Here?s the rub Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 03:20
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In this column veterinarian Dr Liesel van der Merwe provides practical assistance for common problems in companion animals. She is a specialist physician at the Onderstepoort animal teaching hospital and a senior lecturer in the section of small animal medicine. Send your questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

How one’s skin crawls when your beloved Trixie scoots all over your lovely new carpet. Why do dogs scoot? The common misconception is that it is only worms which will cause your dog to rub its backside on the floor, but any discomfort or itching of the rear end will cause your dog to do this. There is one specific worm, the whip worm (Trichuris vulpis) which lives in the end of the colon which may cause peri-anal itching. But this worm is relatively uncommon.

Young puppies may also display scooting behaviour from worms, but as a rule worms are not the most likely cause. Dogs and cats have many different kinds of glands around the anus. Some of these glands are scent glands, and these substances build up in two little sacs each side of the bum called anal sacs. The sacs sit just under the skin and their openings are at positions 4 O’ clock and 8 O’ clock.

These glands and sacs are used for territorial marking and are well developed in the hyena and wild dog. Our domesticated dogs don’t follow this behavioural pattern any more and their diet also contains much less bones, causing less automatic pressure expression due to very hard faeces.

Sometimes you may notice a few drops of brownish fluid on a surface or on your dog when they have had a big fright. This is anal sac material and it is accompanied by a really horrible smell.

This lack of use causes these glands to become impacted and sometimes even infected and abscessed. This is, in fact, the most common cause for scooting in small breed dogs. Your vet will express these glands (their favourite job, which obviously was the main reason for their six years of study). This is a procedure easily performed in the consulting room.

If an infection or abscess has occurred your dogs may need a light anaesthetic to enable the area to be flushed and cleaned as it becomes very tender and inflamed, and go onto a short course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

If these glands keep on becoming full and requiring manual expression (some dogs seem more prone than others), the sacs can be permanently removed. This is delicate surgery as it can affect the nerves supplying the anus but many vets are comfortable doing this procedure. Any remnants of tissue accidentally left will result in a recurrence of the problem.

Fleas, which often collect around the tail-base area, can cause a severe dermatitis, which also causes itching and scooting. Basically any injury around the peri-anal area can cause scooting; some more serious ones include tumours which have ulcerated and become infected and anal fistulas which are ulcerative lesions which occur around the anus in German shepherd dogs.

Cats also scoot and may have problems with their anal sacs, but this is much rarer. So, when your dog scoots, make sure you look under his/her tail . . . after you have cleaned the carpet.


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