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Many dog owners can recall a certain dreaded scenario. You’re sitting around your living room with a few guests when suddenly, your dog starts scooting their bottom across the floor in front of everyone. You may wonder, “Why is my dog scooting?”
In reality, scooting is a dog’s way of trying to fix something that’s wrong in that area. That might mean an itch, irritation, pain, or other problem that ranges from the mildly uncomfortable to the medically concerning. Educating yourself on the causes of scooting problems will help lead to more direct resolutions.
Clogged Anal Sacs
Dogs have two small anal sacs on either side of their rear end that contain a foul, fishy-smelling liquid they release when they poop. The liquid may be a biomarker that helps leave a sort of “poop print” for other dogs to smell.
Normally, your dog’s bowel movement triggers their anal sacs to empty. But if the anal sacs aren’t working properly, the fluid can build up. The glands in the sacs have a tendency to get inflamed, solidifying the liquid and getting in the way of its release. When the sacs are continuously full or not emptying properly, it can be painful and this area may even become infected.
“If your dog’s glands look very enlarged or they’re having bloody discharge, it’s time to see your vet,” says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. “If the anal glands are very full, we express them. When they are infected, dogs get a round of antibiotics and sometimes pain medication.”
Skin Irritation From Grooming
Dogs that get groomed frequently may experience clipper burns. They may also experience irritations from sprays, perfumes, or grooming products that get under their tails and around their bottoms.
Check for tiny nicks and razor burn if your dog scoots after grooming. If they’re itching all over (including rolling around on their back), it may be due to a grooming product.
Ask the groomer to switch products, or bring in your own oatmeal-based, sensitive-skin, hypoallergenic, or organic bath products and dog shampoos. A warm compress is another option to help relieve irritation due to grooming.
Food allergies or intolerances may be to blame for some dogs’ anal sac issues. If soft or watery bowel movements aren’t providing the pressure needed to empty the sacs properly, your dog’s diet may be the cause. A diet with only one or two types of protein, not enough fiber, or one that contains grains like corn, oatmeal, rice, wheat, or soy can affect stools, preventing the anal sacs from functioning properly.
Talk to your veterinarian about making dietary changes. “I frequently recommend adding canned pumpkin to their diets. Or using Glandex, a product that helps decrease anal gland material and helps the glands express easier,” says Dr. Ochoa.
Trauma to Anal Sacs
Your dog may have experienced trauma to their anal sacs if a groomer manually expressed the glands unnecessarily. Because these sacs are delicate, they can be injured by manipulation or squeezing during manual expression. The glands can experience tissue damage and become inflamed, preventing them from functioning normally.
Repeated expressing can also injure your dog’s anal sacs. What’s more, the sacs can lose the necessary muscle tone that enables them to express themselves on their own.
In the past, groomers were taught to express anal sacs as part and parcel of your dog’s grooming services. However, dogs rarely needed this service, since their anal sacs were designed to function just fine on their own.
That said, groomers should be encouraged to check to see if the anal sacks are full and if so, to gently empty them. Many times, groomers are the first line of alert of growths and other issues, so it’s best to allow them to check first, and empty if needed.
Intestinal parasites, like tapeworms, could be another culprit for your dog’s scoots. Dogs can get tapeworms by ingesting a flea carrying immature tapeworm larvae. These can cause itching and irritation around the anus when the tapeworms exit after maturing in the stomach. Telltale signs of tapeworms include an itchy bottom, scooting, and rice-like segments of worms around the anus, in your dog’s feces or their bedding.
Visit your vet for an examination right away if you suspect parasites. “Even if you don’t see worms, they still may be there,” says Dr. Ochoa. “Your veterinarian can check a fecal flotation and see if your dog has worms. These are easily treated by a dewormer.”
The bottom line is, if your dog scoots once or twice, it may just be an itch or dirty bottom after a trip outside. But if you notice scooting behavior more frequently, constant licking and biting of the rear area, or other signs of swelling or abnormality, take them to the vet right away for an exam. This will allow you to get to the root of the scooting.
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