Rectal Itching in Dogs

Rectal itching in dogs is a very common and bothersome problem, which tends to affect large breeds more than small breeds. It can be caused by either parasites or allergies – read on for more information about the causes of rectal itching.

Anal Glands

Your dog’s anal glands are two small glands located on either side of the anus. They empty when your dog defecates and then refill with fluid secreted by the cells lining their walls (sounds horrible, but it is quite normal for dogs).

If these glands get blocked, they can become enlarged; this is usually seen as a swelling on either side of your dog’s anus. The gland then becomes hard and painful to touch (unfortunately, they can also become infected!).

Worse yet, if the gland ruptures, it may cause a painful abscess with a serious risk of infection.

Skin Allergies & Infections

An allergy or an infection of the skin (such as mites) can cause itching, which is then felt by the dog in its rectum. If this is suspected, your vet will need to do some tests to check for parasites and/or infections.

If you cannot see anything wrong with your dog’s rear end, but they still seem to be scratching, it could simply come down to an allergy. There are many causes of allergies in dogs; the most frequent causes of dog skin complaints include contact with plants, contact with grass and weeds (such as ragwort), flea saliva and food.

Food is a common cause of skin allergies in dogs. This is particularly the case with high-energy dogs; several studies have suggested that food containing high levels of carbohydrate can make certain dogs itch more.

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Remember that some dogs cannot tolerate common dog food ingredients, so it is essential to check with your vet before trying anything different. Often, a change of diet between two and four weeks is enough time for the dog’s skin to settle down again.

If you suspect that your dog’s food might be the cause of their problems, try feeding them for between two and four weeks on a high quality, hypoallergenic dog food.

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are another common cause of irritation to the dog’s anal area. Some of the most frequent causes are whipworms, roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms.

Thread-like worms in dogs look like pieces of thread but they can be several inches long; roundworms resemble spaghetti! They can all be treated with tablets from your local vet.

If your dog’s primary problem is with itching rather than pain, your vet might recommend a topical cream or ointment for the anal area. There are also supplements that can help with itching, such as vitamin E and fish oil that can be fed to your dog in a capsule.

If the problem is a large number of parasites in the gut, treated by anthelmintic (anti-worm) medication, it might need to be repeated after several weeks. This is because some eggs may have been missed by the medication.

What Can You Do

If your dog is showing signs of rectal itching, visit your local vet. They will be able to diagnose the cause and recommend treatment. Sometimes the anal glands need to be expressed (squeezed like a spot) which can sometimes help relieve an itchy bottom; other times they may need to be removed.

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Treatment for an itchy bottom caused by allergies may involve giving your dog antibiotics or steroids to help reduce the inflammation. It will also probably involve avoiding whatever is causing the problem.

Most parasitic worms are transmitted by fleas, so it is always a good idea to check your dog for these parasites. If you have been giving the same topical medication to your dog for some time, and they still keep getting re-infected, then perhaps this medication is not suitable (or effective) for them.

While it’s not unusual for an itchy bottom to clear up on its own, you should visit your vet if the itchiness lasts for more than a few weeks. Most dog owner’s want to help their pet as much as possible, but please remember that a dog’s anal area is very sensitive and they don’t like being touched there.