Have you ever wondered why your pet rubs their rear end on the floor (often at the most embarrassing of times) or gives off a fishy odor? Well, it’s most likely an issue with your dog’s anal glands.
Dogs have a pair of anal glands located inside their rectum. These glands are responsible for creating, storing, and eventually expressing fluid onto the feces when your dog poops. It might not be great dinner conversation, but anal gland problems are very common, and they can cause scooting in dogs.
Why Is My Dog Scooting?
Anal glands release a fluid with a strong odor that dogs use for marking things with their scent. They can often become full to the point of being uncomfortable. This is common for smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas, Miniature Poodles, and Shih Tzus, but all dog breeds can be affected.
Scooting is often a normal response to having an itchy rear end, which is usually due to full anal glands. However, your dog could also have a more serious condition, such as:
An anal gland abscess (infection that causes swelling near the anus)
Perianal fistula (openings form in the skin around the anus)
An anal gland mass
Parasites such as tapeworms
Other Signs of Anal Gland Issues
When your dog has full anal glands or another issue, you will probably see them scooting on the floor, but sometimes the signs are more subtle.
Your dog may:
Not want to sit
Whimper or cry out when pooping
Strain to defecate
Try to lick, bite, or chew their rear end
You may also notice:
Hair matting, swelling, or redness around the anus
A foul odor or fluid around the rectum and on the floor, couch, etc.
A hot spot near their back end
If you notice a bloody discharge, pus, or hole adjacent to the anus, these are signs of an anal gland abscess, which requires immediate medical attention.
Dogs with anal gland tumors may also be drinking more or peeing more.
The normal process of defecating puts pressure on the anal glands to release oily or thick brownish-white-black material onto the feces. If your dog has developed diarrhea or suffers from softer stool, this process is hampered, so you should have your dog’s anal glands checked out.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Is Scooting?
Any cause of scooting should be investigated by a veterinary professional. They can determine whether it’s caused by full anal glands or something more serious so they can give the best course of treatment.
What's the Best Treatment for Dog Scooting?
A member of the veterinary team, such as a vet tech, can do a simple procedure to empty your dog’s anal glands, and this is often an out-patient procedure. But if the anal gland is impacted or difficult to express, or there are other symptoms, the treatment may be more involved and will require the veterinarian.
Anal Gland Abscesses or Impaction
Anal gland impaction or abscesses may require additional medical therapy such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, warm compresses, topical medications, or even surgery.
For dogs that require frequent expression or have had multiple abscesses, consult with your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon to discuss having their anal glands removed in a procedure called anal sacculectomy.
Dogs diagnosed with perianal fistula often benefit from the use of immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine, azathioprine, tacrolimus, or even steroids. They may also need antibiotics, stool softeners, or hypoallergenic diets.
Anal Gland Tumor
For dogs suffering from an anal gland tumor, surgical removal is often the first choice of therapy, followed by chemotherapy or radiation. Treatments aimed at softening the stool and alleviating discomfort are also utilized. Dogs with anal gland tumors may also suffer from elevated blood-calcium levels.
Dog allergies can be managed through a change of food, medications, consistent flea control, or even allergy injections. All of these would require further testing by the veterinarian.
Is There a Home Remedy for Dog Scooting?
Veterinarians may suggest fiber supplements such as Glandex, canned pumpkin, or other fiber sources that increase fecal bulk and aid in natural expression of the anal glands. You can also discuss changing your dog’s diet to one that’s higher in fiber or even a hypoallergenic diet.
Should My Dog Be Scooting After Their Anal Glands Are Expressed?
For most cases, a single expression is sufficient to stop the scooting; however, some dogs may require more frequent expressions to fully empty their glands. If your dog continues to scoot for more than a day or two afterward, you should have their glands re-evaluated. This may mean that your dog has a more serious condition.
Having the glands checked regularly (such as monthly) would be prudent. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure that this is the right treatment for your pet. Helping your dog maintain a healthy body weight can minimize their chance of having anal gland issues in the future.
Featured Image: iStock.com/franciskocz
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