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Yesterday, a client told me, “My dog is dragging his butt on the floor. I need you to empty his glands.” The assumption that a dog’s scooting is always caused by a plugged anal sac is wrong!
I want to talk to you about the lesser known reasons dogs drag or scoot their rear ends on the floor. It’s kind of a gross topic, but as a dog caretaker you need to know about it.
A common cause for a dog dragging its butt on the floor is a clogged, or impacted anal gland. Most people assume this is the only cause and ask their vet or groomer to manually empty the obstructed sac. But there are other causes for a dog to scoot including having an itchy bottom from food or environmental allergies and irritation from grooming.
Anal sacs are two small pouches that contain the dog’s anal glands. Each sac has a drainage opening just inside the anus. When a dog has a bowel movement, the pressure of stool passing should push the fluid out of the sacs. When the openings get clogged, the fluid builds up and creates discomfort. Dogs scoot in reaction to this discomfort.
If you’re taking your dog to someone for this rear end problem more than every few months, it’s worth your time to investigate further. The problem could be more complex than you originally assumed.
Why Dogs Scoot on the Ground
When a dog has anal sac disease, the normal fluid doesn’t get expelled from the sac with a bowel movement. This is the classic cause of dog scooting but there are other causes.
I doubt anyone has any clear data on the topic, but in my experience, there are various reasons that the fluid doesn’t come out of the sacs the way it should.
Anal Gland Fluid Is Too Thick or Abscessed
The fluid can become thick like paste making it impossible for the material to flow out of the small opening of the dog’s anal sac. I don’t know the cause of this condition, but it seems a lack of hydration and perhaps allergies could contribute.
You’ll need a veterinarian to check your dog and see if they can empty the thickened fluid for you. Don’t try this at home as you could cause more irritation if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Sometimes blocked anal glands develop an infection and form an abscess. You’ll see a red, inflamed area at about 4:00 or 8:00 in relation to the anus. The pocket of anal gland infection might break open and drain the infection through the skin.
Definitely see your veterinarian if you think your dog has an anal sac abscess.
Allergies and Itchy Butt
Allergies and food sensitivity can lead to dogs having an itchy butt. Inflammation in the anus and anal sac tissue makes the opening of the anal sac too small to allow the thickened fluid to flow out.
I’ve seen plenty of dogs who have empty anal sacs but they’re still scooting on the floor because they have an itchy bum from perianal irritation.
Butt Scooting After Grooming
A dog scooting after grooming is not uncommon and could be due to clipper burn or sensitivity, irritation from anal gland expression or even a reaction to soaps or perfumes. Some dogs scoot while others dogs keep sitting down suddenly after grooming.
The first thing to try is washing the area with mild soap and water then rinsing well. Hydrocortisone cream or spray (click to see the one I recommend) can be a big help in cases like this.
Most dogs feel better by the next day. If your dog is still extremely uncomfortable, take her to see your vet for stronger treatment
Scooting After Pooping
Scooting on the floor after pooping can be a normal reaction to the feeling of stool being stuck around the dog’s anus. Make sure to keep any long fur trimmed and clean back there. You can ask your groomer or vet to do a “hygienic clip” for you.
I’ve seen little dogs with long hair get quite a lot of feces stuck in their fur without the dog owner realizing it. Put your dog up on a table and shine a flashlight on that area so you can see if she needs a “clean-up on aisle zero.”
Gently pull the dog’s stuck poop away or very cautiously use scissors to clip the soiled fur away. Get your veterinarian to help if you aren’t comfortable or your dog is uncooperative.
Irritation from Diarrhea
Irritation from diarrhea will make a dog scoot on the floor. When I see this, the anus and skin around it are usually red and sore. You can clean the area with mild soap and water, trim the long fur and apply a little diaper rash cream (click to see the one I use for my patients) to soothe the skin.
Irritation of Vulva or Scrotum
I’ve seen some dogs scoot on the ground when they have dermatitis of the vulva or scrotum. Occasionally, a female dog will scoot when she has a bladder infection.
See your vet for help if you suspect one of these problems since home treatments are less likely to be enough to help your dog.
Some Breeds Are More Prone to Scooting
Certain breeds of dogs are to be predisposed to the problem, possibly because of a malformation of the anal sacs themselves. Small and toy breeds such as Miniature Poodles, Shih Tzus, Pugs and Miniature Dachshunds tend to get plugged anal sacs more than medium and large breed dogs.
How to Tell if Your Pet Has Anal Sac Problems
Symptoms of anal sac problems in dogs and cats may be any one or all of the following
- Dog is dragging his butt on the floor or ground (also called “scooting”)
- Licking, or trying to lick the anal area
- A strong odor or fluid coming from the dog’s tail area
- Redness around the anus
- Hesitance to poop due to pain
- Some animals will suddenly jump up as if bitten by something
There may be no symptoms until a serious infection occurs, in which case, you will see redness, swelling, pain and possibly drainage of infected fluid from a sore near the anus
It’s always better to try to figure out how to minimize the need for manual expression of the anal sacs. Repeated manual expression of an animal’s anal sacs may make the problem even worse by adding to the inflammation.
It is NOT normal for dogs to have impacted anal sacs. But some dogs’ abnormal anatomy will make expressing their anal sacs necessary.
Stop Your Dog’s Scooting with Preventive Measures
- A fresh food diet may be less inflammatory and contains the right amount of moisture to support normal anal sac function. Fish oil supplements can also decrease inflammation.
- Treat allergies with the help of your veterinarian. Many dogs with chronic scooting problems do well eating hypoallergenic diets.
Home Remedies for Dog Scooting
If your dog is scooting on his butt more than once a week or so, get your vet to take a look. In the meantime, you can use cool compresses on the anal area to ease the pain.
Green or black tea bag compresses are another gentle way to soothe inflammation. For anal sac abscesses that have already broken open, you may try applying calendula cream to soothe the area.
Photo credits CC by 2.0: 50-phi
Last update on 2021-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API