It's not something any of us wants to see -- the beloved family pooch scooting his bottom along the grass, ground, or carpet.
While your instinct may be to chastise your pup, there are good reasons dogs scoot. And it's not to embarrass you in front of company. So, why do dogs drag their bottoms -- and what can you do to make it stop?
Why Dogs Drag Their Bottoms: Common Causes and Treatments
Scooting -- when a dog drags its anus along the ground -- is almost always a sign something is irritating your dog. What's behind that irritation can range from infection to worms to inflammation. Some of the most common reasons dogs drag their bottom include:
Anal Sac Problems. Despite what humans might feel about the matter, dogs communicate with their rear ends. Specifically, they communicate with the smelly, fatty substance that comes from the anal sacs located internally on either side of their anus. Anal sacs can sometimes become abscessed, blocked, or inflamed. This is especially the case in smaller breed dogs. In an attempt to relieve the pain and discomfort, a dog may start scooting.
Scooting is only one symptom of anal sac problems. Other signs include chewing or licking around the area, swelling around the anus, and trouble defecating. Treating anal sac issues depends on what's causing the problem. Treatment options include:
- Expressing the sacs, which can be done at home or by a vet
- Giving antibiotics to treat an infection
- Increasing dietary fiber
- Applying warm compresses
- Lancing or flushing the sacs under general anesthetic
- Anti-inflammatories if very inflamed/swollen or painful
Fecal contamination: A bout of diarrhea can leave a dog dehydrated, weak, and with a messy, matted bottom.
Whatever the source, fecal contamination under your dog's tail can eventually cause enough discomfort that your pooch begins scooting to find relief. So long as the fecal contamination hasn't led to infection, treatment can be as easy as trimming away dirty hair (be very careful to avoid cutting the skin). After that, you need to clean the area with warm water.
If your dog has diarrhea for more than one day or is bothered by constipation, talk to your vet.
Worms. Tapeworms are another, though less common, reason dogs may start scooting.
Dogs get tapeworms by swallowing worm-infested fleas. And while scooting can be one sign of tapeworms, the most common sign is the appearance of tiny, rice-like tapeworm segments around your dog's anus.
Tapeworms are easy to treat with a simple dose of oral or injectable medication. Garlic is often recommended as a natural remedy for tapeworms. But there's no proof it prevents parasitic infestations, and it can even be toxic to your pet.
To prevent tapeworms from coming back, you'll need to control fleas. That can be done with pills or topical medications. Here too, there's no proof that garlic helps with pest control.
Rectal prolapse. Rectal prolapse refers to part of the rectum -- the final portion of the large intestine -- protruding through the anus. A rectal prolapse can happen to your dog after severe diarrhea or from straining with constipation. If you see an elongated, cylindrical mass sticking out from your dog's bottom, call your vet right away. This is a sign of rectal prolapse.
Treatment for rectal prolapse varies. After replacing the prolapse, your vet may:
- Stitch your dog's anus partially closed to prevent the prolapse from happening again
- Suggest a moist diet or stool softeners to reduce straining
- Recommend surgery if the prolapse needs to be repaired
Other Causes of Scooting
The discomfort caused by wounds or tumors can also cause your dog to drag its bottom.
Swelling is a significant sign to watch for and can indicate an anal tumor. Swelling with redness, bruising, or discharge may point to a painful anal gland abscess that needs immediate treatment.
Checking Your Dog's Bottom
Here are three tips for checking your dog's bottom:
Visual inspection . Put on a pair of rubber gloves, then lift your dog's tail. The anus and the hair around it should be clean, without an intense smell. Look for swelling, growths, discharge, or injury.
Anal sac problems. Scooting is a strong sign that your dog may have anal sac issues. If you notice a powerful, foul smell around your dog's bottom, this indicates soiling with anal sac material. That's a sign that the sacs may be impacted or infected.
Worms. Tapeworm segments look like tiny, wiggling, creamy-white worms, or like small, unmoving rice grains. If you see either around your dog's anus, talk to your vet about suitable treatments.
When to See a Vet
Problems around the anus can be a smelly, messy, painful business for your dog.
If your canine companion is scooting or persistently licking at the anal area, or if it in any way appears to be uncomfortable or distressed, you should talk to your vet. Treatment is often quick and easy and can make your dog, you, and maybe your carpet a lot happier.