Dogs can do some pretty amazing things. One talent they have yet to develop, however, is the ability to scratch their own bottoms. Yes, they are certainly adept at licking the area, but this is not always enough to accomplish the task at hand. When licking isn't enough to satisfy them, they will often resort to dragging their bottoms on the floor, sometimes referred to as “trucking” or “scooting.” While this is certainly an obvious indication that your dog's rear is bothering her, it doesn't tell you why.
What to Look For
The best way to examine your dog's hindquarters is to put on a pair of rubber exam gloves and, while she remains standing, lift her tail up and have a good look. Here's what to do:
Once your dog's tail is elevated and her anus is easy to see, look all around the area for injuries, irritation, growths, or bulges. Try to use one gloved finger to feel the edges of her anus for bulges and to check for irritation or discharge.
The best way to refer to anything unusual that you might see in relation to your dog's anus is to identify its location as though you were talking about a clock. So, if your dog has a dark spot at the top of her anus, closest to her tail, you would say that it was located at twelve o'clock.
What to Do
Here's what to do, depending on what you found:
Diarrhea: Has your dog recently been having bouts of diarrhea? Some dogs that are otherwise perfectly healthy will drag their hind ends on the ground in an attempt to remove any residue from the loose bowel movements. Try cleaning your dog's anal area with a warm, moist cloth or towel.
Has your dog been having loose or irregular bowel movements for quite some time? Sometimes after having had loose or irregular stools, a dog will develop abnormally full anal sacs, which cause discomfort. (Anal sacs are actually scent glands similar to the ones we find so objectionable in skunks, but less developed in size and offensiveness.) Another clue that your dog might have full anal sacs is if her rectum appears to be bulging in the five and/or seven o'clock regions. A dog scoots to try to alleviate the feelings of discomfort and fullness. Try cleaning your dog's anal area with a warm, moist cloth or towel and see “How to Empty Your Dog's Anal Sacs” [not available online] for help with anal sac issues.
Wounds or discharge: Do you notice any wounds or discharge in the area around your dog's anus? Discharge of a viscous, sticky nature could indicate an infection, and almost any type of wound or infection to this region will prompt your dog to rub her bottom to try to solve the problem or at least make it feel better. If you do see wounds and/or a sticky discharge, especially if it is yellow to green in color and malodorous, get your veterinarian's help right away.
Growths, swelling, or irritation: These are fairly common in the region around a dog's anus. Growths should always be seen by a veterinarian when they are first noticed. Treat swelling by applying cold compresses. You can treat irritations at home with a topical antibiotic ointment, such as Bacitracin, or a steroid, such as hydrocortisone. If they don't work after a few days, call your dog's vet.
What if you see none of these? It's probably safe to treat your dog with cleansing, warm compresses, and gentle pressure.
When to Get the Vet
Contact your dog's vet if:
- You see a wound around your dog's anus.
- You see any discharge coming from your dog's anus.
- You see growths around or in your dog's anus.