Written by Ella White
Many dog owners will have spotted their pets rubbing their bottom across the floor – also known as scooting. It looks uncomfortable, it can smell bad, and it’s kinda embarrassing for all involved (especially if you’ve got company).
But did you know that scooting could be an indication that your dog has an issue with their anal glands? In this article, we’ll look at the potential causes that answer the question “why is my dog scooting, and what can I do about it?”
On the whole, owning a dog is a beautiful and rewarding experience. But when they start scooting their rear end across the floor we’re reminded that it’s not always a bed of roses – and it doesn't smell like one either.
Scooting could be a response to a simple itch on your dog’s behind. But it could also be a sign that there’s an issue with their anal glands, which are located inside the rectum. Dogs have a pair of anal glands, which create, store, and release a foul-smelling fluid onto your dog’s poop when they go to the toilet.
Understandably, it’s something most dog owners prefer not to think about. But since anal gland problems – including blockages – are a fairly common occurence for our furry friends, it’s useful for us to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Because the anal glands store and release fluid, it’s possble for them to become full and even blocked. This causes itching which in turn leads to your dog scooting their backside across your carpet, sometimes releasing a fishy odor.
Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Poodles are especially prone to blocked anal glands. If you think this might be the cause of your dog’s scooting, a vet will be able to unblock their glands with ease and the issue should not require further treatment.
If you spot a hole near your dog’s anus, pus, or bloody discharge coming from the area then your dog might have an abscess on their anal gland. This will need immediate medical treatment and your dog might be prescribed antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication.
It’s possible for dogs to develop tumors on their anal glands which can lead to scooting as a form of relief from irritation or itching. Tumors on the anal gland will lead to clogging, and you might also notice your dog drinks and/or urinates more often.
If you’re taking your dog to the vet with suspected clogged anal glands, the vet may also check for anal gland tumors which will need to be removed and followed with medication.
Tapeworms and other parasites that live in the intestine can cause itching around the anus that causes dogs to scoot their bottoms on the floor. Tapeworm is usually contracted by ingesting tapeworm larvae which is often found in fleas in dogs’ fur. Tapeworms mature in the intestine and exit through the anus which leads to itching and irritation in the area – hence the scooting.
Other indicators of tapeworm include pieces of the worm – which looks similar to grains of rice – in your dog’s poop, bedding, and around their anus. These parasites can be treated with deworming medication but will require a trip to the vet to sort it out and stop the scooting.
If your dog is allergic or intolerant to certain foods – like corn, grains, or soy – it can cause issues in their anal sac, preventing them from working properly. Similarly, diets that are lacking key nutrients like fiber and protein can also affect the anus.
If you notice watery or softer-than-usual poops, it might be that your dog’s diet isn’t creating the pressure the anal sacs need to work properly. Your vet will be able to advise on potential allergies or any necessary changes to your dog’s diet.
Trauma to the anal sac can be caused by injuries or grooming. It’s possible for groomers to accidentally or unnecessarily express a dog’s anal sacs, causing them to become inflamed and damaged.
The area is delicate and sensitive, and doesn’t need to be expressed repeatedly in dogs with healthy anal glands. This trauma can even lose the muscle in the anal sac that expresses fluid, eventually meaning your dog will not be able to perform this process on their own.
Most dog groomers will no longer express their anal glands as part of the grooming service, however this is still offered at some doggy salons. Make sure your groomer is aware of these issues and will only express your dog’s anal glands if they are full or clogged, and if so will perform the procedure gently.
If your dog is suffering from trauma around the anal gland, seek veterinary advice.
A perianal fistula is an issue with the connection of the tunnels or tissues in the anal area, which can also affect the digestive tract. In dogs, this is usually due to an infection in the area especially the sinus tracts in the perianal tissue. German Shepherds are especially susceptible to this condition, which is often genetic. The cause is not known, but could be caused by bacteria.
In most cases, a vet will be able to diagnose perianal fistula with a visual examination and will prescribe a course of medication as treatment.
Not all scooting is caused by issues surrounding the anal glands. Irritation caused by grooming – like clipper burns, nicks from razors, and reactions to sprays and other products – can get caught under the tail and in around their rear end and cause itching.
Check for any burns, cuts, or nicks and try to alleviate their irritation with a warm compress. If your dog is allergic to a spray or product they will probably be itching and rolling all over, not just scooting on their behind. In this case, shampoo their fur – potentially with an extra soothing oatmeal shampoo – and get the name of products used by the groomer to prevent future irritation.
Scooting isn’t the only sign that your dog is suffering with anal gland issues. If you notice any of the following symptoms – with or without scooting – your dog may need medical attention or relief from irritation.
Most causes of scooting are easily diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. Minor causes, like clogged anal glands, can be treated quickly and require no further medication. While parasites and anal tumors may require a longer course of medicine.
But remember: dogs often scoot to relieve an itch. So if you’ve noticed them scoot once or twice they’re probably okay. If you notice the behavior become more frequent – or if it’s accompanied by any other listed symptoms of anal gland issues – it’s best to take them for a check up at the vets just in case.