Helping Dogs Express Themselves: When Scooting Reveals A Larger Issue

Posted on: 8 August 2017

Some owners are amused when their little pup scoots his or her bum across the floor, while others are furious at potential carpet damage. While this habit may just be your dog trying to get rid of a cling-on after a bathroom break (meaning their hindquarters need to be groomed) or scratching an itch, it could be indicative of another problem: full or infected anal glands.

Why do dogs have these glands?

Anal glands or sacs are located in the muscles of the rectum. Usually, these glands release fluid whenever your dog has a bowel movement. These glands help your dog mark his or her territory and leave scents behind to signal other dogs.

How do the glands become infected?

Some dogs have very soft stools and so their bowel movements don't create enough pressure to encourage these sacs to empty. When these sacs fail to empty, they can become enlarged and cause your dog to feel uncomfortable pressure—hence the need to scoot in an effort to relieve this feeling.

If your dog has any allergies, he or she can also develop swelling in this region due to an allergic reaction. Also, if your dog is very overweight, the extra girth can actually make it so your dog is unable to empty their bowels, causing impaction and pressure on these sacs.

Lastly, while any dog can have this problem, this issue is prevalent amongst smaller breeds, like toy poodles and cocker spaniels.  

What are the symptoms of gland issues?

While excessive scooting is the big signal of clogged glands, there are other things to watch out for, such as your dog:

  • having bathroom accidents in the house
  • licking the area excessively
  • having pus or blood drip out of the anus
  • having irritated skin or swelling in the area.

How can an owner fix the issue?

You don't actually need to go to a vet to fix this problem. If you have paper towels, some disposable gloves, petroleum jelly, and a beach towel, you can help your dog yourself.

  1. Place your dog on the beach towel and have a friend or family member hold the dog
  2. Put on your disposable gloves and dip your thumb and pointer finger into the petroleum jelly
  3. Once your fingers are lubed, slowly and gently insert the pointer finger into the rectum about an inch. You'll feel the pea-sized glands on the left and the right.
  4. Gently squeeze the pointer finger inside and the thumb outside the rectum to relieve the gland's contents. While your dog will obviously not enjoy this process, he or she will start feeling some relief as the pressure comes off the glands.
  5. If there are a lot of contents that need to be expressed, use the paper towels to clean the area.
  6. The glands will be very palpable when they are all expressed. Once you're done with both the left and right gland, gently wipe the anal area clean.
  7. Give your pupper a treat and a hug for being so good!

Are there other ways to fix this issue?

Understandably, the previously mentioned solution isn't something a lot of owners have in mind or want to do. If expressing the glands yourself grosses you out or if you're worried that you are doing it wrong, you can take your dog to the vet to have this procedure done in a few minutes. And, some dog groomers will actually be happy to this procedure for you if you ask. If your dog gets clogged glands regularly, it may be better to schedule gland expression along with your dog's regular grooming.

As you can see, this is a simple problem that can be fixed. However, even though glands can be expressed easily, that does not mean that you can leave your dog with this problem for long. Your dog can develop anal sac disease, which means that they can suffer from fecal impaction and abscesses. If your dog gets to this point or has frequently-clogged sacs, it may be in your interest to look into surgery. Talk with your vet to learn more about the surgical procedure, risks, and aftercare, or you can see this page for more information.