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Why Is My Dog Licking His Butt? What You Need To Know - PawSafe

Why Is My Dog Licking His Butt? What You Need To Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why is my dog licking his butt

We all know that our pups do some pretty strange things sometimes, but butt-licking (specifically their own butts) can be notably puzzling. While it may seem gross and unsanitary to us, there are actually a few reasons why dogs lick their butt.

Dogs don’t have hands like we do, so they use their mouths to groom themselves. It’s a natural action for dogs. However, excessive butt-licking can be a sign of an underlying issue. This was the case with a recent rescue dog, Penny, who had a rectal prolapse and growths causing her a lot of pain and discomfort.

If you notice your dog excessively licking his butt or scooting on the floor, it’s a good idea to stay alert, mainly when other actions like vomiting are observed. By understanding canine behavior and being proactive about your dog’s way of acting, you can ensure that they live a happy and healthy life. So let’s look at why dogs do this by also consulting Dr. Lewis’s work on Canine Recto-Anal Disorders.

If you thought your dog chewing paws was a tricky issue, how about a dog obsessively licking their bum? Most of the time, this is not a problem. But excessive licking can be, especially if your dog has a red and inflamed anus, which was my experience with Penny shortly after rescuing her.

Of course, it isn’t always a serious medical issue, as with my dog. Sometimes, this can be your dogs’ way to distract themselves or to deal with boredom. Compulsive habits can result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

Compulsive behavior is defined as behaving in a certain way excessively that comes in the way of everyday activities and this can include licking specific parts of the body. They are more common in certain breeds and are often associated with anxiety, stress, or boredom. It’s essential to address compulsive manners because they can negatively impact a dog’s mental and physical health.

Possible Causes of Excessive Butt Licking

When our dogs start licking their butt more than usual, it can be a cause for concern. Here are some possible reasons:

1. Normal Grooming Behavior

Dogs use their tongues to groom themselves, and this includes cleaning their paws after stepping on water after walks, all the way to their private parts.

When a dog licks their behind, they are not only cleaning themselves but also removing any excess fecal matter that may be stuck to their fur after a potty break. This is important for dogs with long hair. 

Normal grooming behavior is why I did not immediately investigate when I saw Penny licking her hind end. After all, I had a whole host of other issues to contend with since she was injured, an underweight feral dog full of parasites. It was only after going to the vet that I discovered that Penny’s preoccupation with her private parts was far more sinister and a bigger reason to worry than what it normally is.

2. Anal Gland Issues

Dogs have two anal glands located on either side of their anus, which produce a foul-smelling liquid that is normally released during bowel movements. However, sometimes, these glands can become blocked or infected, causing discomfort and irritation.

Signs of anal gland issues include scooting, licking, or biting the area around the anus and a strong odor coming from your dog’s rear end. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to take your dog to the vet for an examination.

Treatment for anal gland issues typically involves manually expressing the glands to remove any blockages or infections. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an infection. Your vet may also recommend dietary changes or supplements to help prevent future issues. According to Dr. Ronald Corbee and colleagues, the infection could spread deeper and should, therefore, be treated ASAP.

Preventing anal gland issues can be challenging, but there are some things you can do to help. Regularly grooming your dog’s rear end can help keep the area clean and reduce the risk of infection. Additionally, avoiding overfeeding and feeding your dog a high-fiber diet can help promote regular bowel movements and prevent blockages.

3. Constipation & Diarrhea

Constipation occurs when the stool is too hard and difficult to pass, causing discomfort and straining during bowel movements. Diarrhea, on the other hand, is characterized by loose and watery stools, which can cause irritation and inflammation in the anal area.

Some common causes of constipation in dogs include dehydration, lack of fiber in their diet, and not adhering to your dogs’ potty break routine. To help relieve constipation, you can try adding more fruits to your dog’s diet and increase their water intake by adding water to their food or providing them with fresh water throughout the day.

Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of factors, including dietary changes, infections, and stress. If your dog has diarrhea, it’s important to monitor their hydration levels and provide them with plenty of water. You can also try feeding them a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice to help settle their stomach.

4. Parasites

Parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms can irritate the anal area, leading to excessive licking and scooting.

Tapeworms are particularly notorious for causing anal itching. These parasites live in the intestines and shed white segments that look like grains of rice in the dog’s feces. The segments can also migrate to the anal area and cause intense itching, leading to excessive licking to alleviate the discomfort.

Roundworms and hookworms can also cause anal irritation, although they are less likely to cause intense itching. These parasites live in the intestines and feed on the dog’s blood, which can lead to anemia if left untreated.

To prevent parasitic infections, keep your dog’s environment clean and free of feces. Regular deworming is also recommended, especially for puppies and dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors.

5. Allergies

Pups can develop allergies to various things, including food, pollen, dust, and mold. When a dog has an allergic reaction, they may lick or chew on their skin to try to alleviate the itching or discomfort.

If your dog has food allergies, you may need to switch to a hypoallergenic diet or eliminate certain ingredients from their food. If your dog has environmental allergies, you may need to limit their exposure to the allergen or give them allergy medication.

It’s crucial to address allergies promptly to prevent your dog from developing secondary skin infections or other health issues. 

6. Rectal Problems

Sometimes, dogs may lick their butt excessively due to rectal problems. These issues can range from minor to severe and require veterinary attention. In this section, we will discuss some of the most common rectal problems that can cause dogs to lick their butt.

Tears

Rectal tears can occur due to swallowing a sharp object like a bone, trauma, constipation, or diarrhea. Dogs with rectal tears may exhibit symptoms such as pain, discomfort, and bleeding. Treatment may involve antibiotics, pain management, and surgery in severe cases.

Prolapse

Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum protrudes through the anus. It can be caused by straining during bowel movements, intestinal parasites, or lumps. 

My dog Penny not only had prolapse but also tumors in her rectum, explaining her behavior. It’s vital to try to catch these things early, as in Penny’s case, it was already very advanced and I had no choice but to opt for palliative care to keep her comfortable.

Symptoms of rectal prolapse include swelling, pain, and difficulty defecating. Treatment may involve medication and washing the protruding tissue under anesthesia to reduce the pain.

Polyps

Rectal polyps are growths that can occur in the rectum. They can cause discomfort, bleeding, and difficulty defecating. Treatment may involve removing the polyps surgically or with medication.

Tumors

Rectal growth can be benign or malignant and can cause a range of symptoms such as pain, bleeding, and difficulty defecating. Treatment options vary depending on the type of swelling and its severity. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are common treatment options.

7. Rectal and Anorectal Narrowing or Strictures

Sometimes, dogs may develop a narrowing or stricture in their rectum or anus, which can cause discomfort and irritation. This can lead to excessive licking and biting of the area around the anus.

Rectal and anorectal strictures can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma, ingesting foreign objects, infection, or lumps. In some cases, the cause may be unknown.

Symptoms of rectal and anorectal strictures include difficulty defecating, straining during bowel movements, and passing small amounts of stool. Dogs may also experience pain or discomfort when sitting or defecating.

Treatment options may include medications to reduce inflammation, surgery to remove lumps or scar tissue, or dilation of the narrowed area. 

8. Excessive Licking Disorders

Excessive manners in dogs can encompass a wide range of habits that are either unwanted or beyond the normal range for specific behavior. The most common one is obsessively licking the paws but it can extend to incessantly licking any body part, often leading to acral lick dermatitis.

Various factors, including genetics, training, socialization, and medical issues, can cause these manners. It’s essential to address excessive habits in dogs to ensure their well-being and maintain a harmonious relationship with your pet. 

9. Obstructions Around The Rectum

Sometimes, our dogs may have obstructions around their rectum that cause them to lick their butt excessively. These obstructions can be caused by matted hair or foreign objects that get stuck in the fur.

Matted hair around the rectum can trap fecal matter, and the dog may want to remove them, leading to excessive licking. Regular grooming and trimming of the fur around the rectum can help prevent matting and reduce the risk of obstructions.

Regular grooming and monitoring of your dog’s manners can help prevent obstructions around the rectum and ensure their overall health and well-being.

10. Infections

Various factors, such as bacteria and yeast, can cause infections in dogs. Yeast infections can occur in the anal area, leading to itching and discomfort. Symptoms may include redness, inflammation, and a foul odor.

Treatment may include antifungal medications and topical treatments to address the yeast infection.

Bacterial infections in the anal area can also cause itching and discomfort. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, and discharge.

Treatment includes antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian, which can help resolve bacterial infections.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

While occasional butt licking is normal, persistent licking can indicate a problem. Here are some signs that you should seek veterinary help:

  • Redness or swelling: If you notice any redness or swelling around your dog’s anus, it could be a sign of an infection or injury. A veterinarian can examine your dog and determine the cause of the inflammation.
  • Foul odor: If your dog’s butt smells particularly bad, it could be a sign of an infection or anal gland issues. A vet can help diagnose and treat the issue.
  • Excessive licking: If your dog is constantly licking their butt, it could be a sign of discomfort or pain. A veterinarian can examine your dog and determine the cause of the licking.
  • Changes in behavior: If your dog is displaying other unusual manners, such as lethargy or loss of appetite, it could be a sign of a more serious issue. A vet can help diagnose and treat any underlying health problems.
  • Changes in Stool or Defecation: If you notice changes in your dog’s bowel movements, such as diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, or straining to defecate, this could be related to an issue in the anal area.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to seek veterinary help as soon as possible. A veterinarian can help diagnose and treat any underlying health issues, ensuring that your dog stays healthy and happy.

Preventive Measures and Treatments

If your dog is licking their butt excessively, there are several preventive measures and treatments that you can take to help alleviate the problem.

Regular Grooming

One of the most effective ways to prevent your dog from licking their butt is to keep it clean and well-groomed. Regularly trimming the hair around the anus can help reduce the amount of fecal matter that becomes trapped in the fur, which can lead to irritation and itching.

Additionally, regularly bathing your dog with a mild, hypoallergenic shampoo can help keep the area clean and reduce the risk of infection.

Dietary Adjustments

Diet can play a significant role in your dog’s overall health and well-being, including the health of their digestive system. If your dog is experiencing digestive issues, such as diarrhea or constipation, it may be necessary to adjust the diet.

A high-fiber diet can help regulate bowel movements and reduce the likelihood of anal gland problems, which can lead to excessive licking.

Medications and Topical Treatments

Your veterinarian may recommend medications or topical treatments to help alleviate your dog’s excessive licking. For example, anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce inflammation and itching, while topical creams and ointments can help soothe the skin and reduce irritation. 

Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend a flea and tick preventative to help reduce the risk of infestation, which can lead to excessive licking and scratching.

By taking these preventive measures and treatments, you can help reduce your dog’s excessive licking and improve its overall health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is my dog licking his bottom so much?

Dogs lick their bottoms for a variety of reasons. It could be due to an infection, allergies, or a blockage in the anal glands. If your dog is licking excessively, it’s best to take them to the vet for an evaluation.

What causes a dog to lick his private area?

In most cases, dogs lick for grooming purposes. They may also lick their private area out of boredom. However, when they do it repetitively, for a longer period, it can be a sign your dog may need a vet visit.

Why does my dog keep licking his hind?

Dogs may lick their hind when trying to get rid of the matted hair or foreign objects attached to their fur. If your dog is still licking constantly even after trimming their hair, it could indicate a health problem.

Why is my dog constantly licking himself?

Dogs may lick themselves due to a variety of reasons, including allergies, infections, or behavioral issues related to stress and the need to self-soothe. If your dog is licking nonstop, it’s best to consult a vet.

Is it normal for dogs to lick their private parts often?

Yes, it is normal for dogs to lick their private parts occasionally. However, if your dog is licking repeatedly, it could be a sign of an underlying issue, and it’s best to consult with your vet.

Why does my dog keep licking his leg, but nothing there?

Dogs may lick their leg for a variety of reasons, including to try to alleviate pain and itchiness, or it is their way of dealing with boredom. Licking constantly, however, shouldn’t be encouraged as it could lead to loss of hair. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have discussed the reasons why dogs lick their butts. It is important to note that this is normal for dogs and is a way for them to clean themselves. However, if you notice excessive licking or other abnormal actions, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention.

Prevent your dog from developing anal gland problems by providing them with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Regular grooming and cleaning of their anal area can also help prevent issues.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.