In my clinic I see many owners every week with the same complaint about their dog: He has been biting at his butt a lot recently. It’s clear to see why owners would be concerned about this – your dog is in discomfort and it can be quite annoying for owners to have to see their dog chewing their butt so much!
This article will break down the most common causes of a dog biting at their butt and 7 easy steps you can do at home to help your dog.
My Dog Will Not Stop Biting His Butt and His Tail. What Do I Do?
The first step is to try and understand what the underlying cause is for your dog. We can’t hope to address the issue without investigating what the cause may be as all causes will have different treatments. We can start by thinking what the most likely reasons are for your dog biting at his butt and ruling them out one by one.
Top Reasons Your Dog Bites His Butt
While this is a common issue, there can be many different causes – some of which are more common than others and some of which are more serious than others also. Anal gland issues make up the bulk of consultations I see regarding this complaint and, for the most part, it’s an easy fix.
Here are the top reasons based on my experience as a veterinarian:
- Anal gland issue
- Parasite allergy (tick, mite, flea)
- Contact dermatitis/Skin infection
- Anal furunculosis
- Anxiety or Nervousness
- Foreign Material next to his Tail/Butt
1. Anal gland issues
Your dog has two small glands that sit just inside their butt, positioned at roughly the 4 and 8 o’clock positions, called the anal glands. These contain a very smelly liquid that should be naturally squeezed out when your dog goes for a poop, acting as a way of scent marking. However, unfortunately for many dogs these glands fail to express, leading to a build up of the material within and discomfort.
In severe cases, this material can become very hard and impacted or even infected. Abscessation, inflammation and soreness can all ensue, and the condition can cause your dog extreme discomfort. Often dog will frantically bite and chew at their own butt to try and relief the symptoms, but with no success.
Treatment may be as simple as having your vet manually release the material from the anal glands. In cases of infection or impaction, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication is likely required. Some dogs even require sedation to have their anal glands flushed out. For dogs with recurring anal gland issues, a surgery can be performed to remove the anal glands in their entirety, thus removing the source of the issue!
Some brave owners may want to learn to release their dog’s anal glands themselves – but be warned, this isn’t for the faint of heart and be sure to wear gloves!
Anal gland tumors are a possibility and have the potential to be quite sinister and often present similar symptoms to a full or impacted anal gland. Your vet will tell you if they suspect a tumor, they can perform tests and attempt removal if necessary.
2. Parasitic disease
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Parasites such as fleas, mites, ticks, or worms could be the cause of your dog biting at his butt.
Fleas will often live at the base of your dog’s tail where they will bite the skin and feed on blood. Dog’s will often have an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva, resulting in inflammation and itchiness. Similarly, ticks or mites can affect these areas, causing discomfort when they bite or burrow under the skin. Worms passing through your dog’s gastrointestinal tract can cause a lot of discomfort around the anus when they’re pooped out.
Parasitic disease is very easily prevented and treated; be sure to keep your dog up to date with their flea and worming treatments to prevent them from chewing at their butt.
3. Allergies/skin infection
Dogs can be allergic to almost anything, from cleaning products to pollens, and when they come into contact with an allergen the skin reacts by becoming inflamed and irritated. One reason why your dog might be biting at their butt is if they’ve sat on something that’s resulted in an allergic reaction. Inflamed skin is very itchy and is also susceptible to infection. Bacteria or fungi can invade the skin, resulting in an inflammatory reaction and lots of discomfort for your dog.
If you think your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction or skin infection, then take them to your vets immediately. While bathing the affected area at home may provide some relief, sometimes anti-allergy medication or even antibiotics are required.
4. Anal furunculosis
Sometimes referred to a perianal fistulas, anal furunculosis is a condition whereby abscess-like infected tracts form in the skin surrounding the anus. The cause is unknown but is thought to be linked to infection of the anal glands and German Shephard dogs are most affected. The skin in the area becomes very ulcerated and sore and will often lead to your dog frantically biting at the affected area.
This is a condition that almost always requires veterinary intervention. Anti-inflammatory and/or immune-modulating drugs are often prescribed as well as antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infection.
5. Anxiety or nervousness
A stressed, anxious, nervous, or bored dog may sometimes chew at areas of their body in acts of self-destructive behavior. Like when an anxious human might bite their nails, a dog might chew at their butt. The first step would be to rule out other causes on this list, but if your dog is clear of other conditions then their obsessive chewing might be down to a behavioral issue or anxiety.
Take your dog out more for exercise, provide them with plenty of toys and other distractions and if those don’t work then it may be time to visit a canine behavioralist.
The reason your dog is chewing at his butt may be more simple than you think – it might just be a game to him. Dogs will sometimes chase their own tail, and this can be extended to biting at or chewing their butt in some cases. Providing your dog with plenty of exercise and distractions will often fix this issue.
7. Foreign body/material near his tail/butt
The reason for your dog chewing at his butt might be as simple as there’s foreign material stuck to his fur around his butt. This could be poop, sticks, foliage, and anything in between. Be sure to check that your dog’s anus looks clean and free of foreign material because it’s likely to cause your dog irritation until cleared.
7 Steps You Can Take at Home to Help Your Dog
Here are some steps that you can take at home when your first notice your dog biting at his butt. While these are no substitute for veterinary intervention, they may be worth trying as the fix could be more simple than you think!
- Try Changing Your Dog’s Diet – some conditions such as allergies may respond to a change in diet. Consider switching to a hypoallergenic diet if dermatitis is an issue or adding more fiber to the diet if your dog is suffering from anal gland issues (read our related post: pumpkin & other solutions to help with anal glands)
- Run Anti-Allergy Calming Baths with Oatmeal Water and Gentle Shampoo – Bathing your dog once a week can help to remove any irritants or allergens that may have accumulated on his fur. This may also have a calming effect on your dog if they suffer from anxiety.
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- Gentle botanical foam-shampoo, cleans and refreshes without water leaving your pet’s fur clean and soft
- Try an Allergy Chew – allergy chews may help to alleviate the symptoms of allergy. However, they will likely only work for mild allergies so be sure to see the vet in more severe cases.
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- Effective Allergy Relief: These dog allergy bites help protect dogs’ immune system from seasonal, food and environmental allergies, relieving excessive itching, redness, sneezing, sking irritation, scratching, chewing paws or other allergy symptoms.
- Try an Anti-Anxiety Product – anti-anxiety products such as hormone diffusers can have a calming effect on an anxious dog.
- Use Interactive Toys to Keep Boredom at Bay – Keep your dog occupied with toys and exercise to prevent them from biting at their butt when they’re bored.
- Check the Area for Bleeding, Feces, or Parasitic Materials – ensure that there is nothing stuck to your dog’s anus that could be causing discomfort or irritation.
- Bring Your Dog to the Vet Before the Problem Grows – if the problem persists for more than a few days despite the interventions above then take your dog to the vet. The quicker treatment is started, the better the outcome.
More about Picking a Diet to Help with Anal Glands
As mentioned earlier, anal gland issues make up the bulk of consultations I see regarding dogs excessively biting their butts. Pumpkin and digestive products may help with your dog’s anal glands. Dr. Eldredge, Veterinarian & author of the best-seller: “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook”, shares with Senior Tail Waggers: “Check any pet nutrition blog and you will see pumpkin touted as a cure all for any digestive tract related illness – including anal gland problems, weight loss. Pumpkin conquers all! There is some truth to these claims, but pumpkin alone is not a cure for those problems. As a veterinarian, I have recommended pumpkin for all of those problems, including anal glands, but along with other treatments. The key to pumpkin’s efficacy for digestive tract problems is its fiber content. My advice: combine canned pumpkin with probiotics & digestize enzymes“. Read the article by Dr. Eldredge on Senior Tail Waggers – You can also read her 5 Tips to Help if Your Dog Has Anal Gland Problems.
When Should I Call the Vet about my Dog’s Biting His Butt?
If none of the steps above work then it’s certainly time to see the vet. If your dog has been chewing at their butt for more than a few days or if you’ve noticed blood or pus coming from your dog’s back end, then you must see a vet.
Diagnosis may be as simple as examining your dog’s anus, checking for any foreign material, swellings, skin irritation or discharge. Your vet will likely perform a rectal exam if it isn’t too painful for your dog – this involves them putting a finger up your dog’s bottom to feel for anything abnormal, they can also palpate your dog’s anal glands this way.
In cases where allergy is suspected, blood tests may be performed to help identify what your dog may be allergic to. If any unusual lumps are detected, then these might be sampled for testing. In cases of resistant bacterial infection then swabs may be taken for analysis into which antibiotics will work best for your dog.
Treatment will depend on the condition that is affecting your dog and could range from as little as $50 to upwards of $500. Some dogs may simply require a change in diet or having their anal glands emptied, in which case the costs are likely to be on the lower end. In cases of anal gland infection or impaction then extended courses of medication are often required and sometimes even surgery to remove the affected anal glands, this can result in a higher vet bill.
A dog biting his butt is unlikely to be affected by a serious/life-threatening illness. Most of the conditions above are easily treatable. However, it’s important to bear in mind that in some cases the issue may recur in the future, even if treated successfully on this occasion.
Anal gland tumors can be sinister and may carry a worse prognosis. Malignant tumors of the anal glands have the ability to metastasize elsewhere in the body and, depending on how aggressive the tumor is, they may result in a reduced lifespan for your dog.
What you Should Know Before the Vet Visit
Preparation in seeing the vet is key. Make sure you know how long the problem has been going on, how often your dog chews at his butt and any other symptoms that you’ve noticed in your dog. Your vet will likely ask you these questions, so being prepared will speed up the diagnostic process.
FAQ with the Vet
- Is there anything over the counter that I can give my dog for butt biting?
This depends on the cause of the biting. Allergy chews or a hypoallergenic diet can help if an underlying allergy is the cause. Fiber supplements can help if anal glands are the issue. Also be sure to keep your dog up to date with their parasite treatments.
- Does it matter if my dog is biting its butt or its tail? What is the difference in prognosis?
Either of these can indicate any of the diseases listed in this article. Some dogs will bite directly at their butt, some will bite at their tail instead in an attempt to relieve discomfort around their butt.
- Why is my dog so itchy but I can’t see any fleas or ticks?
There can be many causes of a dog itching. Allergies to something in their diet or something in the environment can lead to skin itching. It’s also important to be aware that dogs can still be affected by fleas even though you can’t physically see them on your dog since most fleas will live in the environment and transiently jump on and off your dog; it’s the flea saliva that makes your dog itchy.
- My dog’s butt is bright red and raw. What should I do?
You should take them to the vet as soon as possible. While bathing it at home with a gentle shampoo may help, it’s likely that they’ll require stronger medication to ease the inflammation.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.