As many dog parents know, dogs lick themselves all over, sometimes in weird places! So I don’t doubt you’ve seen a dog licking or even turning around to look at their back end. But, if this behavior persists, it can be concerning for dog owners, and affected dogs may be trying to tell you something important.
Dogs lick or turn around looking at their back for several reasons: anal sac disease, discomfort or pain in the rear end from arthritis, allergies, or excessive gas from a condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). Though all of these require attention, some are more urgent than others. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of GDV, they need immediate medical attention from veterinary professionals.
Not satisfied by that answer alone? The rest of this article will detail anal glands, excessive licking, joint pain, signs, and symptoms of GDV, and treatment and advice for all the conditions I’ll cover. So, if you need more information than you ever wanted to know about a dog’s hind quarters, keep reading!
Why Is My Dog Looking at Their Back End?
As I stated earlier, there are many reasons for this. If you’ve noticed this recurring behavior or your dog is engaging in excessive licking, it’s likely your pet can feel discomfort. Several medical issues can cause these behaviors, so let’s narrow it down!
Anal Sac Disease
One very common reason you may see a dog keep licking or looking at its rear end is due to its anal glands. When functioning normally, these glands are expressed when the dog has a bowel movement. The thick fluid secreted by these glands serves as a marking device, signalling to other dogs in the area.
Impacted Anal Sacs
Sometimes, these glands can become impacted when fluid is too solidified to pass through the opening of the gland. The impacted fluid inside the anal glands can lead to anal sac disease, causing infections or abscesses.
When a dog has infected anal glands, this can be very uncomfortable. Infected glands cause pain, and a dog may seek to soothe themselves by licking. Sometimes, a dog will demonstrate excessive licking, making raw and red skin around the anal area raw and red.
In addition to the infected anal glands, this skin can also easily become infected, reinforcing the dog’s desire to lick. It’s a horrible repeating cycle of tissue trauma and irritation that can only be stopped through treatment by your local vet!
Anal Gland Abscess
Infected glands can form abscesses. These are painful, hot swellings on either side of the dog’s anal area. Of course, your dog will be further provoked into licking these areas, which only makes the problem worse.
If left untreated, the pressure inside the impacted gland continues to rise until it bursts, forming an opening in the skin for pus and infectious material to drain from. This is very painful for your dog and needs to be treated by veterinary professionals.
Treatment for Infected Anal Glands
If you notice your dog licking their back end excessively, you may be worried. However, it’s always worth it to take them to a veterinarian as a first step!
Anal sac issues can be dealt with by expressing the anal glands, flushing the sacs, cleansing infected or irritated surrounding skin of the rectal area, shaving hair from the dog’s butt, and administering antibiotics.
Depending on how severely the anal glands are impacted or infected, or if an abscess has formed, the treatment plan will be tailored by your veterinarian to fix your pup!
Prevention of Anal Gland Problems
Like those with environmental or dietary allergies, some dogs can be more predisposed to problems with their anal glands. So if you see your dog scooting or licking, it’s probably a good idea to get them checked out!
Many dogs with recurring issues with their anal sacs can get their anal glands expressed regularly by a veterinarian. If a professional can express fluid from the glands before it becomes a problem, abscesses and infections won’t have a chance to form.
Just like humans can be allergic to dogs and cats, your pet can have allergies to things in their environment, food, or even a treat.
Unlike in humans, food allergies in dogs often manifest in skin issues instead of vomiting and diarrhea. Though gastro-intestinal components can be present, it’s far more likely that your dog experiences allergies through their skin.
So if your dog is spending time staring at their back end, it may be because they’re itchy from allergens.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Allergies?
Dogs with allergies often lick, chew, or scratch at themselves excessively. So if you notice excessive licking of the back end or that your dog’s attention is focused on this area, those can be signs of allergies.
In fact, many dogs who have allergies also have recurring issues with their anal glands!
How Should I Treat My Dog’s Allergies?
There are several treatment options for dogs with allergies, but it’s essential to get your dog’s body back into tip-top shape before you begin trying to figure out what they’re allergic to.
Since many allergies result in skin issues accompanied by excessive licking, chewing, or scratching, you should get this under control first. Residual infections may develop, and medications or antibiotics may be required to protect your dog’s skin.
Once that’s done, there are a few things you can do!
Since allergies manifest themselves in the skin, a dog’s skin barrier can quickly become compromised. Of course, it doesn’t help if you catch your dog keep licking themselves, either!
Medicated baths once or twice a week can give much needed support to your dog’s skin and coat, making it less likely you’ll see your dog lick. As a result, they’ll be more comfortable, and so will you!
Instead of an upset stomach, dogs who are allergic to specific proteins in their food will also develop skin issues that may lead your dog to check out their butt and be generally uncomfortable in their body. One of the ways to combat this is by eliminating common allergy-causing proteins from their diet.
Certain foods are manufactured with allergies in mind and are created with novel proteins. This means that the protein source is one that your dog has likely never been exposed to before, meaning they have not had a chance to develop an allergic response to it.
Feeding trials go for the long haul, as it can take up to twelve weeks for any sign of allergies to resolve. Keep at it, though! Once you find a food that doesn’t trigger your dog’s allergies, you’ll not only be giving them good stuff for eating every day but also supporting their health and wellness!
If your dog is too interested in chewing or licking their butt, there are medical options to help with that! Unfortunately, though food trials and medicated baths are great, they can only get you so far for some dogs with severe allergies.
Luckily, anti-itch medicine is available in various forms. Talk to your vet today to find something that works for you and your pet!
Since dogs lick themselves to soothe their wounds, it should come as no surprise that dogs feeling pain from arthritis will lick their aching joints.
Though arthritis can occur in any joint, some common medical issues for dogs (especially larger ones) are knee problems and hip dysplasia. These can definitely contribute to a dog checking out their hind quarters by looking at their backside or licking it.
Will My Dog Lick if They Have Arthritis?
This is a very common sign of joint pain in dogs, so the answer is a likely yes. Though you may not know the exact cause (maybe your dog sustained an injury from a jump gone wrong), you will likely notice your dog licking at painful spots in the hind end.
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What Are Other Symptoms of Arthritis?
Dogs in pain can exhibit a variety of behavior, but symptoms of arthritis can be varied and hard for dog parents to spot. Many of these signs occur in the dog’s hind end for common issues like knees and hips.
- Licking or chewing at knees or hips (above the butt)
- Recent injury, jump, or fall
- Trouble going from sit to stand
- Weakness in the back legs
- Dog arching its back
- Decreased range of motion
- Unable to go on long walks
Your dog may be experiencing joint pain or another acute injury if you’ve spotted any of the above signs. As always, if you’re worried about your dog’s health, you should see your vet as soon as you can for diagnostics and medicine to manage pain.
How Can I Help My Arthritic Dog?
Dogs with mobility issues can lead happy and healthy lives with the right combination of pain relief and support!
In addition to pain management, your dog can benefit from mobility aids around the house like carpet treads on stairs, no-slip mats or rugs on hardwood, vinyl, or linoleum areas, and easy access to the outdoors.
After a corrective surgery for conditions like hip dysplasia or cruciate ligament tears, your dog may require additional mobility aids like slings in order to support their back legs while walking.
Rest and proper physical therapy are imperative during recovery, and complications can follow if the surgeon’s instructions aren’t followed to the letter.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus
Gastric dilatation-volvulus is a serious and sometimes fatal condition requiring immediate medical attention. If your dog is showing signs of GDV, seek veterinary care right away. You can find more detailed information on GDV here.
Symptoms of GDV
If your dog is suffering from GDV, they may present with the following symptoms:
- Looking at the abdomen or back end
- Dog arches repeated standing and stretching
- Unproductive vomiting or retching
- Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
- Distended abdomen
What Causes GDV?
GDV is commonly associated with eating large meals followed by physical activity. This is because a large amount of material and gas in the stomach causes it to dilate, and as pressure goes up, resulting in increasing tension, this painful gas can no longer be expelled.
The abdominal pressure can become so great that the stomach rotates, leading to the blockage of blood to other internal organs.
How Do You Treat GDV?
GDV is an emergency and should be treated immediately, as the best outcomes are associated with early detection and action. Unfortunately, this condition progresses rapidly and can often be fatal to dogs.
First, your dog must be stabilized by a vet with oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, and manual decompression of the stomach. This is typically done using a stomach tube to release gas and lavage particles from the stomach.
Next, abdominal exploratory surgery is performed to de-rotate the stomach and permanently attach it to the body wall in its normal position to prevent recurrence of GDV. Due to the cutoff of blood supply, sometimes the spleen also needs to be removed from your dog.
As a preventative measure, large or giant breed female dogs will often have a gastropexy performed during their spay surgery.
Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Get GDV?
Though it is difficult to determine the exact cause of a case of GDV, several factors can predispose a dog to contract the condition.
- Deep-chested dogs
- Dogs are fed one large meal per day
- Older dog
- Related to another dog that has had GDV
- Elevated feeding
Additionally, particular dog breeds appear to more commonly contract GDV: Great Danes, Irish Setters, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, and Gordon Setters.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of reasons why a dog might be a little too interested in its butt, ranging from serious emergencies to common problems.
Overall, it’s best to use your judgment as an owner and seek the help of your veterinarian when you need it!