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Review Article
9 July 2020

Tail docking in dogs: behavioural, physiological and ethical aspects


Tail docking has been practiced on dogs for many years for various reasons, including aesthetics, breeding standards and hygiene, to facilitate reproductive handling in some dog breeds, breeders’ decisions and tradition, or to prevent lesions during play or work, to name a few. Little research, however, has been done to demonstrate whether this practice causes acute pain in animals, even though it is now well known that animals, including dogs, are highly sensitive to both positive and negative stimuli. Currently, we have a broad range of methods for measuring pain that utilise diverse parameters (physiological, behavioural and metabolic), and techniques that include evaluating changes in behaviour and facial expressions, monitoring opioid and dopaminergic neurotransmission, measuring glucocorticoid levels, changes in blood hormone and lactate concentrations, the dynamics of cardiac and respiratory frequency, pupil diameter and variations in blood pressure. Many countries have banned this practice because it is deemed unnecessary, unjustifiable under any circumstances and harmful for animal welfare. The objective of the present review is to demonstrate that tail docking is a painful and unnecessary practice that presents more complications than benefits in dogs.

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Information & Authors


Published In


Issue publication date: 1 January 2020
Received: 20 January 2020
Accepted: 26 May 2020
Published online: 9 July 2020


  1. tail docking
  2. pain
  3. dog welfare
  4. behavioural
  5. ethical and physiological aspects
  6. nociceptive transmission





Brenda Reyes-Sotelo
Master in Science Program “Maestría en Ciencias Agropecuarias”, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Xochimilco Campus, 04960, Mexico City, Mexico.
Neurophysiology of Pain, Behavior and Animal Welfare Assessment, DPAA, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), 04960, Mexico City, Mexico.
Julio Martínez-Burnes
Graduate and Research Department, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, 87000, Victoria City, Mexico.
Jocelyn Gómez
Neurophysiology of Pain, Behavior and Animal Welfare Assessment, DPAA, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), 04960, Mexico City, Mexico.
Karina Lezama
Neurophysiology of Pain, Behavior and Animal Welfare Assessment, DPAA, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), 04960, Mexico City, Mexico.
Miguel González-Lozano
Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 04510, México City, México.
Ismael Hernández-Ávalos
Clinical Pharmacology and Veterinary Anaesthesia, Department of Biological Science, FESC, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico City, 54714, Mexico.
Alejandro Casas
Neurophysiology of Pain, Behavior and Animal Welfare Assessment, DPAA, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), 04960, Mexico City, Mexico.
Yuridia Herrera
Neurophysiology of Pain, Behavior and Animal Welfare Assessment, DPAA, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), 04960, Mexico City, Mexico.
Patricia Mora-Medina
Department of Livestock Sciences, FESC, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), 54714, Mexico City, Mexico.


Correspondence: Daniel Mota-Rojas. Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

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