Scooting is used to describe the behaviour of a dog in the ‘sit’ position, who then uses his front legs to pull himself forwards, resulting in his bottom dragging across the floor.
Now, this isn’t necessarily the most pleasant sight, and today we’re going to take a look at a few reasons why they do it. But also, just as importantly, what we can do to reduce the occurrence of this behaviour.
Provided there are no other issues with your dog’s back and/or hindlegs that could be misinterpreted as scooting, it is usually an indication of some sort of discomfort around their backside.
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So what sort of things could be going on?
One of the most common reasons are anal gland problems. The anal glands are two small sacs that are located just within a dog’s anus and contain cells that secrete a foul-smelling liquid. There are a few different theories as to what role these glands play. Some sources say that the odour plays a role in social interactions with other dogs by providing information and cues.
Healthy glands usually empty when a dog goes to the toilet, lubricating the defaecation process. Discomfort usually arises when something goes wrong, and the glands are unable to empty easily.
Anal gland impaction
Impaction is the term used to describe the problem of the glands being unable to secrete normally – when they are essentially blocked. This can be quite painful and there may also be other signs alongside the scooting, such as:
- Constantly looking at/ trying to nibble the back end
- Trouble toileting easily
- A foul smell
If you notice any of the things listed above, it’s well worth visiting your vet to get to the bottom of the problem (groan… Editor.). Impacted glands can usually be manually expressed, and your vet will be able to judge how easy it was to do and whether the contents look normal. This may provide clues as to why the glands have impacted in the first place.
Some dogs manage fine with little intervention, others need regular visits to the vet for anal gland expression.
Anal gland infection
When anal glands become impacted, it can pre-dispose them to a number of issues including inflammation and infection. With infected glands the fluid becomes more foul-smelling than usual, and the consistency will change. Dogs with anal gland infections may also show non-specific signs of feeling under the weather as well as being uncomfortable around their back end.
If an anal gland infection is diagnosed it’s important to take your vet’s advice regarding treatment, and a course of antibiotics may be dispensed.
Other problems with anal glands
These include abscesses, ruptures, tumours etc. These can be very serious problems and treatment options are usually more invasive.
If your dog regularly has issues with their anal glands, it is well worth discussing with your vet what the underlying cause could be, and if there is anything that can be done to help. This could include things such as a change in diet, weight loss, or getting on top of any skin diseases/allergies.
Worms can be a cause of scooting. It’s important to always keep your dog up to date with preventative parasite treatment. If your dog has a worm infestation, you may see other signs such as diarrhoea and weight loss. In some cases, it’s also possible to see worms in the stools!
It’s pretty gross, but the good news is that common parasites are relatively easy to treat. There are products available to buy over the counter at your local pet shop or supermarket, but better-quality products with proven efficacy will be available through your local vet practice.
Skin infections can result in itchiness, and that holds true for skin around the anus. Parasite infestations, allergies, bacterial and yeast infections can all manifest as itchy skin. The act of trying to scratch an itch (in this case, via scooting) can result in additional damage to the skin, allowing further infection to take hold. This results in a vicious cycle and will need veterinary intervention.
Other things that can cause itchiness in the area could be the matting of fur and trapped faecal matter around the anus and cuts/wounds. It’s important to check your dog’s backside and keep the area clean.
We have only touched upon the more common reasons for scooting above, but the truth is anything resulting in discomfort around the back end can manifest this way. A few other less common problems are rectal prolapses, abscesses etc.
A scooting dog is an uncomfortable dog. If you have any concerns and your dog is displaying this behaviour, get in touch with your local vet.
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