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canine health problems

Why your dog might be licking their butt

Occasional backside grooming is normal, but excessive licking may be a sign for concern.

Updated September 29, 2021

Created By

Mariah Ackary,

The essentials

  • Persistent butt licking is a sign that your dog is uncomfortable — Licking is one way that dogs attempt to self-soothe when they’re in pain.
  • Infections, allergies, and parasites are often to blame — These common culprits are no big deal when addressed quickly.
  • It’s best to see a veterinarian as soon as possible — Though most causes are easily treated, you’ll often need medication.

Why do dogs lick their butts?

As any dog parent knows, dogs are sometimes gross. Licking their nether-region is often just a part of regular self-grooming, but increased or obsessive rear-end licking usually indicates a health concern.

Dogs lick themselves in an attempt to soothe something that hurts or itches. If they’re licking their butt, it’s probably because something feels wrong.

Causes of excessive butt licking

Luckily, most causes of butt licking are not severe when addressed quickly. It’s most often caused by an infection of some sort. Here are a few of the most common reasons your dog might be more interested in their bum than usual.

Anal gland problems

Dogs have glands near their anus, which naturally fill up with fluid. When they poop, the fluid is supposed to be expelled. However, sometimes the glands become clogged (impacted) and infected, creating an abscess.

This build up will feel itchy and painful, so you might notice your dog lick or itch at the area or scoot their bottom on the ground. Your dog’s anus area may be red, bloody, or leaking pus-like secretions, in which case you certainly don’t want them scooting across your carpet.

If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t wait to take your dog to the vet. Veterinarians are trained to expel this fluid in a way that’s safe and as painless as possible for your pup. Plus, a bacterial infection will require antibiotic treatment.

In a worst case scenario, an anal sac impactions may rupture. Not only is this painful for your dog, but it requires surgery to heal.

For no reason in particular, some dogs may be more prone to anal gland issues. If the issue is recurring and you’re sick of vet visits, talk to your veterinarian about how you can safely expel your dog’s anal glands at home.

Parasites

Several types of parasites can cause anal irritation. Internal parasites — like tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms — will invade your dog’s intestines and often show up as little white specks in their bowel movements. An inflamed bottom is just one symptom. Vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss may be present, too.

External parasites, like mites or fleas, can affect your dog’s bum just as easily as any other area. Rather than gastrointestinal problems, they’ll likely be insatiably itchy in that area and others.

Allergies

Like humans, one of the top symptoms of an allergic reaction in dogs is itching. Since the bum is a sensitive area, they may be attempting to relieve some itchiness by licking the anal area. If they’re experiencing an allergic reaction, you’ll probably see them licking or itching several areas of their body — not just their back end.

Dogs can have environmental allergies, dog food allergies, and medical allergies, so it might not be clear what’s causing the reaction right away. Other signs of an allergic reaction may include cold-like symptoms, such as watery eyes, swollen face, runny nose, trouble breathing, coughing, or chronic ear infections. You also might notice inflamed skin, fur loss, vomiting, or  diarrhea.

Skin infections

It’s easy for the area surrounding your dog’s butt to get infected. It’s often exposed to feces, so punctured skin on their backside is especially prone to bacterial or fungal infection. Some breeds, like bulldogs, are especially prone to skin infections because of their tail pockets.

Two common types of skin infection are staph infections and yeast infections. With both, they may experience hair loss, crusty or inflamed skin, or a foul smell.

Unfortunately, the persistent licking can actually intensify the infection, creating a moist environment that allows bacteria and fungi to thrive. This creates a hot spot, which usually needs to dry out in order to heal.

Anxiety

When humans are nervous or bored, they might bite their nails, twist their hair, or fixate on some other task. Dogs can obsessively lick themselves for the same reason.

While it’s uncommon for an anxious dog to solely focus on licking their butt, it’s possible. Consider whether your dog is getting enough playtime or if they seem to have a problem with separation anxiety.

Sometimes, over-the-counter supplements can help your dog relax.  Check out our favorite, vet-approved calming supplements for dogs to see if there’s a good match. If you want to try a natural remedy, talk to your vet about valerian root for dogs, which you can get over the counter as well.

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Diagnosis and treatment

If your dog is licking their bum an increased or excessive amount, it’s a good idea to take them in for a veterinarian visit ASAP. Though most underlying causes aren’t life-threatening when handled quickly, they can become more severe with time and often require medication for treatment.

For an infection, your vet will likely prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic. Internal parasites will require a dewormer, while fleas or mites might require medicated shampoo.

If allergies are to blame, your vet will help you determine the allergen and come up with a game plan for avoiding exposure.

🚨 It’s important to seek professional help since diagnosing and treating most of these conditions requires a keen eye and special treatment.

Preventing excessive butt licking

Good hygiene can reduce the chances of infection — regular bathing and monitoring your dog for open wounds will help you identify a problem before it escalates.

Keep an eye on your dog while they’re outside, and make sure they don’t consume fecal matter or anything else. Often, dogs get worms by ingesting other dog’s poop or contaminated soil.

Even with great hygiene and care, problems with your dog’s bum aren’t 100% avoidable, so don’t freak out if you notice a problem. A veterinarian can help you quickly address it and get things back to normal in no time.