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Why Is My Dog Scooting?

Posted 07.12.16 by Emily Lindsey

You’ve noticed your dog scooting his bottom across your brand new area rug.  And then it hits your nose…a terrible fishy smell that has notes of something dead or at least rotten.  What is that???

dog anal gland scootingAnal glands (or anal sacs) are two, small glands that sit in the 10:00 and 2:00 position just inside the anus of your pet.  Bothdogs and cats have them.  The material that these glands secrete is thick, oily, and very foul smelling.  In the wild, these glands serve as a way to mark territory or act in self defense (like a skunk).  Wild animals can usually voluntarily empty the glands.  Unfortunately, domestication of our dogs and cats have mostly removed the ability for them to empty the glands voluntarily.  In some pets, the anal glands will express themselves with activity or normal defecation.  In others, they are unable to empty the glands efficiently, allowing the anal glands to fill up and become uncomfortable.

Impacted anal glands are often problematic.  Most dogs can be seen scooting on the ground, trying to express them.  Some will lick the area excessively (then inevitably want to lick you in the face shortly after!).  Many cats will lick so incessantly that they remove the fur from that area.  Other pets just show vague signs of discomfort, such as hiding, shaking, holding their tails down, and not wanting to jump.scooting dog


When anal glands become impacted, if not manually emptied, they can form an abscess and eventually rupture out through the skin.  This condition is painful and messy, often causing bloody fluid to leak around your house.  In some patients, it gets so bad that the abscess has to be drained while the pet is under sedation.  Anal gland abscesses usually require a course of antibiotics, some pain medication and several recheck exams.

How To Stop The Scooting:

If your pet is showing signs of impacted anal glands, they need to be addressed as soon as possible.  The easiest way to start this is to have one of our assistants express the glands.  This is a quick and simple procedure and is typically painless for the pet, though a little embarrassing.  Some owners are interested in learning how to do this procedure at home.  We’re happy to teach you, but be forewarned, it’s not for the faint of heart (it’s gross and smelly).  Also, most pets will not sit still to have their anal glands expressed and require someone to hold them during the procedure.

dog scootingEach pet is different as to how often they need their anal glands expressed.  Some never do.  Some need it done every 6-8 weeks.  Some will continue to scoot for 2-3 days after having their glands expressed, simply due to irritation.  If a pet continues to show signs of full anal glands beyond 3 days post-expression, there may be another cause, such as parasites, food allergies, or back pain. A diet change to particular prescription diets may be recommended for some cases, to decrease the frequency of filling or improve the consistency of the fluid excreted.

People often ask if anal glands can just be taken out.  They can, however, it’s a complicated surgical procedure that carries some risks of complications.  We typically reserve that as a last resort for problematic anal glands, or if there is cancer within one of the glands.

Put a stop to the scooting- Have your pet’s anal glands expressed!

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