There's no question that our dogs do some gross things. From throwing up yellow gunk to taking a keen interest in other animals' poop at the dog park, our canine friends certainly have some odd behaviors. Of course, we love them regardless.
Another common behavior that might have you groaning and averting your eyes? Your dog licking their butt. It's relatively common among our four-legged companions. You may have seen your dog twist at an odd angle to lick and chew at their rear end. It looks silly, but is it a cause for concern?
The answer: Maybe. Sometimes, dogs lick their butts simply because they have an itch. This is nothing to worry about. Other times, a medical issue could be to blame. A health concern is more likely if you see your dog licking their butt frequently or aggressively.
Let's examine some of the common reasons why dogs lick their butts. We'll also cover when you should call the vet for this behavior and possible solutions.
Why Does My Dog Lick Their Butt?
Unlike humans, dogs lick their anal openings occasionally as a part of their normal behavior. It's simply a part of their grooming process. Your dog uses their mouth and tongue to groom themselves, and the anal region isn't exempt.
If you see your dog lick their butt every now and then, it's nothing to worry about. But when licking becomes excessive or you notice redness and inflammation around the anal area, something is probably amiss. The possibilities include:
Anal Gland Issues
Your dog has two sacs, one on either side of their anal opening. These are called the anal glands. They excrete a small amount of liquid every time Fido poops, marking their droppings with their signature scent to let other dogs know who's been there.
Your dog's anal glands can become impacted, which means they're clogged with excess fluid. This causes your dog discomfort, and they'll lick and chew at the anal sacs to try and relieve it. Unfortunately, this can introduce bacteria to the area and cause anal gland infection.
Infected anal glands will require vet-prescriped antibiotics, and your veterinarian may need to express the glands in order to drain them of their excess fluid. Infected anal glands can also lead to abscesses, or painful collections of pus under the skin, which will need to be drained.
If your dog's anal glands are impacted or infected, you'll notice redness and inflammation in the anal area. Your dog may demonstrate scooting behavior, dragging their hindquarters along the ground with their back legs sticking up in the air. And, of course, you'll probably see a lot of licking at the area. It's time to call the vet.
Allergies are another possible cause of your dog's butt-licking behavior. If you've noticed your dog licking their butt as well as other parts of the body like the limbs, feet, and torso, allergies are a likely culprit.
Food allergies can make your dog's entire body itchy. In this case, your pooch is responding negatively to a certain ingredient in their food, such as eggs, wheat, chicken, beef, or soy. You'll need to work with your veterinarian to determine the exact ingredient that's causing trouble. Then, you can take steps to have your dog avoid it in the future.
Environmental allergies are another possible cause of your dog's behavior. Whether it's pollen during the spring or summer months or mold around your property, these substances could make your dog itchy. And one area they might itch is — you guessed it — their rear end. Talk to your vet about having your dog avoid environmental allergens if you suspect they are the cause of your pup's itching.
Have you ever wished you could help prevent allergies before they strike? Try Native Pet's air-dried Allergy Chicken Chews. They can help to build your dog's defense against allergies with an all-natural antihistamine.
Infection by internal parasites is another health issue that could cause your dog to lick their butt frequently. Hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms are some of the most common intestinal worms. You might see symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting in addition to excessive licking.
Tapeworms, while not quite as common as other types of intestinal worms, are particularly known for causing irritation at the anal area. Have you seen small white specks in your dog's fecal matter? Noticed excessive licking at the anal opening and frequent scooting behavior? A tapeworm infestation is a likely cause. Call your vet for help.
Note that external parasites like fleas and mites can also cause itchiness around your dog's anus, as well as the rest of the body. If the problem isn't addressed, serious health problems including anemia could result. That's why it's smart to call your veterinarian's office as soon as you suspect something is wrong.
A fungal or bacterial infection can also occur around the rectum. These infections might occur if a bit of your dog's feces remains on the anal area for some time or if there is an open wound around Fido's butt. You'll probably notice redness and inflammation in the affected area, and your dog may chew at and/or lick their butt to try to relieve the discomfort.
If you suspect a skin infection is causing your dog's licking behavior, give your vet a call for a professional opinion. Your pooch might need antibiotics to correct the problem.
What Should I Do About My Dog's Butt Licking?
Why do dogs lick their butts? As you can see, there are many possible reasons, and not all are worrisome.
It may seem gross, but you usually don’t need to worry about the occasional lick in the hindquarters. It's a common dog behavior, whether they're grooming themselves or scratching an itch.
Set up an appointment at the vet's office if:
- Your dog keeps licking their butt over and over again
- Your dog keeps scooting their butt along the ground
- You see visible redness and inflammation around the rectum
Anal gland problems will be addressed by expressing the glands and treating infections or abscesses with antibiotics. A skin infection, whether bacterial or fungal, will be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications. Parasites will be eliminated using anti-parasitic medicine or perhaps medicated shampoos. Allergies can be managed by adjusting Fido’s dog food or making lifestyle changes (avoiding certain allergens in the home, for example).
Would you like to help maintain your dog's good digestive health and avoid problems like diarrhea before they begin? Native Pet's Probiotic for Dogs may help create a thriving environment for healthy flora in the gut. Plus, dogs love the taste.
My Dog Keeps Licking Their Butt — What Do I Do?
As we've learned, the occasional lick in the nether regions is normal for your dog.
When licking at the anal region becomes frequent, or it's accompanied by scooting, redness or inflammation, visible worm segments in the stool, or other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, that pet owners should take note. It's likely your dog is experiencing a medical issue, and you should call your vet to address it.
Would you like to learn more about your dog's health or behavior? Check out the Native Pet blog for more articles.