Is your pet scooting?
In most cases scooting results from your dog's inability to empty their anal glands (also called anal sacs). These glands are two small glands present on both sides of your pet's anus. These glands produce a thick fish-smelling discharge. Some pets will empty their glands naturally during normal defecation and walking around but some pets seem to have more difficulty to do so and therefore might require someone to empty it for them as it can become impacted and very uncomfortable, potentially leading to other complications such as infection/abscesses/etc.
What are the signs of anal gland impaction/disease?
When the anal glands are very full some pets will start scooting their rear ends on the floor, some will constantly lick around the anus and/or chase their tails, and sometimes signs can be less specific and your pet can become lethargic, in discomfort, avoiding to sit or walk, holding their tails down, amongst other signs.
What can you do about scooting?
The first step is to have your pet's anal glands checked by your veterinary professional.
Generally your vet will perform a thorough clinical examination to make sure no other issues or differentials are taking place. The vet will examine your pet's rear end carefully and assess both anal glands and its contents. After fully examining your pet, your vet will advise you on the best course of action. If this is a recurrent problem your vet might recommend changing to a high-fibre diet or adding extra fibre to your pet's current food. Please ask your vet about fibre options for your pet.
If the glands are empty and scooting is persistent, another cause for the scooting/discomfort might need to be investigated.
What are the possible complications?
If your pet's anal glands become impacted, an abscess can form and break out through the skin. This can be very painful for your pet and will require prompt treatment. Depending on the case this can include medications to control the pain, inflammation and infection, flushing the anal glands under general anaesthetic and further investigation might be indicated (such as sampling the glands contents).
How often do anal glands need to be expressed?
Anal glands impaction can happen as a one-off thing or can become a recurrent problem that require regular anal gland checks and emptying, the interval on which this happens can largely vary from case to case. After examining your pet, the vet will recommend the best time to recheck it in order to prevent impaction to happen again. If your pet starts scooting again before your appointment is due please call your vet and bring your appointment forward- it is recommended you bring your pet in as soon as you notice the first signs so that the glands can be emptied before it becomes a problem.
What if your pet's anal glands need emptying too often?
If the anal gland disease persists despite treatment, is causing you and your pet to be in constant discomfort/distress and/or it needs emptying every few weeks your vet might recommend that they are removed- this is called anal sacculectomy (removal of the anal glands).
Anal sacculectomy is generally a simple procedure with minimal complications when performed by an experienced surgeon. The anal glands area is rich in nerves and close to the anal sphincter musculature, both responsible for faecal continence so this is sometimes we don't want to disrupt. In rare cases where anatomy is much distorted due to recurrent inflammation and scarring, surgery and preservation of the normal structures can be more challenging but in most cases this surgery will successfully end the need for further anal gland intervention and safe you and your pet from the constant stress and discomfort of regular visits.
If you have any further questions about anal gland disease, please don't hesitate to ask your veterinarian about it.