Written by: Dr. Chip Coombs
If you have an itch, then you have to scratch it, even if the itchy spot is not very accessible. In the case of dogs, particularly heavier dogs, if they have an itchy rear end, it is far easier to drag it along the ground to try to alleviate the itch, than to try to bend around in straining contortions to either lick or chew the area. So, what are the common reasons for dogs to do this and what can you do to alleviate the problem?
In smaller breeds, the most common cause is full or irritated anal glands. There are two glands located at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock in every dog and the liquid material that comes out with every bowel movement has a very specific scent associated with your dog, and in the wild is used as a territorial marker. In domesticated dogs, these glands serve no useful purpose other than to potentially cause problems. As the opening from these glands is at the edge of the rectum, it is common for faecal bacteria to enter the glands and cause low grade infection. The infection in itself is irritating/itchy, but it also causes the liquid gland material to dry up, and as it becomes less viscous it cannot be expressed with a normal bowel movement. Consequently, the gland becomes even more irritating/itchy. Consequently your dog will drag that area along the ground (scoot) in an attempt to relieve the sensation. An immediate solution is to have the glands expressed/emptied by your veterinarian. If the problem is chronic, you can be taught how to express them (nasty job!), or you can try a higher fibre diet or even have the glands removed surgically.
In larger breeds, the anal glands are less likely to be the issue and in breeds that are prone to allergies, the dragging of the back end, or chewing at the back end, could well be part of an overall body itchiness felt by your dog. Resolving the underlying allergy problem (not always very easily accomplished) will usually resolve the bum dragging.
Another cause that could affect any size or breed would be if your dog has developed colitis. Colitis simply means inflammation of the large bowel or colon, of which the rectum is a part. When dogs have large bowel diarrhea, their rectum can be irritated and they will drag their back end. In milder cases of colitis, a dog might strain to defecate, seemingly being constipated, when the exact opposite is the case. Because the rectum is irritated, they feel they have to have a bowel movement, even though the rectum is empty. They may also drag their back end along the ground. If your dog doesn’t have any diarrhea, but the stool is either soft or has mucous or slime on it, colitis might be the cause. Most mild cases of colitis pass on their own, but if full blown diarrhea develops, a call to your veterinarian would be in order.
Butt dragging is obviously not a life threatening situation, but if you dog seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time doing it, knowing she is uncomfortable makes it worthwhile asking your veterinarian for a solution.