My pet is scooting and licking at her back end- what’s the matter?

Dogs are often seen rubbing their back end on the floor, cats are more likely to lick at the tail area, but both may be having problems with their anal glands. The anal glands are structures located at the 4 and 8 o’clock position relative to their rectal opening. Their purpose in wild animals is likely for scent marking and although wild animals can express their anal glands voluntarily our dogs and cats do not. They will express the anal glands when they are frightened at times, but usually emptying occurs with bowel movements and just walking around.

The material in anal glands is usually a thin liquid that has been described as having a fishy smell. If the material becomes thick and is not expressed normally, the anal glands may become impacted and possibly infected. Infected anal glands are painful and can at times open and drain purulent material with blood, making you think your pet is bleeding from the rectum. Fortunately, anal gland infection can usually be treated with antibiotics and pain medication.

If your dog seems to have problems with their anal glands frequently, we can sometimes make diet changes or food supplements to help. You could learn how to express the glands yourself or have us express them. In extreme cases the anal glands can be removed. The good news is, most pets never have problems with their anal glands.

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