by Dr. Francesca Matthews


What is scooting?


Have you got a dog (or cat) who likes to rub his or her bottom on the carpet, grass or any other surface for that matter?  Funny as it may look, it really isn’t that nice to know that your pet is running their unwiped bottom on the carpet!

Besides, this is actually an indication of a problem for your pet and it needs attention.


What causes scooting?


There are a number of causes, the most common being a problem with your dog or cat's anal glands.

Anal glands are little sacs that sit at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions either side of the anus. If they become overly full (or impacted), this can lead to scooting. Problems with anal glands can also show themselves as a foul odour near the bottom, licking or biting of the area under the base of the tail and pain.


Image source wikimedia commons


Another cause is worms – in particular if your cat or dog has not been treated for whip worm recently, the adult worms may be busy depositing eggs around the anus which is somewhat itchy, and the reaction of your dog and cat is to scratch the area to try and get rid of the problem.

Fleas or other problems that cause the skin around the tail base area to be itchy (such as allergic skin disease) can also cause your pet to start scooting.


What should you do?


You should take your cat or dog to your veterinarian in the first instance to allow your veterinarian to give your pet a complete check over and identify the cause of the scooting. This will include one of our veterinarians putting on a glove, and examining and expressing the anal glands.

Following examination, we will advise the best course of action for your pet's particular problem that is causing the scooting.



What are anal glands?


Anal glands are little sacs with ducts that sit at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock on either side of the anus. In most cases they release a small amount of contents each time a dog defecates. Both dogs and cats will also release anal gland contents in times of fear and stress.

The content of anal glands is exceptionally smelly and it is postulated that the contents is used as a scent marker identifying territory and also identifying themselves to other dogs.

There is no proven reason why some dogs develop problems when others don’t, but it is almost certain that it is a combination of genetics, diet and environment. It is also probable that if a dog produces lots of soft faeces, then there may not be enough pressure to release the anal glands at each defecation, leading to a build up of secretion.

From experience, I believe that the anatomical design of anal glands differ from animal to animal and some dogs certainly appear to have anal glands that have longer ducts, which make mean they don’t express as well during defecation. Also the sacs appear larger in some animals too, so these animals may naturally produce more secretion and they just don’t express enough at each defecation.

Dogs with skin allergies are also prone to anal gland problems - controlling the general skin allergy, causes of which could be environmental or dietary will help anal gland problems in these dogs.

Whatever the reason, it makes your dog uncomfortable and it needs to be checked out so please contact us to make an appointment.


Over-full (or impacted) anal glands


There are occasions when the anal gland just does not empty as it should and this leads to an over-full gland. In most cases, we will be able to express these manually using a gloved hand and the problem will be solved either forever or for a short to medium time period. In other cases, the contents may indicate infection is present, thus requiring antibiotics. Other animal's anal glands will be impossible to express while they are awake and may need a general anaesthetic and anal gland flush. This may also be the case in cases of repeated anal gland infections.

Dogs that have repeated anal gland problems with normal contents can either keep visiting for anal gland expression, or we can train you to express the glands and what to look for in the contents. In the case of repeated impaction or repeated impaction with infection, we may discuss the option of anal gland removal with you.

Anal gland removal is usually a cure for the problem, however it is important that you have been made fully aware of the rare but possible problems with surgery to remove the anal glands. In addition to the usual surgical risks, because the surgery involves dissection around the muscles associated with the anal sphincter, there is a small chance of faecal incontinence following removal. This is usually transient if it occurs, but in rare cases may be permanent problem. The pros and cons must always be discussed with us prior to making an informed decision as to what is best for your pet.

Anal gland abscesses


In some cases the anal gland may develop an abscess – this is an infection of the anal gland, causing the anal gland to fill up with pus and then to burst out. In these cases, they often need a general anaesthetic so they can be cleaned up and flushed out. The dog will then require medication with antibiotics.

Allergic skin disease may play a role


Ongoing problems with anal glands can be associated with allergic skin disease. Anal glands are essentially an in-fold of skin; hence dogs with allergic or inflammatory skin disease often also have associated anal gland problems. This must be taken into account when treating these dogs.


We will be able to advise on how this may impact or alter treatment.


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