Dogs do a lot of weird things, but perhaps one of the strangest, most irritating things they do on occasion is scoot. Yup, that’s right—the awkward, contorted-looking motion wherein your dog scoots its bum across your freshly-cleaned carpet, possibly leaving a nasty odor or stain behind.Pet parents know scooting well, but do you know why dogs do this so frequently? The answer is largely what you’d think: your dog’s bum itches.
Itchy bums in dogs is a common occurrence and can come from a variety of problems. Allergies, worms, dog diarrhea, and matted fur are some of the causes, but one health problem in particular tends to be the major culprit for itchy rectums and scooting: anal sac issues.
What is an anal sac?
Your dog has two anal sacs located around its rectum. These sacs are designed to fill with fluid and empty themselves naturally through defecation. The fluid inside contains pheromones that help dogs mark their scent and pick up information about other dogs through smell. To humans, this fluid smells pungent and slightly fishy (which is one more reason to prevent your dog from excreting it on your carpet!).
Sometimes, your dog’s anal sacs might not be able to excrete the fluid on their own, which causes them to become clogged. Full anal sacs can become inflamed, itchy and painful—hence the incessant scooting.
If the glands remain filled for too long, they can become infected, impacted and even burst, leading to a costly emergency vet visit. In short, full anal sacs are to be avoided at all costs.
You can usually tell when your dog is having anal sac-related issues when it starts to scoot across the floor, lick its bum a lot and chase its tail more than normal.
Remedies for anal sac problems
If you notice your dog scooting and suspect an anal sac issue, lift up its tail to see if the area is red, looks inflamed or feels hard. If these signs are present, you should take your dog to the vet to have it inspected. At first, it’s best to have them checked out to make sure they’re not infected.
If the problem indeed lies with full anal sacs, your vet can empty them through a non-surgical procedure that takes just a few minutes. It’s not a good idea to express the sacs by yourself at home because it could injure your dog if done improperly. However, some vets are willing to teach you the correct method if you’d prefer to administer at-home care for the issue.
There are also other at-home methods you can try to help your dog’s body release the anal sac fluid naturally. Usually, this involves getting your dog to poop more often and firming up mushy stools. These home remedies are useful if your dog consistently has anal sac secretion problems.
- Increase fiber: Choose a dog food with more fiber, give your dog fibrous snacks like pumpkin or carrots or add a fiber-filled supplement to your dog’s diet. Fiber will help bulk up your dog’s stool and make them need to go more, which will, in turn, help empty the anal sacs more regularly. Remember to increase the amount of fiber your dog gets gradually to prevent an upset stomach.
- More water: Increasing the amount of water your dog gets every day can also help it defecate more often and more easily, helping release anal sacs. Keeping your dog hydrated can also help remedy itchy or dry skin around its rectum or on other parts of its body.
- Warm compress: If dietary changes aren’t helping, you may be able to encourage the anal sacs to release by applying a warm compress to the rectum. Soak a clean washcloth in warm water and Witch Hazel (an anti-inflammatory substance) and hold it in place for around 10 minutes.
- Exercise: Exercise helps get things moving inside your dog’s intestines, allowing it to poop more often and increasing the chances of emptying the anal sacs. Additionally, routine exercise can help strengthen the muscles in your dog that might put pressure on the sacs, allowing them to empty more easily.
Other causes of rectal itching
If your dog’s bum doesn’t appear inflamed or feel stiff, another problem might be at hand. Your dog might be suffering from worms like tapeworms or hookworms, dietary allergies or skin infections. All of these problems also cause itchy bums and should be checked out by a vet to identify the best treatment.
If your dog is suffering from worms, your vet may prescribe a medication that eradicates the specific worm type. You can also add a natural, herbal formula to your dog’s diet to prevent worms in the future.
If allergies are the problem, remove the allergen from your dog’s diet as soon as possible. You can also try using an oatmeal bath to soothe the inflamed rectum. Put oatmeal in a sock and soak it in warm water in the tub, then let your dog soak it in for around ten minutes. The avenanthramides and phenols in the oatmeal are anti-inflammatory, which helps relieve itchiness.
With the help of a vet and some home remedies, your dog’s bum should stop itching in no time, aiding its health and saving your carpet.