Smith Mountain Lake Animal Hospital           Dr. Brian Weitzman
 "Come Join Our Family"                              Dr. Meghan Epperly
 Phone: 540-297-9188                                
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Dr. Weitzman's Articles


Dr Weitzman gives tips and advice for you and your pets.

(For previous articles go to and search Brian Weitzman.)

Our pets do a lot of things that amuse us throughout their lives and many of these make most people wonder ‘why do they do that?’. One of the more common questions I get is why do they scoot? Scooting is when your dog or cat drags his anus along the ground and it is usually a sign of irritation. It is not done as a neat trick or done to make a mess or embarrass you in public!

                There are a few common causes of scooting, some of which you can treat at home by yourself and some that require a visit to your veterinarian. The most common causes by far are related to the anal sacs and include infection or impaction of one or both. Worms, skin irritation, matted hair and tumors are other possible causes.

                Both dogs and cats have two anal sacs which are located between the muscles of the anus and have ducts that empty around the five and seven o’clock position if looking from behind the pet. They were probably a scent organ used for marking territory or to communicate with other dogs but do not have a real function in today’s pets. Usually your pet will empty the fluid from the sacs every time they have a bowel movement. However, for an unlucky few these sacs may become impacted or infected causing itching, scooting, bad odor and pain or discomfort to your pet. It is more often seen in small and medium sized dogs but large breeds and cats can also be affected.

                Treatment for impacted anal sacs is to manually empty them either internally or externally. Your veterinarian can show you how if you want to learn. How often this needs to be done is dependent on your pet and frequency varies from weekly to never. Most pets never need to have their anal sacs emptied as they should take care of themselves but some pets need to have them emptied so frequently that surgery to remove them becomes necessary to keep them comfortable.

                Infection of anal sacs is also common and requires more aggressive treatment by your veterinarian. Antibiotics are prescribed and your pet may need to be sedated to flush the area and have infected tissue removed. While uncommon, tumors of the anal sacs can also occur and are almost always very aggressive. If you see swelling or redness have your veterinarian do an examination to check for tumors and make a diagnosis to ensure a quick resolution.

                Tapeworms are another common cause of scooting and they can easily be seen as flat white pieces moving around the anus or dried rice-like segments in the surrounding hair. They are contracted when your pet ingests fleas and are easily treated with a prescription dewormer and can also be prevented with a quality flea preventative.

                If your pet has had diarrhea, feces can get caught in surrounding hair or can remain in contact with the skin and cause irritation and infection. Similarly, feces can get stuck on longer haired animals covering the anus and causing constipation. Eventually your pet will scoot or lick the anal area to get relief from the discomfort. This is best treated by gently cleaning and drying the area. Antibiotics may be necessary but usually trimming away the dirty material and applying topical cream with suffice.

                While amusing to some, scooting is a common sign of irritation in our pets. If you see your pet licking or chewing around the anus or if they are scooting often, look under their tail (if they have one!). The area should be clean and dry without a strong odor or any swelling, growths or discharge. You can look for tapeworm segments in the area and make sure there is not any matted hair blocking the anus. If nothing is obvious, have your veterinarian take a look as most treatment is quick and will leave you with a more comfortable and less smelly pet.

Dr. Brian Weitzman practices at Smith Mountain Lake Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 540-297-9188 or

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