Canine butt-scooting behaviors can sometimes be unintentionally humorous, with scooting dogs occasionally being used in comedic movies or shows as a sight gag. While it may be funny to see your dog scooting around on their butt, this behavior may be a sign of some serious health problems that need to be addressed for the sake of your dog’s comfort.
If you’ve noticed your dog scooting, you may wonder whether there is anything you can do to provide your pooch some relief without needing to go to the vet.
If your dog is scooting, it is important to try to figure out why before starting an at-home remedy. Some issues may be able to be addressed through DIY methods, while others will need veterinarian intervention. If you are in doubt, have your dog checked by the vet first.
Why Do Dogs Scoot?
In general, dogs scoot because their heinies are uncomfortable, which could be caused by physical irritation caused by dirt, a stuck piece of poop, or skin allergies (including yeast dermatitis). Constipation or intestinal parasites such as tapeworms may also be the culprit.
Some of these causes are short-lived, while others are continuous. When you see your dog scooting—especially on a regular basis—it is a good idea to visually check their rear end to see if you can determine the cause. If your dog scoots once and does not repeat the behavior, it is likely that the irritant went away on its own; if the behavior continues, though, your pooch may be due for a trip to the vet.
Canine Anal Gland Discomfort
Another common reason dogs scoot is to ease discomfort caused by problems with their anal glands. Dogs who are experiencing anal sac complications may also lick their behinds more often in addition to scooting.
Dogs’ anal glands—also called anal sacs—contain a liquid that is expressed (squeezed out) when dogs defecate. This malodourous liquid assists dogs in marking their territory and is part of the reason why dogs like to sniff other dogs’ butts when they first meet.
It is possible for anal glands to become impacted, infected, or abscessed. The glands may also leak when the dog is not defecating, which may become obvious to the owner due to the liquid’s pungent, fishy odor.
Anal glands flank either side of the lower part of the dog’s anus (usually in the four o’clock and eight o’clock position, though some dogs’ glands may be located more about five o’clock and seven o’clock) and the fluid within is pressed out when the dog passes feces.
Because these glands require pressure to express, dogs experiencing loose bowel movements or who are overweight may have more trouble emptying their anal secs, leading to impaction over time.
Many dogs will never have a problem with their anal glands, while others may experience recurrent issues. Overweight dogs and smaller dog breeds tend to experience more complications with their anal sacs than other dogs do, though breed and weight are not the only causes of difficulty or inability to express these glands.
While anal gland infections, abscesses, and cancer must be managed by veterinarians, some dogs whose anal glands are chronically unable to express on their own may be helped by interventions such as at-home manual gland expression. In more extreme cases, vets may perform anal sacculectomy, a surgery that removed the anal glands.
Expressing Your Dog’s Anal Glands at Home
If you believe your dog is experiencing problems with their anal glands, it is important to take them to a vet in order to make sure they are not experiencing an abscess, infection, or cancer of the glands.
If the problem is anal sac impaction, your vet will be able to provide your pooch relief by manually expressing the glands.
Owners whose dogs deal with occasional anal gland impaction may prefer to have the vet or a groomer trained in manual anal gland expression handle this; after all, anal gland expression can be very messy, smelly, and generally unpleasant.
Anal gland expression at a vet may cost around $25-$40, while expression by a groomer may cost around $15-$25. For those pet owners whose pups experience chronic problems with their anal glands, learning how to empty the glands at home may be preferable as a cost-saving measure.
Although it is possible to find tutorials online showing how to express your dog’s anal glands, it is important that you first have your dog seen by their vet to confirm that the problem would best be addressed by manual expression.
Your vet will also be able to guide you through how to help your specific dog, which is important because expressing your dog’s anal glands unnecessarily or excessively can cause further irritation to the glands.
Additionally, having your vet guide you through the process initially will likely show you how comfortable your dog is with having their anal glands manually expressed. If your dog is very stressed out by the procedure, it would be best to leave it to the vet.
Here is how at-home manual anal gland expression is usually done:
- Collect gloves, pet-safe wet wipes, paper towel or other absorbent material to collect the liquid, and an object or treat to distract your dog (such as a Kong Classic stuffed with peanut butter). Find an appropriate area to express the glands, since they may create a smelly mess that can be difficult to clean up—it may be best to do it outside, if you can. You may need to employ a second person to help hold your dog, providing them comfort and preventing them from wriggling too much.
- Take your dog to the chosen place and, if including a second person, have the person comfortably but firmly hold your dog. Give your dog some treats or the toy to keep them distracted.
- If your vet guides you to express the glands from the inside, you will need to put your gloved index finger inside your dog’s anus, feeling for the glands which, depending on how impacted they are, may feel swollen to the size of peas or grapes. Holding up your dog’s tail with your other hand may help you locate the glands more easily.
- Start with one gland, pushing gently from the back of the gland (further inside) toward the opening of the anus. Your thumb should also help lend some light pressure from the outside. With your other hand, place the paper towel or other absorbent material close to the anus in order to catch the liquid.
- Once one gland has been emptied, repeat the process with the other. Remember to take your time, especially if your dog is feeling anxious.
- The liquid expressed should be brown (may be light or dark) and should have a wet- to mildly jelly-like texture. If you dog’s anal glands have not been expressed in a while, the consistency is likely to be firmer. Overly thick or chunky anal gland liquid—especially that which includes blood, pus, or a non-brown liquid—may be a sign of a more serious problem and should be reported to the vet.
- When you’re done, wipe up your dog’s backside, give them treats, and remember to praise them.
If your vet suggests expressing the glands from outside rather than inside the anus, the process will be similar, except that you will only be pressing the glands from the outside. While this may feel less intrusive to your dog, it may not be as successful in removing all the liquid from the glands. That said, go with your vet’s guidance regarding the best way to help your dog.
Remember, if your dog appears to be in any pain throughout the process, stop and consult a vet.
While this whole procedure obviously seems gross and invasive, it’s actually usually quite fast and simple once you (and your dog) get the hang of it. Like clipping toenails, if it’s done regularly, it becomes very routine and non-eventful.
Home Remedies for Dog Scooting
If your dog is struggling with anal sac disease, then manual expression at the vet, a trained groomer, or at home (after direction) may be appropriate.
If your dog is scooting due to other reasons, though, different home remedies will be more suitable to reduce your pooch’s discomfort.
And if your dog is scooting because of a parasite such as worms, it is better to address this root issue rather than just alleviating the symptoms. If you are unable to do so yourself, then of course consult with your vet and use medication to eliminate the cause (the worms).
Regularly Check Your Dog’s Backside for Debris
A key reason why dogs scoot is because their backsides are uncomfortable. While this may be due to internal discomfort, it may also be caused by something stuck to your dog’s rear, such as dirt, leaves, a piece of poop, or other debris.
Thankfully, each of these can be removed with a dog-friendly wipe or some dog shampoo plus a rag or microfiber towel. Unless your dog is regularly encountering the irritant, you should not need to do anything beyond removing it from your pooch.
If your dog continues to scoot after the debris has been removed, you may want to check the places where they regularly sit or crouch to see if the scooting is due to an environmental factor (e.g., grass clippings getting stuck to your dog after the lawn is mowed).
Long-haired dogs may be more likely to get irritants stuck in their fur and may need to have the hair around their rear ends trimmed to keep them debris free.
Dietary Changes – Add Fiber to Your Dog’s Diet
As previously mentioned, anal sac impaction can be caused by the dog’s inability to naturally express their glands while pooping. In cases like these, the dog may need more fiber to bulk up the bowel movement, which in turn may help the glands express themselves.
If your dog is scooting and is regularly experiencing diarrhea or softer stools, they may need a boost of fiber in their diet. This can be added either through a supplement or an added fiber-heavy food such as canned pumpkin. Plain canned pumpkin can also be useful for dogs dealing with constipation and constipation-related discomfort, as fiber is generally useful for relieving both constipation and diarrhea.
While it is a good idea to check with your vet before making a drastic change to your dog’s diet, many dogs experiencing problems with loose bowels or constipation may benefit from additional fiber, which may relieve the cause of the scooting behavior.
Dietary Changes – Add More Moisture to Your Dog’s Diet
While constipation may not always lead to the same anal gland issues as chronic diarrhea, it is very uncomfortable for your dog to be unable to pass stool, and this discomfort may lead to your dog scooting due to the inflammation or irritation of their bowels.
In addition to adding fiber, you may want to consider finding ways to add more moisture to your dog’s diet. A product like canned pumpkin can provide both fiber and moisture for your pooch, though there are other ways to help hydrate your dog, including supplementing their diet with more water, wet food, or bone broth.
Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Overweight dogs—especially smaller breeds—are more likely to experience problems expressing their anal glands than dogs who are at a healthy weight. For this reason, it is a good idea to try to keep your dog healthy and help them lose weight if they need to shed some pounds.
Modifying your dog’s diet is one easy way to help them lose weight, though it is a good idea to consult with your vet about healthy dietary choices for your specific dog.
Another way to help your dog get healthy is by making sure they are getting enough exercise. Going for walks and spending time outside provides your dog not only with opportunities for physical movement but also for ample bathroom breaks, decreasing the likelihood that your dog will become constipated and feel the urge to scoot.
Use Soothing Wipes
If your dog is scooting due to irritation from stuck debris or due to skin inflammation, dog-safe wipes may provide some relief.
It is important to make sure wipes used on dogs are safe for pets before using them on your pooch. Also, while these wipes may help your pup feel better for a bit, they are not a fix for more long-term issues such as skin allergies and anal gland discomfort.
Dog-safe wipes containing witch hazel may help soothe itchiness or discomfort in dogs who are scooting due to skin irritation, though it should be noted that witch hazel can cause dryness and only provides temporary relief. Additionally, it is important to make sure your dog does not ingest witch hazel, as it is only intended for exterior use.
Apply a Warm Compress
As with wipes, a warm compress is not a long-term remedy, but it can provide some quick relief for your dog’s discomfort. This could be especially useful if your dog is very uncomfortable while on the way to the vet (or while waiting to be seen).
Like wet wipes, warm compresses are primarily helpful in instances in which there is irritation around or on the anal area. Dogs struggling with skin allergies or a raw bottom from constipation or diarrhea may feel a little more comfortable after a warm water compress, though a vet checkup is important if the irritation continues.
Although scooting may sometimes be funny to witness, it is important to be aware that it is a sign that your dog is uncomfortable. Sometimes this is due to simple issues that are quickly fixed, while other times it can be indicative of a larger problem that will require vet assistance.
In many cases—especially those of shorter-term discomfort—you may be able to employ natural remedies to give your dog some relief. Some at-home interventions that may help include adding a fiber supplement or other fiber source, adding more moisture to your dog’s diet, keeping them at a healthy weight, and helping clear debris or applying a warm compress or wet wipe to a dog’s sore bottom.
If your dog is dealing with a recurring health problem such as anal gland impaction, it may also be possible (after receiving guidance from your vet) for you to manage it at home. Still, it is important to seek out information about your dog’s condition before immediately jumping to DIY remedies if you are unfamiliar with the problem.