Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM
Everyone has seen their dog’s do this from time to time. Often, it seems like dog’s scoot their butt across the floor at the worst time like when company is over. We may cringe, but they aren’t embarrassed at all. They are just trying to relieve a problem back there.
The most common reason for scooting seems to be a dog’s anal glands are full. Anal glands are 2 pouches on the inside of a dog by the anus. They are located approximately at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions around the anus. These sacs produce a bad smelling fluid. Some people say the fluid smells metallic-like or fishy. When the dog passes stool, a small amount of this fluid is excreted onto the stool through a small duct in the anal sac. This fluid is a territory marker for the dog. It’s also why dog’s sniff each other’s rear ends.
Sometimes these sacs can become plugged. The sac becomes swollen and distended causing it to be painful for the dog to defecate. The dog tries to relieve the pain by scooting the hind end. They may also try to lick the rear end excessively. Sometimes the anal sacs can become infected and abscess. If this occurs, the veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics and pain medication. Treatment for a plugged anal gland is expression of the fluid by a veterinarian or trained professional. How often the dog needs their anal glands expressed is individual to that dog. I have seen some dogs only need an anal gland expression once in their whole life and I have some dogs that need it expressed every month. Some of these more chronic cases of needing anal glands expressed frequently may be due to stool consistency. Ask your veterinarian if your dog may benefit from a diet change.
A few other causes of dog’s scooting are intestinal parasites or irritation from recent grooming. Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that dogs can get from ingesting a tapeworm infected flea. When these tapeworms exit the anus, they cause itching and irritation to the area. Sometimes owners will see the tapeworm which look like grains of rice on the fur around the anus, on the dog’s stool, or in the dog’s bedding. A veterinarian would be able to definitively diagnose these parasites and provide treatment.
If you notice your dog scoot on occasion, it could just be a dirty hind end after a trip outside to the bathroom. If it becomes more frequent, a trip to the veterinarian may be in order.
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Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.