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Expressive brown dog sitting on a leather chair included in The Dig article why do dogs scoot?

Health & Wellness

Why do dogs drag their butts?

Here's what it all means

Butt-dragging, carpet-surfing and tail-scooting are all colorful terms that describe dogs’ more unusual actions: rubbing their butt along the floor. But why exactly do dogs drag their butt on the ground? Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough highlights some common causes and treatments for when dogs drag their butts. 

Why do dogs drag their butts? 

Any dog — no matter the breed or age — can feel the urge to drag their butts along the floor. However, there are some common causes for this behavior, including: 

Anal sac issues

By far the most common cause of scooting in dogs is full anal sacs. The anal sacs are two small glands located around the anus. These glands secrete a dog’s unique identifying aroma — which is why dogs sniff each other’s behinds when greeting. But the anal sacs can be uncomfortable if they’re too full.

Dogs relieve painful pressure caused by full anal sacs by dragging or rubbing their rear along the floor. If you notice a discolored trail or an excessively smelly fog following your dog’s scooting, full anal sacs may be to blame. If you see them scooting, look for bleeding, bruising, pus or swelling. Take your dog to the vet if you spot any unusual symptoms, as it’s difficult to tell the difference between full anal sacs and more serious infections. 

Dogs typically express the anal glands when they have a bowel movement. Manual expression of anal glands, or gently squeezing to release the liquid, is not usually necessary. However, if the full anal sacs are caused by an underlying health condition like allergies, infection, inflammation, trauma or an intestinal parasite, your veterinarian may recommend manual anal gland expression.

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Allergies‍

After anal sac issues, allergies are the second leading cause of tail-dragging, ranging from seasonal allergies to flea and insect bite reactions to food sensitivities. If your dog is scooting and scratching, an allergy is likely the culprit and your vet will treat both problems with appropriate allergy medications and supplements.

Parasites‍

Another unfortunate cause of butt dragging is a tapeworm infection that causes an intense itching around the anus. You can spot a tapeworm by its tiny egg-carrying segments that look like rice and show up in your dog’s poop. Some common treatment options for tapeworm are deworming medications and flea prevention, as tapeworms can be transmitted through fleas. Giardia is another type of microscopic organism that can cause discomfort, which your vet will need to get diagnosed through a stool sample. In general, any dog with recurring tail scooting should be tested for parasites. 

Pain‍

Pain from the lower back and hips can also cause some pups to  butt-drag. If your dog is constantly licking their rear and the anal sacs appear normal, they may be in pain. 

Skin infections

Bacterial and fungal skin infections can also cause itching and burning around pets’ bottoms. Female dogs may develop a yeast infection that can mimic anal sac problems. If your vet diagnoses your dog with a yeast infection, they may recommend an antifungal medication. Bladder and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also cause scooting, which can usually be treated by a combination of antibiotics and cranberry supplements. For skin infections, your vet may recommend an overall lifestyle change for your pup that includes prescription diets and probiotics. 

Behavioral or neurological problems

Some dogs may develop behavioral or neurological problems that lead to scooting. Obese dogs sometimes excessively scoot without an identifiable cause (losing excess weight usually cures the condition). Dogs that have had surgeries, especially spinal procedures, may develop abnormal symptoms related to nerve damage.

Home remedies for dog scooting

Always check with your veterinarian before trying a home remedy for a dog’s itchy bum. Your veterinarian may recommend adding more fiber to your dog’s diet or avoiding exposure to the allergen that’s causing the scooting, if possible. 

When it comes to your pet’s butt scooting, you know what’s normal and what’s not. If your dog scoots more than a couple of times a day or several times within 48 hours, have them checked out by your vet — and in the meantime, break out the vacuum and disinfectant.

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Photo by Kev Costello on Unsplash

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