Many people see their dog scooting across the floor and assume they must have irritation due to worms. However, scooting across the floor is almost never a symptom of intestinal worms. Instead, it is almost always an indication that the dog’s anal glands are full or impacted.
Every dog has two glands located on each side of the anal sphincter. These glands are filled with a liquid that is sprayed onto the fecal material when the dog eliminates. The pressure of the fecal material passing through the anal opening along with the constriction of the anal muscle help to express the liquid out of the glands. When these glands do not empty normally, they become overly full and the liquid can thicken into a paste-like material. The full glands cause an irritation and the dog scoots on his butt in an attempt to empty the glands. Occasionally, the dog is successful and the glands empty as a result of the scooting. However, often times, the material inside the glands has become too thickened and they will not empty when the dog scoots. In this case, the glands need to be manually emptied. This is something you can be taught to do for him. However, due to the unpleasant nature of the task, most people elect to take the dog to a professional (i.e. vet, vet tech, or groomer) to have them emptied.
Several factors contribute to full anal glands. Some breeds of dogs, especially small terrier breeds, are prone to having anal gland problems. Hereditary issues, such as position of the glands, can contribute to the dog not being able to empty the glands naturally. However, most of the time, it is an issue with diet. If the dog is overweight, then the glands are cushioned by fat deposits and are not expressed when the dog eliminates. Also, the diet can cause the stool to be too soft. Therefore, it does not apply enough pressure to express the glands when the dog eliminates.
So, should you worry when you see your dog scooting? Not necessarily. As I stated earlier, often times the dog is able to get the job done by scooting. However, if you see your dog scooting on a regular basis, and/or he starts to bite at the area or act as if it is painful, then the glands are probably impacted. Impacted glands can rupture through the dog’s skin and cause a pretty nasty infection. Therefore, it is important to have the anal glands checked anytime you see repeated episodes of scooting.