Why Does My Pet Scoot?

A pet “scooting” or dragging its hind end on the floor, grass, or nice carpet is a common sight, especially in smaller overweight pets (but larger dogs can be affected too!). Both dogs and cats can show signs of scooting their behind on the floor. Most of the time it means there is an issue with their anal sacs. Anal sacs that get impacted or infected can cause itching, bad odor, pain or discharge. Other signs of an anal sac issue may include chewing or licking the area, swelling around the anus or difficulty defecating. There are other possible causes of scooting such as peri-anal tumors, irritation from diarrhea, worms or matted hair. It is important if you see signs of scooting to see a veterinarian to rule out these other possible causes.

What are anal sacs?
The anal sacs collect oily secretions from the glandular tissue that lines the sacs. If the anus was a clock viewed from behind the anal sacs sit at 8 pm and 4 pm between the muscles of the anus. The oily secretions are used for “marking” or communication between other cats or dogs. Usually a normal bowel movement is sufficient enough to express the anal sacs. If a pet is having loose stool or diarrhea they may not be adequately expressed.

What should I do if I see my pet scooting?
The first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out the various causes. If left untreated minor inflammation of the anal sacs could turn into infection, abscessation or rupture. This can be an extremely painful condition for your pet.

What are some treatment options?
Treatment options for anal sac issues depend on the cause (impaction, infection, abscess, tumor). Treatment can range from simply expressing the anal sacs to lancing or flushing under general anesthesia. Other options include antibiotics to treat infection, pain medications, warm compressing or diet change (increasing fiber). Please speak to your veterinarian about specific treatment for your pet’s condition.

How are the anal sacs emptied?
Anal sacs are emptied by applying compression to the anal sacs and extruding the oily material. Normal anal sacs do NOT need to be expressed manually and it is not recommended unless indicated by your vet. If anal sac expression does need to be performed there are a couple ways. This can be done outside the anus by gently pushing up on the anal sacs towards the anus. It can also be done by wearing a latex glove and inserting your finger into the anus using your thumb and forefinger to express the contents. It is important to have safe proper restraint while performing either of these techniques. For pets with recurring problems they may need their anal glands expressed frequently. It is best to have your veterinarian evaluate your pet and show you proper safe restraint and technique before trying this at home.

My pet keeps scooting!
If your pet is having recurrent problems please see your veterinarian! They will want to rule out all the possible causes including anal sac tumors. If frequent anal sac expression is not doing the trick surgery to remove the anal sacs can be performed. Your veterinarian will have other options for long term management.

Any questions, concerns or if your pet is ill please see your veterinarian! This blog post is meant for informational purposes only.

Lisa Shapiro, DVM