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French bulldogs are bred to have short, curly, or stumpy tails. This is due to underdevelopment or ‘abnormal’ development of the vertebra in the tail that French Bulldog breeding has selected for. Due to the anatomy of French Bulldog tails, it is very hard for them to wag their tails in the way that long-tailed dogs do – if they can move their tails at all!
Some French Bulldogs have the ability to wag their short tails to some degree (those with slightly longer tails), but French Bulldogs with very short tail stumps are unable to wag their tails. However, most French Bulldogs will wiggle their hindquarters when excited or happy.
In most cases, Frenchies who are able to move their tails will instead wiggle their tail stumps back and forth in an uncoordinated manner – which is quite amusing and cute! Luckily, Frenchies use many other body language cues to tell their owners that they are excited.
Do Some French Bulldogs Have Their Tails Docked?
Most French Bulldogs are born with short tails and do not get their tails docked. French bulldogs can have short tails, screw tails, or stump tails, all considered normal for the breed.
In most parts of the world, tail docking is illegal unless for a medical reason, such as a tail injury. If removing the tail is indicated, a veterinarian will do tail amputation surgery while the dog is under general anesthesia. This is a very painful procedure, and the vet will ensure proper pain control during and after surgery.
Does Not Having A Long Tail Affect French Bulldogs Negatively?
Not having a long enough tail to wag may limit a French Bulldog’s ability to communicate with other dogs. In addition, not having a longer tail also negatively affects a French Bulldog’s ability to balance.
Dogs use their tails to communicate with other dogs. Just think of how a curious or alarmed dog will keep their tails straight up, happy dogs wag their tails, and scared dogs carry their tails low and between their legs.
A Frenchie may have some trouble communicating with unfamiliar dogs due to their lack of ‘tail talk.’
This is usually not a problem for French bulldog owners. Frenchies have many other ways of communicating that their owners learn to understand, such as flickering ears or butt wiggles when they are excited.
A dog’s tail also plays an important part in keeping a steady balance. To see this in action, you just need to watch a long-tailed dog like a border collie sprinting through an agility course. You will notice that when they swerve to one side, the tail will bend to the other side. This helps them maintain their balance when they need to change directions quickly.
A Frenchie may be more prone to falling when changing directions at speed. Their lack of longer tails causes them to be a little clumsy at times.
Different Types Of French Bulldog Tails
1. Short and Straight or Slightly Tapered
Some French bulldogs will have short straight tails that may appear similar to docked tails in other breeds; however, most French bulldogs with this type of tail are born that way and did not have their tails docked.
French bulldogs with a short straight tail can usually move and wag their tail more. They are also less prone to the health conditions associated with having stump- or screw tails.
2. Screw Tail
A screw tail usually twists around, lies flat on the bum, and will have two or more ‘bends’. The bends in the tail are caused by some of the vertebral bodies of the tail being more triangular shaped as opposed to the typical rectangular shape of the tail vertebra (see the image of the x-ray above).
Some French Bulldogs with this type of tail will be able to move or ‘wag’ their tail slightly.
3. Stump Tail or Knot
This is an extremely short tail and looks similar to a tail that was docked very short. French bulldogs with this type of tail are usually unable to move their tails at all.
This type of tail is also commonly associated with tail fold dermatitis and sometimes lumbosacral disease discussed below.
Common Health Conditions Associated With French Bulldog Tails
Tail Fold Pyoderma
This is an infection of the skin inside the fold around the base of the tail, sometimes called a ‘tail pocket.’ French bulldogs with stump tails commonly have tail pockets.
The fold of skin creates a pocket where dirt and debris can collect, leading to irritation and infection of the skin around the tail. If you notice that your Frenchie has a prominent skin fold near the base of their tail, it is advised to gently clean it using an antibacterial wipe regularly.
If your Frenchie’s tail fold is painful or if you notice blood or a discharge, they may have tail fold pyoderma. This can usually be treated using antibiotics and pain medication prescribed by your vet, along with daily cleaning using an antiseptic solution such as dilute chlorhexidine.
If a French bulldog has recurrent skin folded dermatitis, surgery to remove the excess skin and reduce the pocket may be considered to prevent a recurrence of painful tail fold pyoderma.
Hemivertebra, butterfly vertebra, and ventral wedged vertebra are all common vertebral abnormalities of Fench Bulldogs. The vertebra of the tail (also called caudal vertebra) commonly has multiple of these developmental abnormalities.
The good news is that these vertebral abnormalities, when present in the tail vertebra alone, rarely cause concerning symptoms. However, serious neurological symptoms and pain can result if these vertebral abnormalities occur anywhere else in the vertebral column (as in higher up: anywhere from the neck to coccyx).
Therefore, strictly speaking, vertebral body abnormalities in the tail are not a health problem but rather an anatomical abnormality that humans have bred French bulldogs to have and now consider ‘normal’ for the breed.
Lumbosacral disease is a blanket term used to describe diseases affecting the nerves branching off the spinal cord in the region of the lower back to the tail.
This condition can be brought on by several different causes, such as intervertebral disc disease, injury, infection, or tumor growth. If the disease extends to involve the nerves of the sacrum (sit bone), fecal and urinary incontinence may result. If nerves higher up are involved, hind leg weakness and paralysis may result.
It is exceedingly uncommon for lumbosacral disease to originate in the tail and extend upwards; however, lumbosacral and other spinal cord diseases are not uncommon in French Bulldogs due to the high occurrence of vertebral abnormalities in the gene pool of the breed.
French Bulldogs have been selectively bred to have very short tails. This is due to abnormal development or even underdevelopment of the tail vertebra, and most French Bulldogs are unable to wag their tails.
The shorter the tail, the less likely they can move their tails. Often, longer-tailed French Bulldogs will only be able to move their tails in an uncoordinated up and down or circular motion and do not have the ability to wag their tails the same way longer-tailed dogs do.
Having short tails limits a French Bulldog’s ability to balance and communicate with other dogs.
Tail fold pyoderma is a painful condition caused by the abnormal conformation of French Bulldog tails. The vertebral abnormalities seen in the caudal vertebra of French Bulldogs may cause debilitating neurological disease if vertebrae in other areas of the spine show similar abnormalities. Unfortunately, vertebral abnormalities are highly prevalent in the small French Bulldog gene pool.
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