Why Is My Dog Scooting?
September 24th, 2019. Last Updated June 8th, 2020
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“Scooting” is when your dog drags their anus along the floor. Specifically, it’s when your dog sits flat on their butt, but uses their front limbs to slide forward and rub their butt on the ground.
To the inexperienced dog owner, scooting may look like silly, random behavior. Your first instinct may even be to discipline your dog–especially if you have carpet at home.
However, scooting is often a sign of an underlying problem with your dog.
In this article, we’ll explain why your dog is scooting, so next time you catch them doing this it won’t be such a mystery.
Why Is My Dog Scooting?
Dogs scoot for a variety of reasons. The most common ones include:
- Inflamed or impacted anal sacs
- Fecal Contamination and Matted Fur
- Rectal Prolapse
- Skin Infections and Itchiness
- Tumors in Anal Area
We’ll look at each one in more detail.
Inflamed or Impacted Anal Sacs
Your dog has two anal sacs (or anal glands). They sit on either side of a dog’s anus.
You can actually feel them by placing two fingers at about four and eight o’clock from your dog’s anus, and pressing in slightly. The two “grapes” (or “plums” if you’ve got a bigger pup) you feel are the anal glands.
They contain a fluid with a distinct, pungent odor that uniquely identifies them–it’s almost like a fingerprint!
Because our dogs have such a strong sense of smell, one whiff of this fluid reveals a lot about a dog. It’s thought that this scent can communicate a dog’s age, health, and even what they ate for breakfast!
Your dog regular empties their anal sacs when they go poop. The feces press against the anal glands as they leave your dog, causing them to secrete fluid.
However, for some dogs, the anal sacs can get clogged due to inflammation.
The fluid buildup can become so thick and dry that it plugs up the openings. This is called impaction.
When inflamed or impacted, your dog may scoot or constantly lick at the area. The extra pressure can cause discharge of the fluid–this is that extremely distinctive “fishy” scent that you’ll never be able to unsmell.
If your dog has been having diarrhea recently, the soft stool may not generate enough pressure to empty the anal glands during a regular bowel movement.
In any case, the answer to relieve your dog’s discomfort is usually an anal gland expression. We’ll get more into that below.
Tapeworms develop in dogs most commonly after your dog has gotten fleas. They can easily irritate your pup and cause scooting.
It’s pretty easy for your vet to diagnose tapeworms–the primary method is to do a fecal test.
Because an adult tapeworm is made of many small segments, some of these segments get excreted with your dog’s poop.
It is also possible for you to diagnose tapeworms yourself with a visual test.
If you notice any white worms (they are often described as looking like grains of rice) around your dog’s anal area, or you notice it in their stool, see a vet immediately for tapeworm treatment.
Fecal Contamination or Matted Fur
If your dog has had some difficult bowel movements recently, some of the leftover feces may be matting the hairs near their bottom, causing itchiness or irritation.
Scooting can temporarily relieve your dog of the itchiness and matting.
Ask your vet whether a suitable solution would be to trim the hair to get rid of the matting. Also, thoroughly clean the area of fecal contamination.
Rectal prolapse is when the inner layers of the rectum, the end region of the large intestine, push out and protrude from the anus.
It is extremely uncomfortable. It usually follows a bout of constipation.
You can often examine this visually as well. There will be a cylindrical red (sausage, doughnut-like) mass sticking out of your dog’s anus.
Your vet will be able to guide you through the proper course of action. In many cases, surgery is required to pull the rectum back into place.
Skin Infections and Itchiness
There is the possibility that your dog is just trying to scratch an itch. But scooting is almost always a sign of a bigger underlying problem.
Any prolonged itchiness in the area could be the result of yeast infections on the skin around the area.
A skin allergy could also be the culprit. If you notice extra episodes of scooting follow any particular patterns of food intake, note that down and get this checked out by the vet.
Tumors in Anal Area
If you notice any swelling or distortion in the anal area, this could mean your dog has developed a tumor.
While relatively uncommon, anal sac tumors (adenocarcinomas) are often malignant and can get very serious.
Seek a vet immediately–your dog will need surgical removal of the tumor before it spreads to other organs.
Let’s summarize the causes of scooting in a handy little infographic.
Evidence of Scooting
Because scooting often lasts just a few seconds, it’s often difficult to catch your dog in the act.
However, we’re in luck. Your dog will tend to drop clues as to whether or not they’ve been scooting. Keep your eye out for the following behaviors:
- Licking or biting at anus area
- Foul (fishy) odor coming from anus area
- Worms or white specks in anus area
Usually, any one of these indicates that your dog has probably been scooting behind your back.
When Should You See A Vet?
If your dog scoots infrequently, say, once a month, it may be excusable. However, any form of scooting is abnormal, and it’s always safer to visit the vet when in doubt.
If you notice your dog scooting a couple times a month, definitely schedule that vet appointment now.
Maybe you don’t catch your dog scooting firsthand. But if you notice any of the additional symptoms of scooting as we listed in the above section, you should at least get your dog’s anal glands expressed, and perhaps do a more complete checkup on them.
Types of Treatments
If your dog has been scooting, there are several common treatments. The most appropriate one will depend on severity and underlying root cause.
Anal Gland Expression
An anal gland expression is just a fancy name to describe applying pressure to the anal area to empty the sacs of fluid.
It is totally possible to do this yourself. In fact, it isn’t too difficult. One good step-by-step procedure is outlined in this article.
However, be forewarned. The smell of the fluid is pretty nasty, and I’d much rather have a vet do it for you properly.
Some opponents of anal gland expression claim that repeated tampering around the area actually contributes to inflammation.
I would still recommend it as a good short-term solution instead of just allowing your dog to continue to scoot.
Antibiotics and Medication
If your dog has an infection or parasite down there, see a vet to diagnose the exact problem.
It’s likely that your vet will give your dogs antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication.
As discussed earlier, a fecal test will reveal if your dog has tapeworms. If positive, a prescription drug called praziquantel is the usual course for treatment.
Surgery is reserved for tumor removal in the anal area. Depending on the severity of the tumor, one surgery may be enough.
If the tumor is malignant, your dog may need radiation or chemotherapy as well.
For dogs who experience repeated impaction of anal glands, some vets may suggest surgically removing them.
This is usually done only in special circumstances where your dog is feeling constant pain from impaction. Removing the anal glands will not affect your dog’s ability to relieve himself.
Best Practices To Prevent Scooting
There are a couple things you can do to prevent scooting, and boost your dog’s health in general.
Firstly, re-examine your dog’s diet. Sources claim that grains such as corn, potato, oatmeal, wheat, rice, and soy are allergenic and inflammatory. If your dog’s food contains any of these, try to eliminate it from their diet.
And even if they’re not allergenic or inflammatory, those foods are not particularly nutritious to your dog anyways.
In addition, make sure you note down your dog’s food sensitivities. If left unaddressed, this is another common cause of anal gland issues.
Finally, try to shore up those stools. Soft stools don’t generate enough pressure in the anal glands, causing them to buildup with fluid.
A good place to start would be by feeding your dog some chicken and rice. This is a typical food given to dogs that have diarrhea.
However, in the long run, this isn’t the most nutritious food to be feeding your dog day in and day out. Your vet may have specific suggestions on how to best go about crafting a diet for your dog.
Of course, continuing to exercise your dog is a must. Small, obese dogs are usually most at-risk of developing forms of anal sac disease.
We’ve covered reasons why dogs scoot, as well as some common treatments and preventative measures to take.
While it’s definitely not fun to talk about the anus, it is one of your dog’s most important glands. After all, it is essentially how they leave their scent and introduce themselves to other dogs.
So let’s keep the buttocks area healthy, shall we?