PET BEHAVIOR

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Butt? Should I Be Concerned?

3 min read Jul 27, 2022

You might notice your dog acting a little funny and ask yourself, “Why is my dog licking their butt?” This behavior may seem insignificant, but it could be a sign of a larger problem. In this article, we’ll cover a few possible reasons why your dog might be preoccupied with their rear and when it's time for a trip to the vet.

Why Does a Dog Lick Their Bum?

Dogs groom themselves with their tongues — the occasional licking of their nether regions is just part of the process. Breeds with longer fur can get fecal matter caught in the tufts on their hindquarters and it can get itchy. This type of grooming may gross us out, but it’s important to let your dog do their thing to help alleviate their discomfort.

Dog parasites

Licking is normal but intense biting isn’t. Is your dog scooting across the carpet? They may have parasites that are irritating their body. Intestinal parasites, like tapeworms, enter your dog's body in their larval stage and attempt to exit the body when they hatch.³  Dog parasite symptoms include discomfort in their hind area, leading to licking and scooting. When left untreated, parasites can lead to malnutrition and anemia.⁴

Fortunately, treating parasites can be pretty straightforward. Your vet will test your dog’s stool sample to determine which type of parasite he has and prescribe a medication to kill the invader.

Anal gland inflammation

Dogs have two small glands near their anus which hold fluid. The liquid is excreted from these glands to leave your dog’s signature scent marker behind, letting other dogs and animals know who they are.⁵ For your dog, anal glands may cause discomfort if they are impacted or infected. Many dogs will lick, scratch, chew, or drag their bums across the floor in an effort to alleviate this feeling. Constipation or blood in the stool can be present if your dog's anal glands are irritated.

There are many reasons your dog’s anal glands became inflamed, like insufficient fiber in their diet or allergies.⁵ Discuss lifestyle changes with your vet if your dog is frequently straining to poop. Your veterinarian may be able to “express” their anal glands to release the build-up. Antibiotics will be given if the glands are infected. In extreme cases, the anal glands may become abscessed and will require surgical removal.⁵

A father and son watching a woman vet examine their Beagle puppy.

Dog allergies

An allergic reaction could be causing itching and inflammation, so your dog may be licking their butt to give themselves some relief.

While it can be tough to pin down the culprit of an allergic reaction, once you do, the solution is simple: Don’t let your dog come into contact with whatever caused the reaction. Check your dog for fleas, which are common dog allergens, and review any shampoo you use to bathe your dog.⁶ Discuss these findings with your vet along with potential allergy testing to figure out what allergies affect your pup. They should be able to prescribe a medication to help alleviate symptoms for a dog with allergies.

How To Get a Dog To Stop Licking Their Butt

The good news is you have some control over this behavior. Work with your vet to rule out infections, parasites, or allergies that your dog may have. Follow your vet's recommendations closely to avoid aggravating your dog's hind parts further.

Consider changing your dog’s grooming routine, like how often they get a bath. This can help your dog keep themselves clean and create bonding time for you. Another option is changing their diet. Obese dogs tend to experience digestive and anal gland issues.⁷ Work with your vet to get your dog on a healthier path.

When To Take Your Dog to the Vet

It’s important to be an observant pet owner. Changes in your pet’s actions are subtle and may be easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Chances are there are other changes besides the aggressive, persistent licking. If you see any of the following symptoms, it may be time to call the veterinarian:

●      Vomiting

●      Diarrhea

●      Inflammation or skin irritation

●      Constipation

●      Unusual stool (e.g. worms or blood present)

●      Sudden, unexplained weight loss

●      Lethargy or weakness

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance

Hopefully, the excessive licking is the only symptom your dog is showing. This behavior is normal, but talk with your vet if it's excessive or if the area is irritated. Work closely with your vet to get your dog back to their normal self.

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider getting a quote for a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.¹ Our dog insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family member deserves, and can help offset the costs that lead to a diagnosis for your pup.²

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

¹ Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MGIC”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MGIC’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MGIC to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “Why Is My Dog Scooting?,” American Kennel Club

“Gastrointestinal Parasites of Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

”Anal Glands in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know,” American Kennel Club

“Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment,” American Kennel Club

“My Dog Keeps Licking His Butt and It Smells,” Animal Wised