Why is my pet scooting?

More than you ever wanted to know about anal glands!

Impacted anal glands are one of the main causes of scooting.  The other possible causes include fleas, worms, and skin allergies.

Anal glands are two small glands just inside your pet's anus.  The material secreted into these glands is thick and foul-smelling, and used for scent marking.

Walking around and normal defecation serves to empty the glands, but some animals become unable to empty their glands on their own.  The sacs become impacted and uncomfortable.  Dogs with impacted anal sacs may show the following signs:

  • Scooting or tobogganing their rear on the ground in an attempt to empty the glands.
  • Licking and/or chewing the anal area, or around their hind legs or tail.
  • You may notice a distinctive foul fishy odour, or small smelly stains where they’ve been laying.

Cats are less commonly affected by anal gland disease.  Obese cats seem predisposed to developing impacted glands.  They tend to lick the fur off just under their tails. 

Inflamed glands are prone to infection, and can abscess and then burst if not treated.

To treat impacted anal glands, they are manually expressed.  This rather smelly job is done by inserting a lubricated gloved finger into the anus and squeezing the glands on either side to empty them.  This will provide relief for a variable amount of time.  Anal gland expression is generally performed by the vet.  You can learn to empty them yourself at home, but most people feel it is well worth having someone else perform this service!

If the anal glands are infected, then antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will be required.

If the glands need to be emptied every few weeks or more, you may opt to have the anal glands permanently removed.  This is a delicate surgery, but for animals with ongoing or chronic problems it can provide a permanent cure.