Dog Scooting: Why Do Dogs Drag Their Rear End?
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM January 13, 2020
At first, you thought your dog scooting on the floor was a cute little quirk. However, the behavior is becoming more incessant, and you are wondering why your dog is behaving this way. Scooting is that odd behavior that has your dog dragging their hind end on the grass, ground, or floor. While seemingly acrobatic, it’s not something you want your guests to witness and it’s not good for those sensitive parts. You’ve probably heard all of the old wives’ tales about why dogs drag their rear ends, but what is the actual cause and how can you stop it?
Why Do Dogs Drag Their Rear End?
There are a number of reasons dogs may drag their rear end around, but all of them pertains to the anus, rectum, and perianal region. The most common cause is clogged anal glands, but diarrhea, tumors, or other skin and internal irritations can also be to blame.
Who has heard that a dog drags their rear end when they have worms? If you raised your hand, you’re not alone. That’s what I’m told 90% of the time when presented with a dog that’s scooting initially. While tapeworms may cause scooting in a small number of dogs, there are other far more common reasons that a dog drags their rear end.
- Anal gland issues
Anal gland issues can really plague some dogs and are the main culprit behind scooting. We’ll get to the exact reasoning behind this later. As for now, understand that anal glands should be the number one reason for causing your dog to drag their rear end.
While it’s the most commonly thought of reason for scooting by dog parents, in the veterinary world, it doesn’t come up nearly as often. That being said, tapeworms may cause your pup to scoot simply due to irritation of the anus as the little worm segments make their escape. However, the more common sign of tapeworms is actually seeing the rice-looking segments stuck in the hair around your dog’s anus and tail.
- Skin irritation
If you’re pup is a grooming regular that has had their fair share of sanitary trims, they may drag their rear end to help relieve itchy skin caused by clipper irritation. Dogs with food or skin allergies may also try scooting to scratch those sensitive areas. With these dogs, you should be able to see redness over their rear end. Moreover, they may experience itchiness all over the rest of their body.
Feeling a little unhygienic back there can have your pup scooting after a bout of diarrhea. Dragging their rear end on the ground can be your dog’s way of cleaning themselves, plus diarrhea can leave their bum a little irritated and itchy.
- Tumors and other abnormalities
Any growth on the anus or in the rectum can lead to scooting simply due to discomfort. Adenocarcinomas of the anal glands should top the list of suspected growths, but don’t rule out melanomas and a few others. Perianal fistulas may also cause your dog to pay a little extra attention to their rear end and have them scooting to offer some sort of relief.
Canine Anal Gland Care
So, let’s look at canine anal gland care in more detail because they carry a lot of weight when you’re talking about why a dog is scooting. The anal glands are a pair of tiny little sacs located just inside of the anus that are responsible for secreting each dog’s trademark smell. This smell goes onto each bowel movement as a sort of calling card to tell other dogs who did what and where. Seems like a pretty uncomplicated system, right? In most dogs that’s true, but some dogs experience clogged, infected, or even injured anal glands that lead them to drag their rear end on any surface imaginable to try to find some relief. Small dogs are usually the main sufferers when it comes to anal gland issues as it’s a classic size problem. Thick anal gland secretions become too difficult to move out of the small anal gland holes. If the anal gland is left plugged for too long, then an infection or rupture of the gland can occur.
When your dog’s rear end is functioning normally, anal glands are naturally expressed each time your dog has a bowel movement. For some dogs, mainly the smaller breeds, a little assistance may be needed in order to clear those anal glands out regularly. By a little assistance I mean manual and by manual, I mean human aided. Veterinarians and groomers regularly express anal glands, but it can also be done by willing dog parents at home. Some dogs require a little assistance as often as every couple of weeks, while other dogs may go a whole lifetime without a digital invasion. Scooting may be a dog’s way of self-expressing their anal glands, so scooting may be intermittent.
For those dogs with chronic anal gland troubles, upping their fiber intake can help. More fiber equals bulkier bowel movements that provide an opportunity to naturally express anal glands. I’ve had dogs go from needing anal gland expression every other week to never again just by adding fiber to their diet. This fiber can come in the form of green beans, carrots, pumpkin, wheat germ, you name it. If it’s high in fiber, safe for your dog, and they’ll eat it, give it a try.
For those extra stubborn anal glands that don’t respond to increased fiber or frequent expression, anal gland removal may be necessary. This surgery is usually reserved for those poor pups that experience recurrent infections or injuries to their anal glands as the procedure does carry a risk of incontinence. Pros and cons of this surgery should be discussed with your veterinarian.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Scooting?
In order to stop your dog from scooting, you need to get to the ‘bottom’ of the issue. If your dog is dragging their rear end following a visit to the groomers, check for clipper irritation under and around the base of their tail. While you’re checking down there, look for tape worm segments and other skin irritation, such as an allergic reaction. If your pup has recently had stomach issues, help them clean up the residual aftermath so that they won’t have to try to do it themselves. When all else fails, see your veterinarian for further diagnostics.
When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog Scooting?
Scooting is more than just an embarrassing gesture that your dog performs before guests, it can mean something is very wrong that can cause further damage to your pup’s sensitive areas. One quick scoot across the lawn when your dog goes out in the morning is usually meaningless. However, if your pup’s main focus suddenly turns to performing scooting acrobatics, it’s time to dig a little deeper. It’s also time to take action if you start to notice blood in your dog’s stool or if their rear end takes on a foul smell. If your dog is a frequent scooter with periods of normalcy, it still won’t hurt to check them out. Since scooting can actually help express anal glands, your dog may be able to take care of their discomfort on their own. If that discomfort returns with any regularity, you’re better off trying to prevent anal gland complications rather than letting your dog take care of them themselves.
When Should I See A Vet For My Dog’s Scooting?
Anytime you become concerned or embarrassed by your dog dragging their rear end, enlist the help of your veterinarian. They will be able to rule out parasites and skin issues and get your dog on the right course of action to deal with anal gland issues. It’s important to remember that anal gland infections can actually lead to further illness if left untreated. Excessive scooting can lead to damage of the anus and genitals, so the sooner you can put a stop to your dog’s scooting, the better. If your pup sees a groomer regularly, ask them if anal glands are on their list of to-dos for further monitoring.
At first glance, your dog’s scooting may be viewed as a hidden talent that you’ll want to take on the road. However, the behavior can quickly become a bothersome distraction. Rather than ignoring your pup’s scooting, it’s important to figure out the cause behind it. Get comfortable with your dog’s rear end so that you can be the first line of prevention for your dog’s scooting behavior.
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