The dinner table looks spectacular and your guests have arrived. Once again, your favorite pooch shows you up by scooting their behind across your polished tiles in full view. It’s a floor show you’d prefer to do without.
So what’s the cause of this all-too-common kind of behavior and how can you stop it from happening? Read on for the lowdown.
Clogged Anal Sacs
Any vet will tell you that by far the most common cause of scooting is due to an issue with a dog’s anal sacs. They have two of these – one located on either side of their rear ends.
It’s not perhaps a topic you’d want to bring up at your dinner party but both these sacs contain a really nasty, fishy-smelling fluid. This gets released when a dog poops. Dogs, as well as cats, use this fluid to mark their territory.
If these sacs aren’t emptying properly (a common issue), the liquid can build up. Once the sacs get too filled, they become irritating for the dog (thus leading to the scooting on the floor). Additionally, if the fluid sits in the sac for too long, it can lead to the fluid solidifying – making it even more difficult to empty and further enhancing the irritation.
In most cases, a quick visit to the vet can relieve the problem. A vet will be able to squeeze each gland and manually express the fluid – giving your dog instant relief. It is important to note that this is a very common issue, and that many dogs require a few trips a year to the vet simply for this reason. Most veterinary practices will offer a cheaper price if this is the reason for the visit.
Anal glands are not critical for your pet’s health. Your vet can remove them if it’s medically necessary, although this is a major surgery and not without risks (incontinence being the major one). Reasons for it could be when there are constant infections or recurrent abscess formation.
Anal Gland Abscesses Explained
The glands in each anal sac connect to the end of the anal canal via a tiny connecting tube or duct. When your dog defecates, their feces pass through the anal canal and squeeze the sacs. This releases the smelly liquid.
An anal gland abscess is an infection of the anal glands. It’s often painful with pus building up in the sac while it’s happening. The infection stops the fluid from leaving the sac and the anal glands may even burst. Abscesses need treating straight away and so you should contact your vet for an appointment at the first opportunity.
There is no breed of dog that is more prone to anal abscesses. These abscesses happen to dogs of either gender and at any age. There are a variety of possible reasons that can explain why the anal gland can swell and rupture. These include underlying diseases or allergies. Symptoms include:
- Scooting across the floor to pressurize the anal gland into releasing the fluid
- Biting of the tail and the region around the anus
- Matting of fur in the anal area
- A disinclination to sit up and defecate
- Anal discharge along with constipation
- Showing signs of pain
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
- Redness and swelling around the anal region
Treating Anal Gland Abscesses
Although not a medical emergency, abscesses can cause severe pain and infections can spread to other parts of the anus. Your vet will be able to clean up the abscess and treat the infection.
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Sometimes, your vet may need to sedate your pet in order to clean the infected area thoroughly. Treatment will end when your vet has checked over your pet at a later date to ensure the abscess is healing properly. Treatment can include:
- Cleaning and declogging the anal duct to stop the fluid buildup
- Anti-inflammatory medications to bring down any swelling
- A course of antibiotics
- A later recheck in order for your vet to give the “all clear”
Your vet may need to do some additional testing depending on the condition of the abscess. This could include complete lab work, particularly if there is anesthesia involved. In rare, complex cases, your vet may need to conduct a biopsy.
If your dog carries on having infected and abscessed anal glands, they may need to undergo a more stringent kind of treatment. This would mean the removal of the anal glands completely.
The surgery can affect the strength of the sphincter and that in turn can lead to incontinence. This makes surgery something of a last resort.
If the anal glands have ruptured before, there can be a lot of scarring and the anatomy can become distorted. This can make surgery more problematic and the conservation of the normal local structures more difficult.
It’s possible for draining tracts to develop after surgery if the gland is not completely removed, meaning a second surgery may be necessary.
Other Causes of Anal Sac Problems
Although it’s rare, dogs can experience trauma to their anal sacs caused by a groomer. The sacs are delicate and so it’s possible to injure them and cause inflammation.
Dogs like Cocker Spaniels and Poodles that get groomed a lot can experience clipper burns and irritations from sprays or grooming products that get behind their tail and around the anal area.
You should check for any nicks or razor burn if your dog scoots after grooming. If this happens, ask the groomer to switch products and try a warm compress to help alleviate any irritation.
Making Dietary Changes
Food allergies or intolerances can occasionally create problems with the anal sacs of some dogs. Soft bowel movements caused by your dog’s diet may not provide sufficient pressure to empty the sacs properly.
In troublesome, recurring cases, your vet may recommend high fiber or hypoallergenic diets. These can produce a denser stool that may increase pressure and empty the sacs more effectively. There are also assorted supplements marketed for this purpose that you could try. You should speak to your vet about making dietary changes.
Understanding the cause of your pet’s continued anal gland issues is vital in order to achieve a successful preventative course of action. Your vet will work with you to come up with the most appropriate plan for your pet.
Always Talk to Your Vet
Scooting in dogs is not uncommon. What’s important is to find out the cause. More often than not this will lie in issues your dog may have with either or both of their anal sacs.
Do you still have any questions about your pet having problems with their anal sac? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets!
We have a range of other helpful articles in our blog section. Read more here and stay informed about your pet’s health.