Dog Scooting: What Does it Mean, What to Do?
Dogs live in the moment. It’s one of the many qualities we love them for. Many dog owners have experienced that awkward feeling somewhere between embarrassment and annoyance when their dog scoots or drags his bottom across the rug. Because, of course, dogs tend to perform this socially unacceptable behavior in front of as many people as possible and leave their mark behind on the carpet. But dog scooting is more than just scratching an itch—it often indicates a medical problem that requires attention. “The reality is, dogs are sending us a signal,” says Dr. Jerry Klein The underlying problems often stem from something no one likes to think about, much less investigate, the dog’s anal sacs.
A type of gland, anal sacs are located on each side of a dog’s anus, with ducts emptying outside the dog’s body. A lot of dog owners are unaware these glands even exist, probably because many animals don’t have them. (For the record, cats have anal sacs, too.) Unfortunately, the anal sac ducts can get clogged and impacted, leading to itchy discomfort. Hence, the scooting. Left untreated, impacted anal sacs can burst open, a development no one wants to see, smell, clean up, or have their dog experience.
If a dog scoots their butt, but their anal glands are fine, next on the list of causes is an allergy. Dogs with allergies often have itchy skin. If they have a food allergy, then as the remains of that food pass out of their butt, it inflames the mucus membrane and skin around the anus and that brings perianal irritation. The options here are to treat the allergy so that the itchy bum becomes a thing of the past.
Because an allergen in the dog’s diet is responsible for the itch, feed them a food that lacks the allergen, and all should be fine. This means finding a diet that contains a single protein source (i.e., the meaty part) and a single carbohydrate source that your dog hasn’t eaten before. If your dog is experiencing recurrent anal gland issues, the first thing you should do is eliminate all grains from her diet. Stop feeding any food that contains corn, potato, oatmeal, wheat, rice or soy. Then feed this food and this only for 8–12 weeks, to wait for the allergens to clear their system. Food allergies do not respond well to anti-allergy medicines, but when those allergens cause skin inflammation, then medicines should give comfort. There are lots of options out there, from cheap drugs with many possible side effects to more expensive but safer medicines.
Diarrhea can cause butt scooting for a couple of reasons. First, the anal sacs don’t get emptied. Second, diarrhea can scorch the delicate mucus membrane and skin of the anus, making it sore. When a dog can’t reach to scratch, they’ll settle for scooting instead.
To deal with diarrhea:
Diet: Feed a bland, easy-to-digest diet until the feces firm up. Also, feed little and often, and consider mixing in a doggy probiotic.
Personal hygiene: Keep the dog’s rear clean by rinsing it with weak saltwater after each bowel movement. You can also apply a germicidal barrier ointment to prevent scorching.
See a veterinarian: Diarrhea that doesn’t settle down within 1–2 days needs to be sorted by a vet.
When was your dog last dewormed against tapeworms? Dogs get tapeworms from fleas or eating vermin. The thing about these intestinal worms is that they can cause perianal irritation. This is down to the tapeworm egg packets that migrate out of the dog’s anus. Unsurprisingly, this is itchy. Look for tiny white seed like objects near the dog’s anus. Not all dewormers work against tapeworm, so look for one containing praziquantel.
Trouble Down Below
Be aware that general irritation around the genitals may cause a dog to scoot. For the girl dogs, check their private parts, being alert for knots in the fur round the vulva, skin infections in the vulval folds or a vaginal discharge. If in doubt, visit the vet. In addition, routine expression of healthy anal glands is pointless, unpleasant and potentially harmful. When visiting the groomer or vet be sure to mention only express the gland if necessary. Over time regular manhandling of the gland can interfere with their function and ability of working on their own.
And finally, a word of warning: What do you do when the dog scoots their butt? If you a) shout at them or b) laugh, you may accidentally make the problem worse. Giving the dog attention (any sort of attention) rewards the action. If the dog realizes that butt scooting makes them the center of attention, they may well use this as a strategy for drawing attention to themselves. So, make a mental note, but then get to the root cause of why the dog is butt scooting and correct that problem to stop the behavior.