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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Scooting Dog

It never fails. My beagle, "Wilson", has made a real sport out of embarrassing me in front of guests. It may be a dinner function at our home, or friends hanging out in our living room enjoying some wine. That is when Wilson will position himself where the majority of company can see him, then proceed to sit down, elevate his back legs ever so slightly, lift his tail, and drag his butt across the floor. Sometimes it's in a circle, sometimes in a straight line, but either way, he certainly seems to be conscious of the best route to maintain the attention of the crowd. And the look on his beagle face? Pure ecstasy.

Of course everyone in the room is thinking, "Look, the vet's dog's got worms." Because that's what people think when they see a scooting dog. And what a nice thing to think when you're having a pasta dish at the vet's house.

The truth is, the majority of dogs who scoot, do so because they have an anal sac impaction. Anal sacs are paired structures just under the skin on either side of the anus in dogs and cats. The sacs are lined with glands which secrete a foul-smelling substance which fills the sacs over time. In some dogs, the full sacs create an itchy sensation, which they try to relieve by scooting. Usually the scooting dog can be relieved simply by emptying the anal sacs. All veterinarians, and even some groomers can do this. Some dogs need it done monthly, and some never need it at all.

Less-common causes of scooting include skin conditions around the anal/tail area (fleas, food allergies, hot spots) or proctitis (which is a form of colitis). Incidentally, the majority of dogs with worms do not scoot! Occasionally, the anal sac may become infected or form an abscess. In that case, there will be pain and a thick discharge from the area. Any dog who is scooting for the first time should see a veterinarian to make sure of the cause. If it is simply an anal sac impaction, subsequent episodes can usually be dealt with by having someone at the veterinary clinic (we use vet techs for this), or the groomer clean out the sacs.

I know of some vets who recommend routine emptying of anal sacs in all dogs. I personally do not agree with this, and only recommend emptying the sacs if they're bothering the dog (ie the dog is scooting). Of course, in Wilson's case I'm thinking of making an exception to that policy, just to save my dignity.