Let’s talk about butts.
Specifically, let’s talk about why our dogs tend to lick their butts.
If you’ve owned a dog for any particular period of time, you’ve noticed that your dog can be pretty gross at times. While he or she may have all kinds of disgusting behaviors that he or she puts on display regularly, there’s something especially repulsive about a dog that licks his or her own butt. While you might do your best to ignore it, this is actually a behavior on which you might need to keep an eye.
As unfortunate as it might be, there’s actually a good reason to become an expert on why your dog licks his or her own butt. This could be the sign of a real health problem, so knowing when to worry is always a good idea. Fortunately, there are ways to identify whether this gross behavior is a worst-case scenario.
Seriously, Why Do Dogs Lick Their Butts?
It’s probably best to start with the most common, if least satisfying, answer.
The reason that your dog is probably licking his or her butt is that he or she is a dog. This is just one of those dog behaviors that happen from time to time. It’s probably part of the whole grooming process, even though it seems significantly grosser than almost any other part. Your dog is actually trying to keep himself or herself healthy by making sure that every part of him or her is clean. Yes, this includes your dog’s butt.
With that said, this isn’t the only reason that your dog might be licking his or her butt. Though a little butt licking is a normal part of a dog’s routine, there are some health conditions that could cause your dog to do this more often than normal. If you have noticed that your dog is going after his or her butt more often than normal, you might want to check to see if there’s something more serious going on.
Anal Glands and Butt Licking
Let’s be real for a second – it’s never fun to talk about your dog’s anal glands. The good news is that when they are functioning normally, you really don’t have to worry about them. Your dog’s anal glands are largely a self-solving problem, expressing themselves when your dog goes to the bathroom and otherwise being fairly innocuous. While they’re actually really important for your dog, they’re not something about which you are going to have to think until something goes wrong.
The bad news is that anal glands have a disturbing tendency to get impacted. When anal glands get impacted, they tend to bother your dog as much as you might assume anything that gets impacted would bother your dog. The actual effects are fairly unpleasant, so it makes sense that your dog would want to do something to alleviate his or her pain.
When your dog has properly-functioning anal glands, it will continually fill up with fluid and expel that fluid throughout the day. The fluid will generally get expelled by the action of your dog’s anus whenever he or she poops, which is a normal part of your dog’s biology. Unfortunately, these anal sacs can get stopped up by a number of different issues, which in turn is going to lead to a very uncomfortable situation for your four-legged friend.
So, how does your dog deal with this problem? The most obvious sign that your dog has impacted or infected is that your dog is licking his or her butt. Quite specifically, your dog is actually licking at his or her anal glands and doing his or her best to try to express them manually. It’s just as gross as it sounds, but it’s something that your dog is trying to do to feel better.
Licking at the area isn’t the only sign that your dog is having anal gland trouble, though. He or she might also be scooting along the floor, dragging his or her hind area along the ground in an attempt to both get a little bit of relief and to express his or her anal glands that way. You may also notice some significantly more severe issues such as pus or blood coming from your dog’s anal area. As you might expect, this whole process is a lot worse for your dog than it is for you.
So, how do you deal with this kind of problem? If you’re just noticing it and there are no major issues, you can actually learn to express your dog’s anal glands on your own. If you do notice something like blood or pus, though, you’re going to want to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Not only will your vet be able to easily get rid of all the fluid manually, but he or she will also be able to give your dog medication for any infections that may have occurred. If your dog’s anal glands have actually gone so far as to rupture, he or she might have to have surgery in order to have the impacted glands removed entirely – not the first choice for anyone, but possibly a necessity.
As a note, you should keep an eye on your dog if you ever have to express his or her anal glands. There are actually dogs that have a chronic problem with getting their anal glands impacted, so you might have to get exceptionally familiar with how to solve this issue on your own. While it’s never a pleasant process, it is one that you should be able to take care of at home.
Parasites and Your Dog’s Butt
One unfortunate part about having dogs is that they tend to pick up parasites. As you might imagine, dogs tend to put themselves in plenty of situations that expose them to places where parasites live. Whether this means rolling around in places where he or she shouldn’t be or eating things that really need to be left alone, your dog probably has a tendency to get things on his body that are perfect vectors for parasitic infestations.
The bad news is that your dog is also a perfect host for many different types of internal parasites. Most of these disgusting creatures can happily live inside your dog’s gastrointestinal system, breeding and feeding for quite some time. Various parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms not only tend to cause many different health issues that can radically impact the quality of your dog’s life, but they can also make your dog’s butt itch.
So, how do you know if your dog has any kind of parasitic infestation? The most common sign is that you actually see segments of the worms either in your dog’s stool or somewhere around his or her anus. Though this isn’t exactly a pleasant sight by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a good warning sign for you as a dog owner. If you do see this, you’ll want to contact your vet. Yes, you’ll need to grab a fecal sample at some point so that your vet can test it, but doing so will allow your vet to help you find a way to treat the infection and get your dog back to normal.
It’s also important to note that it’s not only these scary internal parasites that can cause your dog to start licking his or her butt. In many cases, external parasites have just as much of an ability to turn your dog into an itchy mess. Pests like fleas and ticks can make your dog start itching, which in turn is going to make your dog start licking his or her anus. If you notice that your dog is starting to itch as well as lick, you should thoroughly examine him or her for any parasites that have latched onto his or her skin. From there, a good bath and an effective flea or tick treatment should help you to get your dog back to a place where the itching and licking subside.
Itchy Skin, Allergies, and Infections
Another very common cause of butt licking is allergies. If you think about it, this is actually one of those things that makes a lot of sense. When humans have an allergic reaction to anything, they tend to get itchy. While we might treat ourselves by taking medication or giving the itchy spots a quick scratch, your dog is going to respond to the same kind of stimuli but scratching himself or herself as well as licking. One of the easiest ways to tell that your dog is dealing with allergies is to watch to see if your dog is licking and scratching at multiple parts of his or her body throughout the day.
So, how do you deal with allergies?
The most common types of allergies in dogs have to do with their food, so you’re going to want to take a close look at all of his or her symptoms. Talking to your vet about potential food allergies is a good idea, but you may also want to do a little bit of that detective work yourself. If your dog has started itching right after switching to a new food, try to remove that food for some time and switch to an allergy-friendly diet. Once you give your dog’s system time to reset, you can reintroduce the food and see if he or she starts itching. If that’s the case, you’ll know that something in the food is causing the problem.
Unfortunately, it’s also possible for your dog to almost spontaneously develop an allergy to the food he or she has been eating for quite some time. You’ll follow the same steps if that’s the case, but you’ll also want to figure out what in the food is causing the problems. It’s generally a good idea to start by looking at the ingredient list in the foods and to start eliminating them from future dog foods one at a time in order to figure out the substance with which your dog has developed a problem.
It’s not always food that’s the issue, though. Some dogs can actual become allergic to the same things that humans become allergic to, including grass and pollen. When your dog experiences any kind of allergic reaction, he or she is going to respond by itching multiple areas of his or her body and licking those same spots. As unfortunate as it might be, the changes in weather and blooming plants can even cause your dog to start licking his or her butt just to get some relief.
Finally, you might want to take a look at the possibility of skin infections as a cause for the licking. Fungal and bacterial growths can both happen around your dog’s anus, especially if he or she has started having trouble getting all of his or her feces out cleanly. This leftover fecal matter can provide a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of nasty growths, which are going to make your dog much more likely to lick in the area of infection.
Even worse, your dog’s licking can actually make any skin infections worse than they were if he or she left the area alone. The extra moisture will exacerbate any skin problems and can turn a minor infection into something that might need medical intervention. This is why so many treatments that involve your dog’s butt are going to not only require medication but why they will also require your dog to wear the cone of shame.
There are many reasons why your dog might lick his or her butt. From significant health problems to minor issues, the causes run the gamut and are always worth checking out. At the end of the day, though, you really do need to accept the fact that your dog’s behaviors can be a little gross and that he or she is no less lovable for that fact.