8 Reasons Your Dog is Scooting and What to Do About It
We’ve probably all been there, cringing with embarrassment as our beloved, well-behaved dog decides to drag their rear end awkwardly across the carpet at the worst possible moment. Likely in front of others. Do you roll your eyes? Change the topic? Laugh off your dog’s clownish behavior? However you react in the moment, it’s important
We’ve probably all been there, cringing with embarrassment as our beloved, well-behaved dog decides to drag their rear end awkwardly across the carpet at the worst possible moment. Likely in front of others. Do you roll your eyes? Change the topic? Laugh off your dog’s clownish behavior? However you react in the moment, it’s important to recognize that scooting, when excessive, is your dog’s way of signaling that something is amiss with their health.
There are several reasons why your pet might scoot, ranging from gastrointestinal issues and food allergies to improper grooming and anal gland irritation. Regardless of the cause, dogs prone to scooting need veterinary attention and perhaps a change in diet and nutrition to rectify the issue.
To help you navigate this tough topic, here’s some guidance from Dr. Jessica Wilson, DVM, outlining everything you need to know about dog scooting and ways to help your dog feel better.
Why Do Dogs Scoot?
“Dogs exhibit signs of scooting as a way to ‘scratch’ themselves or alleviate irritation of their rear ends,” says Wilson. Scooting is more common among puppies than adult dogs and small-breed dogs are often more commonly affected than large-breed dogs.
According to Wilson, your dog may scoot in combination with excessively licking his rear end or having the urge to have a bowel movement. “Scooting should not be ignored if it is a repeated occurrence,” she warns. “Sometimes the discomfort is so severe that they may stop to scoot during a walk, on grass, concrete, on the carpets at home, hardwood floors…anywhere they can find relief.”
Reasons Your Dog May Be Scooting
If you’ve ever wondered, “Why is my dog scooting so much?” below are the top reasons and conditions that cause this common canine behavior.
- Parasites: The source of your dog’s irritation and the scooting that results from it could be parasites, internal or external. “There are intestinal parasites like tapeworms that may shed their eggs via the anus, and there are also external parasites such as fleas and ticks that may bite or attach near or around the anus, causing irritation,” says Wilson.
- Food Allergies and Gastrointestinal Issues: According to Wilson, dietary allergies can result “in generalized pruritus (itching), and certain parts of the body may be affected more than others.” Dogs that are scooting because of food allergies also show other symptoms, such as gastrointestinal distress like diarrhea. The soft tissue around a dog’s anus can get inflamed due to diarrhea.
- Seasonal Allergies: You may see your dog start scooting to provide relief during certain seasons. “The challenge with dogs that have seasonal allergies is that most of the time, they are responding to environmental causes, which are nearly impossible for pet parents to control (e.g., pollen, grass, sometimes new fabric detergents, or cleaning products),” states Wilson.
- Injury: Any injury to the rear end caused by improper grooming or excessive biting/licking can cause accumulation of debris or healing scar tissue, which then leads to scooting. “As wounds heal, they can become itchy, since scar tissue does not have the same elasticity as normal, healthy tissue,” says Wilson.
- Anal Gland Irritation: Dogs have anal glands, small sacs with ducts that open on either side of the anus. These glands get filled up with secretions from sebaceous glands, which are later expressed when the dog does his business; the scent of the excretion acts as a marker for canine communication. Dogs will sometimes start to scoot when the anal sacs get filled and aren’t expressed naturally. Wilson says scooting happens when these “sacs become inflamed, impacted, and infected.” Tumors of the anal sac can also cause scooting.
- Improper Grooming: If your dog is scooting after a grooming session, the groomer’s clippers or scissors may have injured the delicate skin around and on the anus. The resulting irritation may be the reason your dog is rubbing their behind on the rug for some much-needed respite.
- Matted Fur: Canines that have medium to long fur may be more prone to scooting since their coat can make it harder to ensure a clean rear. According to Wilson, your dog may experience irritation around the anus leading to scooting “if fecal material or matted fur is accumulated around the anus”.
- Bug Bites: In the summer months, bug bites around the rear end can cause itching and discomfort, which your dog might attempt to relieve through licking, chewing, biting, or — you guessed it — scooting.
Treatments and Remedies for Dog Scooting
If you notice your precious pet scooting excessively, take a look at the area to see if you spot signs of swelling, scabbing, or matted fur. If the area feels warm to the touch, that’s another indicator that something is wrong with your dog’s rear end.
“Aside from scooting, another habit to look out for is if your dog is giving their rear end constant attention, such as licking and biting,” suggests Wilson. “If scooting is evident, call your veterinarian to make an appointment sooner rather than later, as some of the causes may be more serious than others and may require further investigation promptly,” she adds.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for scooting. But once you have worked with your veterinarian to identify the root cause, there are plenty of ways to provide your dog relief, so they don’t have to resort to scooting anymore.
- Antibiotic/Antiparasitic Treatment: If parasites are the cause of your dog’s scooting, it’s important to get to the root of the issue. Ectoparasites, such as ticks and fleas, can irritate your dog’s bum from the outside. But fleas also carry tapeworm eggs. And when those eggs hatch inside your dog and tapeworm segments (which look like tiny rice grains) are excreted, they irritate the anal area, too. The best way to avoid this icky situation is by keeping your dog free of external and internal pests in the first place. “Antiparasitic treatments, such as flea and tick preventatives, are over-the-counter, and I highly recommend consulting with your veterinarian to find the right product for your dog,” says Wilson.
- Dietary Changes: If diarrhea is what’s causing your dog’s scooting behavior, your first step is to figure out what triggered the gastrointestinal issue. If you’ve recently changed up your dog’s diet, that might be the culprit. Sudden dietary changes can wreak havoc with your dog’s digestion. Wilson recommends using the JustFoodForDogs diet transition guide to help prevent any stomach upset that can lead to diarrhea and scooting.
Whatever caused diarrhea — whether it’s a new recipe you served up or something not-so-fresh your dog fished out of the trash — Wilson suggests turning to JustFoodForDogs Balanced Remedy formulation to get your pet’s tummy back on track.
The highly digestible, low fiber, and low-fat recipe features simple, low-residue ingredients like ground turkey breast and sushi rice, that are gentle on your dog’s digestive tract. Plus, it contains JustFoodForDog’s proprietary nutrient blend to ensure your dog gets all the benefits of a complete and nutritionally balanced meal. With all of those ingredients helping to heal your dog’s diarrhea from the inside, they’ll soon have no more reason to scoot.
- Dietary Supplements: If your dog’s scooting is seasonal or allergy-related, Wilson recommends JustFoodForDogs supplements, Omega 3 fatty acids from Omega Plus, and immune system support from Skin & Allergy Care. Both can help reduce inflammation and promote healthy skin.
- Expressing Anal Glands (maybe): If your pet’s anal glands are impacted or inflamed, it’s important to consult your veterinarian for advice on treatment and frequency of anal gland expression. Wilson does not recommend getting your dog’s anal sacs (glands) expressed at the groomer unless there are symptoms of scooting. “With the expression of the anal sac, irritation can occur as there is manual pressure involved using the fingers.” It’s best to leave the task in the hand of trained veterinary health professionals.
- Surgical Debridement: If anal sacs are impacted or severely infected, your veterinarian may need to sedate your dog and clear any obstruction to the anal ducts. In the event of an open wound, drainage and surgical lavage (washing out the cavity) are needed. “If anal sac issues are continual, your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the glands. This is usually performed by a board-certified surgeon, as the procedure is quite delicate,” says Wilson.
- Topical Ointment: For skin irritation around the rear end, your veterinarian may prescribe topical ointments that have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. These can be used in addition to an Elizabethan collar (also known as an e-collar or “the cone of shame”) to prevent your dog from licking the medicine off. For anal glands issues or infections/wounds around the anus, Wilson suggests that “medications should only be used when prescribed by your veterinarian” to resolve the issue.
- Warm Compresses: A warm compress for your dog’s butt is a good home remedy for anal sac issues or severe irritation to the perianal area. However, this is a temporary fix — much like scooting. So it’s important to find and address the root cause, as well.
The next time you catch your dog doing the booty scoot on the rug, don’t succumb to shame. Instead, use the opportunity to seek out other signs of any underlying issues causing the behavior. Once the root cause is identified, you can relieve your dog’s discomfort with help from your veterinarian, a change in your dog’s diet/supplements, and good hygiene/grooming.