Does Your Dog Drag Its Rear End?
Your dog's habit of dragging his rear end along the floor may be embarrassing and frustrating, but there is probably a good reason for it! Dogs drag their rear end because it itches, and there is usually an underlying reason for the itching. Here are the main reasons for why dogs drag their rear ends:
- Anal Sac Disease
- Fecal Contamination
- Tapeworms or Pinworms
- Perianal Fistula
Anal Sac Disease
Anal Sac Disease (ASD) is by far the most common anal disorder of dogs. ASD has no age or sex predisposition. It is caused by the clogging or infection of the anal sacs located on each side of the anus. The anal sacs are a musk gland related to the scent glands of a skunk. They produce a small amount of dark, foul smelling (to us), musky liquid.
A dog has two anal sacs. If viewing the anus from the rear, the glands are located at five and seven o'clock. The anal sacs are scent glands. In dogs, they produce an odor that identifies the individual and marks the stool to establish territory. That is why dogs greet each other by sniffing at the rear.
The anal sacs should empty from the pressure of stool passing through the anus. They also can be emptied by forceful contractions of the anal sphincter—something that may happen when a dog is frightened or upset. When they do not empty or the opening gets blocked, they fill and hurt under pressure. In an attempt to relieve the discomfort and pain, dogs may suddenly drop and drag their rear ends.
The signs of ASD are related to pain and discomfort. Recent illness or excessive weight can contribute to anal sac issues. Here are some common signs of ASD:
- Licking and biting of the tail head region (tail biting)
- Rubbing the anus on the ground (scooting)
- Jumping up suddenly while at rest, as if pricked by a pin
- Periodically staring at the anal area
There are three stages of ASD:
- Anal Sacculitis is characterized by pain and discharge from the glands. The discharge is a thin, greenish-yellow or creamy-yellow secretion. In severe cases, flecks with blood can be seen.
- Impaction is usually characterized by a thick pasty brown or grayish, dehydrated brown secretion. The opening becomes blocked and the gland can only be emptied with great difficulty.
- An anal sac abscess will be pushed through the skin. Once it busts through the skin, dogs will have a discharging sinus or abscess. The body will push the issue out and scar the sinus shut, resolving the issue.
Treatment for draining an anal gland abscess
- Clean area - Clip hair for ease of cleaning the area. Use a shampoo like Vet Basics® Chlor 4 to clean and disinfect the skin area. Topical flushing - Peroxide the area and use an antibacterial solution like Vet Basics® ChlorConazole™ Flush to treat.
- An internal antibiotic that penetrates tissue is needed. Clindamycin is the best for tissues abscesses – 10 day treatment is best.
Constipation and diarrhea can also cause itching. Diarrhea can leave a dog with a messy and matted bottom, while constipation can cause feces to get caught in the hair around the anus. This is more commonly seen in long-haired breeds. Fecal contamination can cause discomfort and irritation, leading the dog to drag his rear end to find relief.
As long as the fecal buildup and matted hair hasn't led to an infection, treatment is usually easy. Simply trim away the dirty hair and clean the area with warm water. If your dog is suffering from constant diarrhea or constipation, it is important to treat it.
Tapeworms or Pinworms
Although less common, tapeworms can be the cause of itching. When tapeworm segments crawl around the rectal area, it can start to itch. Pinworms do the same. This crawling and itching causes dragging of the rear end on the ground for relief. Tapeworm segments and pinworms can often be seen with the naked eye. They appear as tiny, rice-like segments around your dog's anus.
Deworming with common dewormers that cover pinworms will resolve this issue. Combination dewormers with Praziquantel are the best choices. You should see resolution in a few days after treatment. Repeating in 30 days will assure tapeworms are cleared.
A perianal fistula is a difficult disease that causes multiple draining tracts surrounding the anal area. Fistulas appear ulcerative in appearance and are painful, which causes rubbing of the rear end. It is thought to have an autoimmune component, but it is not well understood. The lesions are chronic, difficult to resolve and progressive in nature.
A mild condition can be managed with hair removal and perianal cleansing using an antiseptic solution. Using Prednisone for two weeks with or without antibiotics, followed by a maintenance dose of Prednisone, has had some success. Surgery may also be an option. However, once removed, the disease often reoccurs in another area of the rear end. This condition is best managed with the help of your veterinarian.
- Always trim hair from the area around the fistula before starting therapy!
- Internal antibiotic is needed early. Penetration of tissue is important, and Clindamycin is the best at tissue abscess treatment. Treat for two weeks minimum.
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.