A dog sitting and looking back.
A dog sitting and looking back. Photography ©Fly_dragonfly | Thinkstock.

Dog Scooting: Why It Happens and When to See a Vet

Why does dog scooting happen? Should you treat dog scooting at home or go to the vet? What does dog scooting have to do with dog anal gland issues?
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The sight of a dog dragging his butt across the floor might make you laugh (or cringe, if it happens right in the middle of your elegant dinner party), but dog scooting can be a sign that something is wrong “back there.” So, why does dog scooting happen? And can you ever treat dog scooting at home or should you always see your vet? Let’s learn more about dog scooting.

A merle coated dog looking back, showing his butt. dog scooting
Dog scooting happens for a few different reasons. Photography ©GlobalP | Thinkstock.

Why Does Dog Scooting Happen?

Dog scooting might happen for a variety of reasons, but usually the issue is itching or pain. If your dog’s butt is bothering him, he might drag it on the carpet or grass in an attempt to alleviate that itch or discomfort. Many things cause an itchy bum in dogs, but impacted or infected anal glands are among the most common culprits.

Dog anal glands are two small internal sacs positioned on either side of a dog’s anus. In normal dogs, they contain a smelly liquid that’s excreted every time the dog poops (this is likely a mechanism for marking territory). In some dogs, inflammation prevents this liquid from being expelled when the dog poops. Instead, it builds up inside the two sacs, where it can become very thick, more like a paste than a liquid. Full anal glands can be very uncomfortable for the dog and can even become infected.

Other reasons for dog scooting include intestinal parasites (especially tapeworms), injuries or tumors in or around the anus, rectal prolapse and allergies. In addition to your dog scooting, you might also notice him licking his backend excessively.

What to Do About Dog Scooting

If you notice your dog scooting just once or just here and there, you might not need to rush off to the vet. “It depends on how much it’s happening,” says Cynthia Karsten, DVM, outreach veterinarian for the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Companion Animal Health. “Sometimes, they might just have an itch. Like with most things, it depends on how often it’s happening and how much the pet seems to be affected by it.”

You could try cleaning the area with a gentle shampoo and soft washcloth, making sure to rinse away all the soap completely and dry the area well with a clean towel.

When to See a Vet

If the dog scooting in question happens more than once a day, or if the behavior goes on for more than a day or two, it’s time for a visit to the vet. “The first thing the vet will do is a rectal exam, just to see what’s going on with the anal glands and check for any signs of inflammation or infection,” Dr. Karsten says. Your vet will likely also want to do a fecal exam to look for any signs of intestinal parasites. If the fecal test comes back positive for any parasites, your vet will prescribe a deworming medication to eliminate the worms and put a stop to your dog’s scooting.

On the other hand, if the anal glands are full or look impacted, the vet will attempt to express the glands. “If they’re really impacted, they might not express, and then the vet might need to sedate the dog and put medication into the anal glands to get them cleared out so they stay that way,” Dr. Karsten says. “If it really becomes a chronic issue, some dogs need to have them removed.” Surgery to remove the anal glands can be complex, so your regular vet might refer you to a specialist.

Can You Stop Dog Anal Gland Issues and Dog Scooting in the First Place?

Adding fiber to your dog’s diet can firm up the stool, making it more likely that the glands will be able to express on their own when your dog poops. One way to do this is to add a few tablespoons of plain canned pumpkin to your dog’s food. Commercial anal gland supplements containing fiber are also available. Your vet may suggest anal gland supplements before discussing surgical options.

What to do About Chronic Anal Gland Distress

Some dogs who frequently develop full or impacted anal glands might benefit from having them expressed manually on a regular basis. Your vet can do this (or teach you how if you’re not too squeamish). However, not all dogs need to have this done. Some groomers routinely express anal glands while bathing, but it’s probably not necessary to express them if your dog is not having any issues — and it could possibly even cause harm.

“I’ve heard lots of vets and dermatologists say that you shouldn’t mess with a dog’s anal glands unless there is a problem,” Dr. Karsten explains. “In my experience, you should leave them alone unless there’s a problem, because if they’re healthy, they should express on their own. You can actually cause a problem if you’re not careful.”

Thumbnail: Photography ©Fly_dragonfly | Thinkstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2017.

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38 thoughts on “Dog Scooting: Why It Happens and When to See a Vet”

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  18. My dog had to have her canals expressed
    Monthly for years. She also had skin issues. I changed her from pills for fleas etc. To advantage multi topicallu. She stopped having problems the first month I changed to the topical .

  19. My dog had the same scooting problem but it wasn’t anything to do with her anal glands or anything to do with her anal. Her problem was due to her urinary tract infection. It is so important to find a well trained veterinarian because I wasted so much money taking my dog to an untrained eye vet that wasn’t thorough in checking my dog properly. I got very lucky in finding a highly experienced vet that diagnosed my dog correctly and is how I found out that it wasn’t anal but an urinary tract infection. Just like finding a good human doctor its just as important to find a good veterinarian that knows what they’re doing.

    1. My dog has anal gland problems and they have to be emptied every 2 months but she started scooting after they were done. Found that she had a urinary tract infection – only found this out because I always dab her dry when she has been in the garden and her urine wipe was dark and a bit bloody looking. She has been on antibiotics for a week and am now waiting to see if she improves. Will keep checking.

  20. Then what do you think your dogs problem really was? By giving him chicken stock how do you think that solved the scooting problem? Well, at any event I’m glad your dog finally found some relief.

  21. My dog scooted for 13 years. Cleaning anal sacs never worked. One weekend, I had an extra litre of organic chicken stock, so I decided to give it to my dog every day as a treat, as I knew she’d love it. After a few days, I noticed she hadn’t been scooting at all. I kept giving her chicken stock, and she never scooted again. I also told a friend of mine whose dog scooted to try the chicken stock, and he did, and his dog stopped scooting too. If your dog scoots, try the chicken stock. Just boil a chicken in a pot of water. From cold, it usually takes about 45 mins to boil, and let it simmer for an hour. Hope this helps

    1. My dog has been scooting for 6 years. None of my vets can figure out what is causing it. I can’t wait to try the chicken stock. Joyce

      1. I am so excited to try chicken stock, too! My dog scoots and I just caught her scooting on the driveway. OUCH!? The vet always says anal sacs are clear. She’s certainly not wormy. Fingers crossed for chicken stock!! Thank you for the tip!

    2. Chicken stock is the secret weapon that breaks the rule “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. Cause it is so yummy to a dog they will drink large quantities significantly improving their hydration. Many dogs have anal gland problems because they don’t drink enough and the goo in the anal glands is thick and dry. Just a simple dehydration effect. So stock will help in this case.
      Won’t help any of the many other causes of scooting though.

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