Why do dogs drag their butts?

A dog sticking their head out the window, showing their butt

The dark side of dog ownership rears its ugly head. Sometimes, it’s less about couch cuddles and beach walks, and more about a burgeoning obsession with your dog’s bowel movements and intestinal health. No one said it would be easy.

The doggy butt scoots are a somewhat comedic, frequently gross maneuver performed due to:
• Clogging or injury with the anal glands: the most frequent reason
• Worms or other intestinal parasites: less common
• Chronic health issues such as cysts or anal sac disease: requires a medical diagnosis

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Anal Sacs

Located on either side of your dog’s anus, the anal sacs release a very strong, fishy odor that remains on the ground even after the poop is removed, mostly for the benefit of other dogs to investigate. Think of it like a canine business card.

Typically, the anal sacs express themselves naturally when your dog poops or exercises. However, they can get clogged for multiple reasons, most commonly due to low fiber diets, obesity, or lack of exercise. Always go to a vet to have your dog’s glands expressed. Some groomers do offer this service, but it can be painful and lead to more issues when done incorrectly.

The exact cause of overfull glands has not been pinpointed. Some anecdotal evidence points to certain breeds being more susceptible than others, but others suggest that smaller dogs in general are more prone than larger.

Other symptoms of clogged anal glands include straining, biting, or licking the anus. Your dog may chase their tail or drag their butt enough to give themselves a rash. If your dog is very uncomfortable, their temperament may change temporarily.

When performed correctly, manual anal gland expression does not reduce your dog’s ability to empty their glands themselves. However, if your dog needs assistance regularly, this can be a sign of a chronic health issue and your vet will need to look at health history, do a clinical examination, and perform other exams before making a diagnosis.

Skin Irritation

If your dog’s butt seems itchy post-grooming, they may be dealing with razor burn or a general reaction to grooming products. If this is the case, their itching may not be limited to one area and the butt scoots will be one of many creative methods your dog employs to scratch themselves.

Skin irritation issues caused by grooming typically pass on their own, but if your dog is developing a rash or hurting themselves, use baby power or a warm compress to reduce itching. A T-shirt can also be used to provide protection until the skin heals.

Food Issues

Food allergies or low fiber diets can result in soft poops or diarrhea, which lack the bulk and firmness needed to stimulate the glands naturally. Glamorous!

Determining food allergies can be a time intensive process that requires coordination with a vet. Hypoallergenic diets or changing protein sources can sometimes treat recurring anal gland issues, but these are not guarantees.

For chronically full anal glands, vets recommend high fiber diets. If you want to increase fiber without changing your dog’s diet, try adding canned pumpkin or psyllium husk to their food. Another option is Glandex, a fiber supplement designed to manage long-term anal gland issues. High fiber diets are not always effective, but they are not harmful to try.

Parasites

If your dog’s itching seems localized around his butt, the problem, unfortunately, may be parasites. Tapeworms and other intestinal parasites cause itching as they exit your dog’s body. Other signs include tapeworm segments or eggs stuck to the hair around your dog’s anus or in your dog’s bedding.

Urban dogs get tapeworms by eating fleas, while suburban or rural dogs are more likely to become infested by eating infected small mammals, raw meat, or offal. If your dog has parasites, a vet will confirm the diagnosis and prescribe a dewormer.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

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