Why Dogs Scoot

While scooting is a very common occurrence for dogs, it is a definite sign of irritation. The source of the discomfort may be something mild that will resolve itself, something a pet owner can assist with, or it may be something that requires urgent veterinary attention.

When a dog places his bum on the floor and drags himself across the room, it’s called scooting. This act usually means that your dog is uncomfortable and is trying to correct a problem in the anal area.  There are a number of reasons why dogs scoot.  Some may require your assistance and others may be an indication of a more serious medical problem that will warrant a trip to the vet.

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

If the scooting only happens once, your dog has probably resolved the issue on his own. Should your dog seem to be uncomfortable,  if the behavior continues or if it is accompanied by your dog licking the area, you should investigate the cause of the problem. If you don’t see anything obvious, you should ask a veterinary professional to investigate.

Scooting is generally a dog’s attempt to remove unwanted foreign objects on the fur or to relieve itching or pain.  If your dog is scooting, check for one of the following issues:

NOTE:  If you don’t see any of these on your own and your dog continues to scoot, make and appointment with your vet as soon as possible. The problem may be internal.

Dirt 

Your dog may have poop or other dirt stuck on his fur. Sometimes, if your dog’s poop is a little more runny than usual, traces may be left on the fur around the anus.  When it dries it becomes sticky and difficult to remove.  Your dog may not be able to clean it with normal grooming and will try dragging along the floor or carpet to remove the unwanted mess.

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To remove the dirty you can try washing the area and gently brushing the dirt from the fur. If it is too difficult to remove, a professional groomer will be able to bathe your dog and remove any foreign matter safely.

Matted Fur

When a dog’s fur becomes matted, it pulls and tears at the dogs skin. If your dog’s fur has grown and become matted he may be trying to relieve the discomfort by dragging himself across the floor.  Matting can also be caused by dirt or wet fur that is left to dry on it’s own.  Mild matting can be gently brushed out using a comb or dematting tool.

If the matting is severe a visit to a reputable groomer or the vet will be necessary.

Fur That Has Been Cut Too Short 

If your dog has recently been groomed or matting has had to be cut out,  The fur that is growing back can cause the area to be irritated and itchy.  Just as it does with humans, shaving too close can cause razor burn or cuts. If the grooming was too short, your dog may experience some discomfort. Scooting will act as a form of scratching.

Caution:  If your dog has any cuts or wounds, see a vet immediately as they can become infected.

Injury: 

Golden retreiver sniffing bushes where scrapes and cuts could happen.
Dogs can get scratches or scrapes while playing in bushes or trees, or just from sitting on the ground outside.

Apart from grooming, your pooch can become injured in other ways.  When they sit on the ground or play in the bushes while on a walk, it is possible to get splinters, cuts, or scrapes.  These can become inflamed and infected.  This may cause your dog to attempt to relieve the soreness by rubbing it against the cool or abrasive surface of the floor.

String/Hair/Ribbon Still Attached Inside

How often do you see your dog pooping and it looks like it is attached by a hair?  If the poop is still attached, your dog will try scooting along trying to pull the rest of it out. This can happen with hair, string, ribbon, wool or any other linear item your dog may have swallowed.  This is very uncomfortable for your pup.

If this happens, DO NOT try to pull the piece out.  The string – like item may be stuck somewhere inside your dog’s intestinal tract.  If you pull, you can cause serious internal damage to your dog.  Take your dog to the vet. A professional will do an exam and will be able to tell where the string is located.  Your vet will offer options as to how to safely remove the string.

Worms

Dogs are prone to getting a variety of worms.  These can cause anal itching.  Your dog will attempt to stop the itch by rubbing it on the floor.  

Although worms are fairly common, that doesn’t mean they are harmless. It is important that your dog’s worms are identified and treated by a vet as soon as possible to avoid further complications, illness or, in some cases, death.

Fleas, Ticks, Insect Bites or Bee Stings

If your dog has fleas, they may cause itchiness in any area, including the rear end. The itching can be extremely bothersome and your dog may be attempting to relieve the itch by rubbing it on the floor or carpet.

A bee sting, mosquito, or other insect bites can make for a painful or itchy situation for your dog. When your dog feels the effects of the insect’s sting or bite, she will attempt to ease the unwanted sensation by licking at the area or rubbing herself along the floor. If the bite is in the anal area, scooting is the best way to address the discomfort in that location.

Blocked Anal Glands

There are two sacs around the anus that contain fluid that is released when your dog has a bowel movement.  Occasionally, these sacs, known as Anal Glands, will become blocked and will not release the fluids, causing a pressure build up. This creates a lot of discomfort and your dog will try to release the pressure by scooting.  

Blocked Anal Glands should never be left untreated.  A vet will release the fluid and confirm that there has been no further damage.  A second visit, 4-6 weeks later, may be required to be sure that the anal glands are functioning properly.

For further information about blocked anal glands see:  Anal Gland Expression For Dogs

Summary

While scooting is a very common occurrence for dogs, it is a definite sign of irritation.  The source of the discomfort may be something mild that will resolve itself, something a pet owner can assist with, or it may be something that requires urgent veterinary attention. Because there are a number of reasons why dogs scoot, you should be sure to investigate the cause as soon as it happens so that you can help your doggo in safe and timely manner.

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Anal Gland Expression for Dogs

Anal glands that are not expressed can become infected, impacted or cause an abscess to form

A few years ago, my German Shepherd began incessantly licking her rear end. She was still eating, drinking, walking and playing normally, but whenever she lay down in her favorite armchair she would start licking again. I thought maybe she had worms, but that test came up clear. The vet said he wanted to check her anal glands. After the inspection he said that one needed to be expressed and that the other had ruptured. This was my introduction to the importance of anal gland expression in dogs.

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I was surprised, as I had only ever heard of this being an issue for small dogs. She had not shown any long-term signs of discomfort. No scooting or pain when pooping. Most of my friends and clients that I spoke with who have large dogs were unaware that this could happen to a Shepherd. Because this was all very confusing, I looked into the process of anal gland expression in dogs. I wanted to know what they were, how they became clogged, how to express them and what would happen if they were not tended to.

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

What are Anal Glands?

Anal glands are two small sacs on either side of the anus. Each sac has a tiny hole close to the anus that contains fluid that is pushed out with the pressure of a bowel movement. This fluid coats the poop and has a very specific scent that identifies each dog. This is used to mark a dog’s territory.

Anal glands that are not expressed can become infected, impacted or cause an abscess to form.

Occasionally, not all the fluid is pushed out. When this happens, the anal gland(s) can become impacted, which is very uncomfortable. You will see the dog licking or biting at the anus or scooting across the floor in an attempt to relieve the impaction. Because these can also be symptoms of other conditions like worms or intestinal issues, it is best to seek advice from your vet if this is something that is new to your dog.

Some vets or groomers will offer to show you how to check and express the anal glands yourself, if that is something you would prefer to do. If you attempt to express the fluid and find that there is no impaction and the dog continues to show symptoms of discomfort, seek veterinary advice. There may be another cause for these symptoms that requires medical treatment.

What happens if impacted anal glands aren’t expressed?

WebMd states that when the fluid is left in the gland, it can become infected. The vet will have to drain the infection and the vet may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. Delaying expression could also cause an abscess to form. This may result in the need for surgery to remove the anal gland(s). This surgery has the potential to cause long term issues including incontinence.

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