If you’ve noticed your dog rubbing his bottom on the floor or ‘scooting’, you’ll probably have wondered why. And it may surprise you to know that there are lots of reasons that your dog might be scooting! We’ve got an expert opinion on the subject from Dr Joanna Woodnutt.
What is scooting?
Scooting is one of the terms for when a dog (or rarely, a cat) drags his bottom on the floor. Dogs will usually sit with their back legs straight out, then pull themselves forward using their front legs, dragging and rubbing their bottom along the floor. Gross, right?
Why do dogs scoot their bottoms?
Dogs drag their bottoms along the floor because they are irritated, and it’s the best way they can find of itching them. Anything that irritates your dog could potentially cause scooting, from washing powder to burrs in their bottom-fur, but the most common reasons that your dog could be scooting are below.
1 — Anal Glands
Trouble with their anal glands is by far the most common reasons that dogs will scoot, and this is always the first thing I will check when presented with a dog dragging his bottom. The anal glands are two little pockets just inside the anus of dogs (and cats!). They produce a fishy-smelling fluid. When your dog poops, the passing poo compresses the gland, squeezing the fluid onto the poo to leave various signals for other passing dogs.
For some dogs, the anal glands become blocked. This is usually due to softer faeces not emptying the gland, abnormal glands, the dog being overweight, or sometimes for a reason we can’t fathom. When the glands get blocked, the fluid continues to build up, but it can’t escape, causing pain and pressure. This is extremely irritating, and your dog may try to bite and chew his bottom, or walk with his tail or back end held in an unusual position. You may also notice a fishy smell. Scooting is an effort to empty the gland and relieve the pressure, but it often doesn’t work- the glands will usually need manually emptying by your veterinarian.
2 — Allergy
Allergy to food or the environment can cause dogs to be more likely to have anal gland problems, but it also causes skin irritation all over, including the bottom. Dogs that suffer from allergies will also often chew their feet or have sore ears, or itch elsewhere. Dogs can be allergic to just about anything, including weeds, pollen, ingredients in their food, or even fleas. For these dogs, scooting is one of the easiest ways to scratch their bottoms. It should still be discouraged, however, and the underlying allergy treated.
3 — Worms
Most people think of worms when they see their dog scooting, but cases of scooting relating to worms are actually far less common than the other two, making up less than 1% of the cases of scooting I see. The worm that is most likely to cause itchy bottoms is the hookworm, which burrows through the skin, causing a lot of itching. Luckily, this sort of worm is pretty rare these days, almost solely infecting dogs kept in large groups in dirty kennels. Other worms can cause an itch, too, particularly the tapeworm. The good news is that most wormers keep these nasty parasites at bay.
What should I do if I see my dog scooting?
If you see your dog scooting, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your vet. Anal gland problems can become quite severe, eventually resulting in a burst anal gland, which is extremely painful and needs antibiotics to allow it to heal. If your vet checks, and anal glands aren’t to blame, then they can help you to go through the causes and find out what is wrong.
In the meantime, you should prevent your dog from scooting as much as possible. Try to distract him when he starts, perhaps with a treat or a short trip outside.
The most common reason for scooting is blocked anal glands, which should be checked by a vet and emptied before they turn into an anal gland abscess. If it’s not anal glands, your vet can run through some other potential problems that may cause scooting.