Choosing a Budgie or Parakeet

A rose is a rose is a rose … but a budgie is a budgerigar is a keet is a parakeet – at least to the average person. Most people are confused as to whether a budgie is a parakeet or a parakeet is a budgie or whether they are entirely different birds. In the United States, the term “budgie” usually refers to the English exhibition or show parakeet, while in Great Britain, “budgie” refers to any keet. Budgerigar is an Aborigine phrase that means “good to eat.”

Whatever you call it, the budgie is one of the most popular pet birds in the world today. Native to Australia, it is a member of the Melopsittacus undulatus, which includes the American parakeet, English parakeet, shell parakeet, budgie and budgerigar. Bird experts prefer that budgies not be called parakeets, since parakeet is a common term for several small parrot-type birds with long tails. A budgie is a parakeet but a parakeet is not always a budgie.

Personality and Appearance

Budgies come in over a thousand color mutations. The normal budgie is bright green on the chest with the wings a mix of green with black. There are several variations to this including yellow, blue, violet and albino. The male and female show sexual dimorphic characteristics, which means that there are visual differences. The adult male usually has a blue colored cere (the firm fleshy band across the base of the beak), and the female’s is pink or brownish colored. Young budgies typically have stripes that cover the head and continue down to a pink cere. As the bird matures, the cere color changes. Budgies are of two different body types: the American budgie and the English budgie.

The American budgie is most commonly seen in pet stores and is about seven inches long, with the tail making up most of the length. His head is small, but it is proportionate to the rest of the body. These budgies are excellent talkers and quite easy to tame. They usually live 15 to 18 years.

English budgies have characteristics and features that were developed and enhanced specifically for show, such as a bigger chest and head, large circular throat spots, and vibrant clear colors and markings. They are about 10 inches in length and are less active; some believe they are not as smart as the American budgie.

Budgies can be taught to talk, although not all will. Some will only whistle, while others will learn many words. Hand-raised birds are more likely to talk as are single-caged birds. Relatively inexpensive, they are not loud, do not take up a lot of space and do not make a mess. They are easy to train and make exceptional pets if they receive a lot of attention. As with most birds, the budgie will bond quicker to you if it is a single bird. If you have a busy lifestyle and feel you would not have a lot of time to interact with your bird, you may want to consider having two as they are flock birds and like companionship.


Budgies love baths; some like a dip and some like showers. Try putting a dish of water in the cage to see if your parakeet likes to bathe. If he shows no interest, you can mist him with warm water and let him dry in the sun. Always make sure the room is warm for bathing.


Budgies love to eat and their diet is very important. In the wild they eat ripened green seeds and greens. A pelleted diet is best, in addition to anything you eat, except for avocado, chocolate, fatty things and salty things. A good diet consists of pellets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and seeds. They enjoy carrots, corn, peas, green beans, cooked chicken egg, apple, pear, cantaloupe, leafy greens, whole wheat bread, and corn bread. They also like plucking the fresh buds off of fresh broccoli. You can fix a “plate” for your budgie when you are having your own dinner. An occasional millet spray is a great treat. If your budgie has not been raised on fruits and vegetables, he may be stubborn about changing his diet. Add something new each day and be patient. His curiosity just might reward him with some healthy and tasty treats.


Your budgie may be small, but he still needs some space. The cage should be the largest one you can afford, but at least 18 inches. Budgies fly horizontally so the cage should be wider than it is high to allow space to flap his wings, play with his toys and climb. Bar spacing should be no wider that 1/2 inch, small enough so the head will not fit between the bars. Place the cage in an area of the house where your budgie will see a lot of the family. However, keep him away from the kitchen where dangerous cooking fumes can harm him.

Budgies love to play and need mental stimulation. Make sure there are enough toys but not so many that they crowd the space. Your budgie will enjoy playing with mirrors, bells, swings, ladders and chewy toys. And if you have a safe environment for a bird, you can let him out to fly once a day. However, remember that your budgie does not know that the patio door is not open and he would have trouble surviving if he were to get out of the house. You might let him fly in an enclosed room with the door closed, and be sure to stay in there with him. Remove poisonous plants, electrical wiring or strings because budgies are excellent climbers and chewers. Never leave your budgie unattended when another pet is present, such as a dog or a cat.

Why Do Dogs Bury Bones?

Burying Bones: Why Do Dogs Do That? 

Why do dogs bury bones in the ground? Because they can’t bury them in trees! You may have heard that old chestnut, but in reality, burying bones is a serious business for dogs that is driven by heredity and instinct.

To understand why your dog buries his bones, even though you feed him twice a day, you have to understand his nature. You can do this by looking at your dog’s genetic heritage. Although dogs have been around for millions of years, they have only been domesticated for a few thousand years, and they spent a lot of time developing behaviors that helped them to survive.

One of the most important behaviors had to do with finding and maintaining an adequate food supply. Being carnivores, dogs might sometimes kill a prey animal large enough to feed the entire pack, like a moose or a mammoth. Alternatively, when small prey animals were abundant , they might kill many of these bite-sized creatures. Either way, they often found themselves with more food than they could eat at once. However, they could never be sure when they would be able to find and kill another prey, and much time could pass – sometimes weeks – without them finding another meal. So to be on the safe side, they carried the bones, which were filled with nutrient-rich marrow, back to their lair, and buried them nearby. When food was scarce, they could always rely on the bones to keep them fed.

This process is called caching or hoarding, and it is common among dogs, wolves and foxes. In fact, other animals practice a form of caching; squirrels gather enough nuts to last through the winter, and camels store enough food and water to last for several days in the desert. Our domesticated dogs may have their food handed to them each day in sufficient quantities, but they still carry this caching trait and bury their bones or toys in the back yard – or even under your pillows – to guard against a possible shortage of food.

So, why do dogs bury bones in the ground? Because it’s in their nature.

The Stonefish – The Deadliest Fish in The World

In an ancient dance ritual performed by the Australian Aborigines, a man wades into the tide pools in search of fish. Suddenly he steps on something – a clay model of a stonefish with 13 wooden dorsal fins – and screams in pain. The dancer writhes on the ground in agony, and the ritual ends sadly with a death song.

The stonefish is the most venomous fish known. Lying on the seabed, looking exactly like an encrusted rock, it waits for small fish and shrimps to swim by. Then with lightening speed (just 0.015 seconds) the fish opens its mouth and sucks them in.

Stonefish reach up to about 15 inches (35 cm) in length and live in the Indo-Pacific region and northern Australian waters. This fish has 13 grooved spines sharp enough to puncture rubber, which it uses for pure defense against bottom-feeding sharks and rays. It has a spiny head with large pectoral fins, and it is bluntly built and covered with flaps of skin and wart-like bumps. To round out the camouflage, it is grayish-brown in color and blends in perfectly with the ocean floor.

The stonefish is only dangerous if stepped on or caught. The dorsal spines project from venom glands along the back, and venom is involuntarily expelled when pressure is placed on them. In fact, the victim is the one who injures himself. It takes a few weeks for the glands to regenerate and recharge.

Victims experience excruciating pain that lasts for hours and a tremendous swelling develops with the death of the tissues. Temporary paralysis, shock and even death may result. The severity of symptoms depends on the depth of penetration and the number of spines involved.

You can prevent injury by wearing thick-soled shoes and treading very lightly; spines have been known to pierce through a shoe. If you are stung by a stonefish, you can immerse the area in hot water. But for severe symptoms, which include excruciating pain, weakness and paralysis, and multiple punctures, the only real treatment is the administration of stonefish antivenin – and an intravenous narcotic analgesia for pain.

What Does Your Dog Do When Home Alone?

Home Alone: What’s Your Dog Doing? 

Your dog may be such a good doggie – doesn’t bark much, doesn’t make a mess, keeps to himself – only offering up his soft little head occasionally for a friendly pat. Good doggie … good, good doggie. And the calmer and more stable the dog, the happier he will be to simply curl up and go to sleep while you’re gone. Right?

If you are an average pet owner, you must have wondered what goes on to keep your dog amused while you are away. And why does he look so guilty when you get home? Here are some things you might notice that make you wonder just what went on during the day:

  • There are empty pizza boxes shoved under the couch.
  • There’s hair suspiciously the same color as your dog’s in your hairbrush – and on your good dress.
  • There are cocktail olives in the toilet bowl.
  • Your bedroom furniture has been rearranged to put the bed by the window.
  • You’re starting to receive email messages from someone called Feline Fantasy.
  • There are traces of kitty litter on the remote control.
  • Leftover roast beef is missing from the fridge again.
  • There’s yet another empty milk carton in the fridge. (Hey, somebody puts them there.)
  • There are several calls to psychic hotlines listed on your phone bill.

    If you suspect your dog s a bit more active than you thought, try placing a hidden video camera to find out for sure. Or pop in unexpectedly on occasion. Meanwhile, check out these photos to see what you might learn.

  • Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

    Dogs are not known for being fussy eaters. Put it in your dog’s path and he’ll gobble it up, whether it be table scraps, garbage … or grass. So why do dogs eat grass? 

    Dogs are primarily carnivores (meat-eaters). Although they like to eat meat, they can also survive on a well-balanced vegetarian diet: Cats, on the other hand, may die without animal protein. Like all living creatures, dogs need a combination of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water in a balanced diet that provides enough calories to meet their daily needs.

    We’re not sure why your dog likes grass, although there have been many theories offered. Primarily, dogs are descended from wild canids (wolves and foxes), which ate the entire “kill” when they hunted for food. Since they consumed many herbivores (plant-eating animals), they wound up eating a lot of plants and even berries found in the stomach and intestines of their prey. Interestingly, carnivores tend to go for the stomach and its contents first, so it’s likely that dogs may eat grass because they like it and it was once part of their normal diet.

    Then there is the great mystery: Do dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit? Or do they vomit because they eat the grass? Most veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass simply because they like it, and vomiting just naturally follows. When dogs eat grass, the grass acts as an irritant and causes vomiting. However, they may not be smart enough to use grass as a medicine when they have an upset stomach. That said, one of us has seem a dog with burrs stuck in his throat pounce on a Ficus plant and voraciously start scoffing great scads of leaves until he threw up, presumably in an attempt to dislodge the foreign material.

    Some veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass because their prepared diets are lacking in greens and so they eat grass. And as some support of this contention, dogs sometimes seek out a particular variety of grass to nibble.

    No matter what the reason, your dog’s “grass” habit is normal behavior and you need not be concerned about it. A note of caution, however: Take care that your pet does not eat grass that has been treated with fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides. This could cause stomach upset or even worse problems for your dog.

    Why Do Cats Like Small Places?

    Cats like to squeeze themselves into small spaces. They crawl into drawers, baskets, and boxes. They climb into corners of closets, hide under beds, and station themselves in the corner of your favorite easy chair. Before you’ve even unpacked your groceries, your cat is curled up inside one of the paper bags.

    If it is small in area and has at least three sides, your cat will probably climb inside and make himself comfortable.

    It isn’t difficult to imagine why cats like being enclosed. They feel snug and protected in smaller, defined places. Cats have a natural need for warmth and protection; their ever-present instinct tells them to be alert to dangers that might sneak up on them when they are dozing. If the enclosure has a top, that’s even better.

    You should make sure your pet has a variety of snug places where he can curl up and take a nap. Pet stores and pet supply catalogs carry an endless variety of beds, boxes and hideaways from which to choose. But a simple homemade Shangri-La can be made from a cardboard box tipped on its side and lined with a soft pillow or blanket. An upside-down box with holes cut in the sides also will make a nice retreat. Or just open a drawer once in a while and see if your kitty takes up residence. Paper bags (but not plastic ones) also make great hideaways.

    Some cats like their cat carriers, too, especially if they’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore them. Place the carrier in a room where your kitty likes to hang out and remove the door, or prop it open. Put treats or favorite toys inside, and let him discover them on his own. If the carrier is furnished with his favorite blanket, the familiar scent will help him to accept it, and you may find him nestled in there when he’s ready for a nap. Then when it’s time for a visit to the veterinarian, it won’t be so scary because he’ll be in his “home away from home.”

    Choosing a Chattering Lory

    The colorful chattering lory is the most popular type of lory. The chattering lory is aptly named because it generally chatters all day. These birds are endemic to the northern Molucca Islands and Indonesia. They are mostly scarlet with an orange beak, yellow under the wings and on the shoulders, with green wings and thighs.

    When you first see a lory, you are likely to think of a small parrot. However, their most distinguishing physical characteristic is the structure of their tongues, which have long papillae. These fuzzy appendages resemble a pom-pom and form a U-shape at the tip of the tongue. They are erected when the tongue is fully distended and they allow lories to collect pollen from flowers. Lories also have a unique beak structure: The upper mandible is much narrower and has a more pointed tip than other members of the parrot family.

    If the chattering lory has any drawback at all, it might be the call. It is a loud nasal whistle, and although it is not as irritating as some of the other lories, the sound travels great distances. Chattering lories may not be the best choice for an apartment. They become loud in the morning shortly after sunrise and in the evening before the lights are turned off. During noisy periods they can rival amazons in consistency and quality of their noise output. However, generally they amuse themselves with soft mutterings, trills and whistles.

    All lories are master mimics and like sounds such as ringing telephones, sirens, microwave beeps, dripping faucets and such. They will reproduce these sounds with amazing precision.

    Chattering lories are quite hardy and make wonderful pets. They are affectionate and must have daily playtime with their owners. They love to use their owners as human perches. They will hang upside down, right side up and any other way they can. Meanwhile, they will investigate every crevice on their owner with their brush tongues.

    Chattering lories are active and clingy with their owners, and spend much of their days playing inside their cages. They are not ordinarily aggressive, and not very destructive, as their beaks are very soft. Lories are known to play on their backs and hang upside-down in their cages. They are very messy, but their outgoing personality more than makes up for it.


    The feces of lories are more liquid than most parrots and are excreted in a projectile manner making them messy and inappropriate for housing indoors. They thrive in outdoor aviaries.

    When choosing a cage for your lory, keep in mind that width is more beneficial than height. Birds must be able to spread their wings and still have room for their toys. Your lory’s cage should be at least 18 inches by 18 inches by 22 inches high. The cage should also be easy to clean; in fact, it’s best if they can be hosed down.

    Because they are highly intelligent birds, they require a stimulating environment with several toys. Chattering lories enjoy their toys, but toys do not have to be anything fancy. A paper bag or an empty toilet paper roll are as much fun for them as a purchased toy. They also enjoy a variety of toys like bells, wooden blocks, swings and mirrors. When choosing a toy, choose one intended for small parrots or conures and not for cockatiels or parakeets, since flimsy toys will be destroyed by an enthusiastic lory.

    Wild lories sleep in the nests year round. Your pet lory can be provided with a commercial next box. You can make a suitable nest from a clean, quart-sized plastic bottle. Cut the opening to enlarge the entrance. For a larger lory, purchase a plastic “mini-crate” from a variety store. Either of these can be wired into the upper portion of the cage. Although a pet lory may not sleep in a new “nest” right away, the bird won’t hesitate to look into it once it’s installed.

    Perches are an essential part of the cage and should be chosen to suit the feet of the bird. A variety of shapes and sizes help to exercise the feet and perches should be placed strategically to prevent droppings from contaminating food and water.

    Always have a cuttlebone or mineral block available to supply calcium and prevent beak overgrowth.


    In the wild, lories eat a varied diet of pollen, nectar, fruits, berries, seeds, leaf buds and insects. At home, the ideal diet for lories is a pelleted diet, but it should also be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables to add variety and a commercial lory nectar. Try offering chopped dark green and yellow vegetables and a variety of fresh fruits as well as protein foods like mature legumes, hard cooked chopped egg and grated cheese. Many lories enjoy a treat from the dinner table such as pasta, potatoes and rice.

    Avoid iceberg lettuce, cabbage and tomato, as these can cause diarrhea; caffeine contained in chocolate and soda; avocado, which can be poisonous; and food high in iron from an animal source, such as meat scraps.

    Structure and Function of the Skin and Hair Coat in Cats

    Below is information about the structure and function of a feline’s skin and hair coat. We will tell you about the general structure of how the cat’s skin and hair coat work, common diseases that affect the skin and hair coat, and common diagnostic tests performed in cats to evaluate the skin and hair coat.

    What Are the Skin and Hair Coat?

    The skin and hair coat comprise the outer covering of a cat’s body and the skin is the largest organ of the body. Together with the claws, pads and skin glands, they form the integumentary system.

    Where Are the Skin and Hair Coat Located?

    The skin is located on the outer part of the body and covers the muscles, skeleton and internal organs. The hair coat is located on the external part of the skin.

    What Is the General Structure of a Cat’s Skin and Hair Coat?

    The skin consists of an outer cellular, avascular layer called the epidermis, and an inner fibrous corium or dermis that rests on a supporting layer of fat and very thin muscle.

    The epidermis is the body’s environmental shield. It is made up of tough keratinized cells that are continuously formed and shed from the surface. In some animals and in some areas of the body, epidermis contains dark brown pigment that screens the body from harmful rays of the sun and gives the cat his distinctive color. The dermis is composed of a network of connective tissue that also contains nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles, and sweat and oil glands.

    The basic unit of hair production is the hair follicle (folliculus pili). Each follicle has one guard hair and up to 15 secondary hairs emerging from the same follicle. These under-hairs grow as a tiny tuft of hair and can be seen to sprout from the pore of the follicle.

    Each hair is made up of the root, seated within the skin itself, and the shaft, which is the visible portion of the hair. Most cats have three types of hairs. Guard hairs are the coarse, long, straight hairs found in the outer coat; awn hairs are of medium length and make up the intermediate coat; and soft, short downy fur that’s curly or crimped composes the undercoat. Sinus hairs or vibrissae, also called whiskers, project from the body and act like antennae by allowing cats to feel air currents and movements.

    What Are the Functions of the Skin and Hair Coat on a Cat?

    The skin and hair coat combined are the cat’s largest sensory organ, monitoring the environment and influencing body temperature.

    The skin has many important functions. It prevents desiccation and dehydration, acts as a sensory organ, and is the receptor for the perception of touch, pressure, vibration, heat, cold and pain. It prevents trauma, protects against invasion of microorganisms and noxious chemicals, and regulates temperature changes within the body. It also acts as the site of vitamin D synthesis. The subcutaneous tissues serve as a reservoir for fat, electrolytes, water, carbohydrates and proteins. Secretions from skin glands waterproof and lubricate the skin and function as pheromones (substance secreted by one individual that allows a second individual to recognize it). Skin may reflect the state of health of the animal, as well as indicate the presence of internal diseases.

    The hair coat serves as an insulating layer between the cat’s skin and the external environment. It protects him from the cold in winter, and the heat and sun in the summer. It also serves as aggressive display, as when the “hackles rise” on the back when the cat is threatened or frightened. All cats have fur, although the amount and type of hair coat varies from cat to cat, and from breed to breed. Even the “hairless” cats like the Sphinx breed typically have a peach-fuzz coat of velvety fur.

    What Are the Common Diseases of the Cat’s Skin and Hair Coat?

    Many skin diseases are lifelong problems requiring continual or frequent treatments by owners and veterinarians. Common diseases that affect the skin are:

  • Dermatitis or inflammation of the skin is caused by numerous agents like irritants, allergens, and bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal infections. These diseases include contact dermatitis, flea allergy dermatitis, atopy, ringworm or dermatophytosis, and pyoderma.
  • Parasitic diseases are also common. They include notoedric mange, sarcoptic mange, ear mites, the migration of parasite larvae, and flea, tick, and lice infestation.
  • Numerous degenerative diseases of the skin and hair coat may occur. These include various forms of alopecia, such as feline symmetric and excessive shedding.
  • Immune-mediated skin diseases may also develop, such as the pemphigus complex, food hypersensitivity, atopy (inhalant allergy), pododermatitis, and vasculitis.
  • Skin and hair coat changes are a common manifestation of hormonal (endocrine diseases), such as hyperthyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), and sex hormone abnormalities.
  • Nutritional deficiencies, such as protein deficiency, fatty acid deficiency, and vitamin B deficiency may cause skin and hair coat changes.
  • Numerous forms of skin cancer also occur in the cat. While some skin tumors are benign, there is a high incidence of malignant tumors in the cat.
  • Some very rare skin diseases in the cat arise from abnormal immune reactions, and form areas of persistent, sterile inflammation. Examples include sterile pyogranulomas, sebaceous adenitis, injection reactions, feline eosinophilic complex, etc.
  • Structure and Function of the Immune System in Dogs

    Below is information about the structure and function of the canine immune system. We will tell you what the immune system is, where it is located, how the immune system works as well as common diseases that affect the immune system in dogs. 

    What Is the Immune System in Dogs?

    The immune system is a complex network of specialized cells and organs designed to defend a dog’s body against bacteria, viruses, toxins, parasites and any foreign material that invade the dog’s body. Millions of different types of immune cells pass information back and forth, which results in a protective system that is always ready to produce an immune response that is fast and effective. The immune system is also a component of the lymphatic system.

    Where Is the Dog’s Immune System Located?

    The organs of the immune system are located throughout the dog’s body. They are called lymphoid organs because they are frequently the site of growth, development and deployment of lymphocytes – white blood cells that are key operatives of the immune system.

    Important components of the immune system are concentrated in the blood, thymus, lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, lungs, liver and intestines. When an infection starts in a location that has only a few components of the immune system, such as the skin, signals are sent throughout the body to call in large numbers of immune cells to the site of the infection.

    What Is the General Structure of the Immune System?

    The organs of the immune system are connected with one another and with other organs of the body by a network of lymphatic vessels similar to blood vessels. Immune cells, proteins, and sometimes foreign particles are carried through these vessels in lymph, a clear fluid that bathes the body’s tissues. Various components of the immune system are also linked by the circulatory system.

    The major components of the immune system include:

  • Lymph nodes. These are small bean-shaped structures lying along the course of lymphatic vessels in particular sites such as the neck, armpit and groin. They filter and trap antigens (the portion of a virus or bacteria that causes an immune response) that arrive at the lymph nodes from the lymphatic vessels and the blood stream.
  • Cells of the lymphocyte portion of the immune system. These cells may be divided into T cells and B cells. T-lymphocytes are initially processed by the thymus gland and are responsible for cellular immunity (the recruitment of other white blood cells to combat infection). B-lymphocytes receive their name from the Bursa of Fabricius, the area in the intestine of birds where these lymphocytes are initially processed. This Bursa does not exist in animals, and most B cells arise in the bone marrow of animals. B-lymphocytes are responsible for making antibodies that are proteins used to fight infections and foreign material. Both of these cells are widely dispersed in the body.
  • The spleen. This organ is located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. It filters and traps antigens directly from the blood stream.
  • Bone marrow. Marrow consists of connective tissue, the cells of which form a delicate meshwork within the marrow cavity. The marrow cavity is located in the center of several bones in the body, particularly the long bones. The bone marrow is the site of production of many white blood cells.
  • The thymus. This gland is located in the front part of the chest, just in front of the heart. It is largest in the young animal when the development of the immune system is at its most active, and it shrinks in size as the animal matures.
  • Leukocytes or white blood cells. A variety of white blood cells exist, and each has a special function in the immune system. Some are designed to react primarily to bacteria and inflammation, others react more to parasites and foreign material, and others assist the lymphocytes in producing antibodies.
  • Antibodies. Antibodies are specialized serum proteins produced by B cells in response to antigens. Antibodies are also called immunoglobulins. The body produces several classes or types of immunoglobulins.
  • What Are the Functions of the Canine Immune System?

  • Recognition of foreign substances. Foreign substances that invade the body are called antigens. The immune system has the ability to distinguish between “self” cells (cells of its own body) or “nonself” substances (foreign substances). Every cell in the body carries a molecule that identifies it as “self,” so that the immune system does not attack its own tissues.
  • Protection. Adequate functioning of the immune system provides protection from infectious diseases or other invaders. Antigens may be microorganisms that cause infectious diseases, chemical substances, drugs, certain proteins, transplanted tissues or organs donated from another individual . The immune system may protect the individual from the development of cancer.
  • Structure and Function of the Tail in Dogs

    Below is information about the structure and function of the canine tail. We will tell you about the general structure of the tail, how the tail works in dogs, common diseases that affect the tail and common diagnostic tests performed in dogs to evaluate the tail. 

    What Is the Tail?

    The tail is the most posterior or caudal terminal appendage of the vertebral column on a dog. It extends beyond the trunk or main part of the body.

    Where Is the Tail Located?

    The tail is located at the end of the vertebral column. It is the hind-most part of the backbone.

    Not all dogs have a tail. Some dogs are born with short, rudimentary tails. Other dogs have their tails docked short soon after birth. Dogs without tails and those whose tails are commonly docked often belong to the herding and working breeds of dogs. In these breeds, a long tail is considered a disadvantage or a hazard, depending upon the dog’s intended usage or line of work.

    What Is the General Structure of the Tail in Dogs?

    The canine tail usually consists of between six and 23 highly mobile vertebrae. These vertebrae are enclosed by a versatile musculature that make the various segments, especially the tip, capable of finely graded movements that lift the tail, move it from side to side, or draw it down toward the anus or between the hind legs. The caudal muscles lie on the lumbar vertebrae, sacrum (in the lower back region) and tail vertebrae. The muscles insert on the tail/caudal vertebrae exclusively. The muscles are attached to the tail vertebrae by tendons. The most posterior tendons attach to the last tail vertebrae.

    Part of the musculature is formed from muscles associated with the rectum, the anus and the pelvic diaphragm. Four to seven paired nerves serve the tail muscles. These muscles have many tendons that insert from the fifth or sixth caudal vertebra, then onto the next vertebra, and so on to the end of the tail.

    What Are the Functions of the Canine Tail?

    You can tell a lot about what dogs are feeling by watching their tails. Dogs use their tails for communicating. They express happiness, aggression, stress and many other emotions with their tail. By looking at the position and movement of the tail, you can often tell what dogs are thinking. When a dog wags his tail high and wags it back and forth, he’s usually feeling pretty good. When he is interested in something, his tail is usually horizontal to the ground. A tucked tail indicates the dog is frightened or submissive. When the tail goes from horizontal to upright and becomes rigid, he is feeling threatened or challenged. A tail that is low and wagging indicates the dog is worried or insecure.

    The tail has another vital role in communicating. Every time your dog moves his tail, it acts like a fan and spreads his natural scent around him. One of his most important odors comes from the anal glands, two sacs under the tail that contain a smelly liquid that is as unique among dogs as fingerprints are to us. Every time the dog wags his tail, the muscles around the anus contract and press on the glands, causing a release of the scent. A dominant dog that carries his tail high will release much more scent than a dog that holds his tail lower. Likewise, a frightened dog holds his tail between his legs to keep others from sniffing him, and in that way does not draw attention to himself.

    The tail is important as a means of counterbalance when the dog is carrying out complicated movements such as leaping, walking along narrow structures or climbing. Dogs that run at great speeds often have thin tails that are very long in proportion to the rest of their body, and they use their tails as a counterbalance when making turns. Their tails may increase their agility and ability to turn quickly, so they can keep up with their prey. Tail muscles are also important in stabilizing the vertebral column and supporting the action of the extensor muscles of the back, as well as those of the croup and buttocks.

    Some dogs use their tails as rudders when swimming. Dogs bred for swimming frequently have tails that are thick, strong and very flexible, which helps them to move easily through the water and make quick turns.

    Some dogs use their tails for insulation. Nordic and Arctic breeds have bushy or plumed tails with long dense fur. When lying down they may pull their tails over their faces to keep out the cold. They also use their tails as rudders when pulling a sled across the ice.