My Dog Is Licking Their Anus Constantly
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Accepting that dogs lick their anus is part of their responsibility of care. There are certain canine behaviors which may be unappealing to us, but which are necessary expressions of the dog's behavior. Keeping a clean anus is very important for dogs. Dogs in the wild do not have a human guardian to help with their hygiene. Fortunately, dogs have an evolutionary adaptation which means they can clean fecal matter from their anus with minimum risk to their health. This is thanks to a strong immune system and other physiological benefits. This does not mean a dog should be licking their anus all the time.
At AnimalWised, we find out why my dog is licking their anus constantly. We discover the reasons for this behavior and determine when it signifies a medical problem.
Dogs lick their anuses as part of their daily grooming routine. When a dog defecates, small fecal debris may remain on the skin near the anus. The dog uses its tongue to remove this debris and clean the area. When a dog neglects their personal hygiene, it is understandable they may begin to smell. If a dog licks their anus regularly, but a foul odor still remains, it is likely due to another problem.
While a dog's anus licking behavior is generally normal, there are some signs that may indicate there is an underlying medical problem. This is one that requires immediate attention. Some signs that could indicate a medical problem include:
- If your dog licks his anus constantly or compulsively to the point that they feel pain or it causes skin lesions
- If your dog exhibits other symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea or weight loss
- If your dog has difficulty walking or sitting due to discomfort or pain
- If your dog has difficulty defecating or urinating
- If your dog has behavioral changes such as increased aggression or irritability
Generally speaking, there is no cause for concern if your dog licks their anus occasionally and doesn't exhibit other symptoms of a health problem. Constant, compulsive or excessive licking of the anus implies there is an issue which needs addressed, especially if they display other symptoms such as itching, redness or of the dog is bleeding from their anus. In these cases, we will need to consult a veterinarian to evaluate the problem.
In the following sections we look at the main causes of why a dog is licking their anus constantly.
Sometimes dogs lick their anus because they feel discomfort or itching in the area. This can be due to a variety of factors. Parasites, allergies or various types of dermatitis in dogs can cause the skin to become irritated and result in the dog licking to relieve this sensation. This is a normal response due to the body's immune system working to resolve the issue. It requires diagnosis by a qualified veterinarian.
Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to skin and coat problems that result in itching and skin irritation in the anal area. These breeds include the French Bulldog, Dachshund, Shar Pei and Cocker Spaniel, among others. In these cases, the guardian may need to take preventive measures such as periodic coat maintenance and the use of medicated shampoos.
In some cases, dogs lick their anus constantly due to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation. When a dog has diarrhea, there may be a discharge of fluid from the rectum that can irritate the skin near the anus, causing itching or discomfort. Likewise, constipation can cause pressure on your dog's anal glands, which can do the same.
In both cases there may be traces of fecal matter stuck to the skin or hair around the anus. The dog will lick the area to remove them. The gastrointestinal disorders may also cause discomfort or even pain, so licking the area might be a way to relieve these symptoms.
Learn more about how to treat constipation in dogs with our related article.
Some dogs may lick their own butts simply out of boredom or stress. When a dog is experiencing emotional stress, they often find a physical outlet to vent their frustration. This is often in the form of a stereotypy, i.e. a repeated physical action without any specific purpose. Some dogs will lick metal objects, some dogs will run around in circles and others might lick their anus excessively.
Treatment of stereotypies can be difficult, but the most important thing to do is address the underlying cause of stress. This can require the help of a canine ethologist who can best help determine the cause of stress and manage the symptoms. This will involve a lot of practical work such as improving cognitive and mental stimulation. You can see how environmental enrichment for dogs can help this process by checking out our video below:
Inflammation of the perianal area can be due to various causes, such as the skin irritation we have described above. In rare cases, a lump near a dog's anus can be due to perianal tumor. This can be either benign or malignant, but either way it can result in the dog licking their anus due to the sensation it cause on their skin.
There are several types of perianal tumors in dogs. Among the most common symptoms are persistent licking of the anal area, pain, itching, bleeding and even ulceration. They require diagnosis from a veterinarian and treatment will vary. In cases of the lump being a type of skin cancer in dogs, chemotherapy or surgical excision may be required.
Learn more about the various types of tumors in dogs which can develop.
Anal inflammation can be caused by several factors, including feeding problems, bacterial or parasitic infections, and allergies. The dog licks their anus excessively to relieve the discomfort and irritation due to one of these underlying causes.
For example, contact dermatitis can result in constant licking. If there is a chemical or compound on the floor which can react with the skin, sitting on the floor causes a reaction due to contact. In this case, treatment will focus on managing the symptoms and removing the agent from their environment.
Full or impacted anal sacs
Dogs have two small anal glands on the sides of the anus known as sacs. They secrete a pungent, odorous fluid which is important for canine communication and also helps to lubricate when defecating. This fluid is normally expelled during defecation, but sometimes it can build up and cause discomfort. In these cases, the dog can lick their anus and their anal sacs to try to relieve this discomfort.
An anal gland infection can occur in the dog when the anal gland is infiltrated by bacteria. This can cause impaction of the gland meaning the fluid cannot be released. In these cases, the glands themselves can become very painful and enlarged. Not only does the anal gland need to be expressed, but the bacterial infection needs to be treated. This is usually with a course of antibiotics.
External parasites such as fleas or ticks can cause a dog to scratch and lick their anus. This is due to the irritation they cause on their skin. Internal parasites can also be a cause of excessive anal licking. Intestinal parasites in dogas can be in various forms, such as roundworms or hookworms. These parasites can cause anal irritation in various ways.
If the parasite lays eggs in the gastrointestinal tract, they can be excreted by the dog to repeat the infestation cycle. Sometimes the adult worms can be seen in the dog's feces. In these cases, they can cause irritation when excreted. Not only will treatment with antiparasitic drugs be required, we will need to establish a proper deworming schedule for the dog to ensure it does not happen again.
In rare cases, a dog may lick his anus constantly due to neurological problems. These can be a spinal cord injury or nervous system disease which results in various behavioral issues, including excessive anal licking. These are usually isolated cases, but will require veterinary consultation. Neurological degeneration can be a factor. Neurological disorders are more common in older dogs, so we should consider this if our dog is a senior.
What to do if your dog licks their anus constantly
We have discussed both the causes and treatment of a dog constantly licking their anus. However, there are some general factors to consider which can promote good anal hygiene in dogs and help to prevent some of these issues. Regardless if your dog licks their anus constantly, you should consider the following:
- Veterinary visits : If you suspect a health problem, it is important to take your dog to the vet for an evaluation. Your veterinarian can perform a complete physical examination and recommend laboratory tests to determine the cause of your dog's behavior. We should also provide regular veterinary checkups to ensure their wellbeing and catch problems early for better prognosis, especially for health problems in senior dogs.
- Keep the anus area clean: if your dog licks his butt because there is dirt or feces, it is important to keep the area clean. This can be done with a damp cloth or dog wipes. Some dogs may have physical issues which can make licking the area more difficult and will need more help than others. Additionally, trimming the hair around your dog's anus can help keep the area clean and prevent the buildup of feces.
- Change their diet: if your dog licks their anus due to digestive problems, the cause may lie in their diet. Your veterinarian can recommend the diet that best suits your dog's needs.
- Exercise: exercise can help prevent constipation and improve your dog's overall health. Additionally, physical activity can also help reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to this behavior.
- Use suitable products: do not use a product which will cause skin irritation, either on the dog directly or in places within the home with which the dog can come into contact. Natural products can help, but even these can be irritating if the dog has a sensitivity to them. It is important to consult your veterinarian before using any product.
If your dog is constantly licking their anus, it is important to identify the underlying cause and take appropriate action. In many cases, a visit to the veterinarian can help resolve the problem and prevent complications.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Is Licking Their Anus Constantly, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.