It’s an action so comical, it’s often featured in cartoons and commercials: A pet sitting down, lifting her back legs, and scooting her hind end right across a freshly cleaned carpet. As funny—and horrifying—as this simple act seems, it signals a potentially serious problem. Scooting, licking, or chewing at the hind end can signal trouble with a pet’s anal glands. While the topic is not usually heard in polite dinner conversation, the symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Scooting typically isn’t an emergency, but it can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Here’s what to look for when your dog is performing the poop-scooting boogie, and what to do about it.
What causes your pet to scoot?
Pets scoot for various reasons, including:
- Dried fecal matter matted in the fur — Dingleberries, which can cause enough irritation to warrant scooting, are easy to fix. If your pet is scooting, checking under her tail should be your first step. If you discover dried fecal matter, a simple bath with mild cleanser and a good rinse should fix the issue. If your dog has long tail feathers and has this issue on a regular basis, regular grooming or hair trims can help prevent recurrence.
- Anal sac malfunction — More than likely, if your pet has a chronic scooting problem, you’re dealing with anal sac malfunction. Anal sacs are a type of gland on each side of your pet’s anus with ducts that produce a strong-smelling secretion and are normally expressed when your pet has a normal bowel movement. Unfortunately, the ducts also can easily become blocked, clogged, or infected. These ailments can cause intense itching or pain and can lead to the pet dragging her hind end across carpet or grass to attempt to alleviate the sensation. Left untreated, anal sacs can rupture and become infected, so it’s important to take your pet to the veterinarian if you suspect there is a problem.
- Food or seasonal allergies — Allergies in dogs and cats often present as itchy skin on the face, paws, or ears, and sometimes on the hind end. Your veterinarian can help determine if your dog or cat suffers from allergies.
- Worms — Some intestinal parasites are visible in passed stool, but even without visible signs, scooting may be a symptom of a worm infection. Many monthly heartworm treatments also treat for parasites, but regular testing for occult infections is recommended.
- Cancer — Although cancer is the least likely scenario, anal gland tumors are a possible reason your pet is scooting. Our veterinary team can check for these tumors easily during any routine wellness exam, or while expressing her anal glands.
What can I do about my pet’s scooting?
First, take these steps:
- Lift her tail and take a look. If you see swelling, red skin, or anything that looks or smells unusual, call us to make an appointment.
- If your pet’s anal sacs are blocked, our team can manually express them. Some dogs require this on a regular basis.
- We can also palpate to search for tumors or recommend surgery for pets with chronic inflammation.
- If everything looks normal, it is possible that an itch is just a simple itch; however, if you note the behavior again in a short amount of time—even if you can’t see swelling—you should bring your pet to our clinic.
If your pet has repeated impactions, we may suggest adding more fiber to her diet. Larger poop can help your pet express her anal glands naturally. If we find an infection, we’ll prescribe antibiotics, and you may be directed to use warm compresses on the affected area to help open up the sacs and reduce inflammation. If your dog is a chronic scooter, ensure you mention it at every wellness visit, so we can check the area. Small, obese dogs are at the highest risk of anal sac disease, but you should ensure your dog, no matter her size or breed, has good nutrition and exercises regularly.
Scooting may disrupt your household, but your pet is scooting out of necessity. She is not misbehaving, and she needs help. Try to determine the cause by observation and inspection, but if your dog’s scooting does not stop, you should get veterinary help. Our team is here to answer any questions you may have about scooting. Contact us today.