Occasionally embarrassing, often funny and always puzzling, the sight of your dog scooting their bottom across the floor is not something that most owners will want to encourage. Referred to as ‘scooting’, there’s actually a myriad of reasons why your dog could be dragging their butt – let’s investigate.
Referred to as ‘scooting’, there’s actually a myriad of reasons why your dog could be dragging their butt – let’s investigate.
Anal Sac Impaction
While it’s easy to assume that a bout of scooting is simply due to your dog needing to scratch his butt, the most common cause is actually something a little more complex: anal sac impaction.
The anal glands are located next to your pup’s anus and are used by your dog to help spread their scent. Fluid collects in these glands – commonly referred to as ‘sacs’ – and is usually released when your dog defecates.
Sac impaction comes about when the fluid is not released and builds up within the gland, often leaving to a small measure of pain and discomfort. Your dog is hoping to relieve that discomfiting pressure when he scoots his backside across your carpet.
It’s unknown why or how anal sac impaction occurs, although it has been spotted to affect all breeds and, especially, dogs suffering from diarrhea. Other symptoms of this condition that your dog might exhibit are taking a long time to defecate, excessive licking of their backside and visible swelling near the anus.
If left untreated, anal sac impaction can progress to the point where the glands become infected and they can even rupture. Consult a vet right away if you spot any signs of infection, such as a yellow or green discharge. They will be able to prescribe antibiotics and even lance the anal sacs to flush them out, if necessary.
If the anal sac impaction is particularly severe, a vet may need to fully remove them.
How to Treat Anal Sac Impaction
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from anal sac impaction, the first thing to do is to make sure by a visual inspection. The offending glands are located under the skin next to your dog’s anus and, if impacted, will carry a bad smell and look abnormally swollen – about the size of a small marble if you have a large dog.
You have the option to take your pup to the vet or groomer, or you can choose to manually express the trapped fluid yourself. This can be a fairly difficult task, particularly if you have a large, anxious dog. Make sure you’re fully prepared beforehand if you do choose to go it alone.
Quick How-To Guide to Anal Sac Expression:
- Gather some damp tissues, put on some latex gloves and arm yourself with treats.
- Place your pup in the shower, bath tub or wet room and try to make them as comfortable as possible.
- Pulling their tail up gently, bring a few of the damp tissues to cover their anus, using your hand to keep them in place.
- Using your other hand, feel out for the anal glands that are located at 5 and 7 o’clock next to the anus.
- Once you feel a lump, place your index finger on its outer corner and your thumb directly next to the anus.
- Gently apply pressure to your index finger while allowing your thumb to slowly open the anus and allow the sac to drain. You should feel and hear the fluid hit the tissue you’re covering the anus with. It may be very smelly at this point, and the fluid is likely to be on the visual spectrum between yellow to brown.
- Continue to apply pressure until no more fluid is forthcoming.
- Switch and do the same to the gland on the other side.
Some people think it’s more effective to express the fluid via the inside wall of the anus (remember to wear appropriate gloves!). This video explains how to do this:
Other Reasons for Scooting
While it is the most common reason, not all dogs will be suffering from anal sac impaction if they’re scooting their butts along the floor. Any skin conditions that your dog suffers from may cause them to try and relieve the itching and discomfort by scooting.
Skin irritability is a common cause of scooting. This could be caused by allergies, dried patches of old defecate where your dog hasn’t properly cleaned themselves, insect bites and growths. If you suspect allergies or spot a growth near your dog’s anus, it’s best to consult a vet who can advise you on best modes of treatment.
Another reason for scooting is if your dog is suffering from tapeworms. Although relatively rare, tapeworms come about when your dog eats fleas that have been infected with worms. These worms then pass into your dog’s digestive system and can cause plenty of itching and irritability on the backside as they are passed.
Aside from the scooting, the best way to check if your pup has worms is to check their stools and their anus for any signs of tiny, white, rice-like worm segments. If you do spot them, head straight to the vet for testing and treatment.
How to Stop Your Dog Scooting
As with all things in life, prevention is always better than cure, and there are a few things you can be doing to lower the risk of your dog contracting anything that could cause them to scoot.
We know that anal sac impaction is particularly common after a dog has diarrhea so do your best to keep their bowel movements regular. That means feeding them a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fiber to promote consistency.
Keeping them up-to-date on a flea prevention program is by far the best method to stop them contracting tapeworms. Even if your vet prescribes medication to kill the worms, your dog will likely keep contracting them until you break their lifecycle and banish the fleas from their coats and your home.
If you spot that your pup has a bit of a messy bottom after going to the toilet, be proactive and give them a gentle bath or even carefully snip the offending dirty hairs away so that there’s nothing irritating their butts that will make them want to scoot.
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