.
- Hormonal Problems – Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism can cause hormonal imbalances that may cause hair to fall out. If your dog is not biting or scratching their tail but they are still losing hair this may be the cause. Watch for a tired or lethargic dog. This can be treated with medication or surgery. Consult your vet.
- Old age– If you Akita is a senior (9-12 years old) hair loss on their tail may be caused by aging. If this is the case you can do your best to help them feel comfortable and make sure that they are not in any pain.
Taking care of our dog’s most stunning features like our Akita’s adorable curly tails may take a little extra work and know-how, but isn’t it worth it!