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Scooting in Cats

By: Dr. Douglas Brum

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Scooting refers to the act of rubbing or dragging the anal area or perineum (the area between the anus and genitals) on the ground. Typically, the hind legs are extended in front of the animal as the pet drags herself forward. Dogs will scoot much more commonly than cats. Anything that causes an irritation or itching to the area under the tail may cause an animal to scoot.

The most common cause of scooting is anal gland disease. Diseases of the anal gland include impacted anal glands (by far the most common cause), infected or abscessed anal glands and anal gland tumors. Other causes of scooting include allergic dermatitis (allergies), acute moist dermatitis (hot spots), abnormal materials adhered to the anal area (hair mats or fecal material), tapeworms, skin parasites (fleas or ticks), and perianal fistulas.

What to Watch For

  • Dragging the hind end on the ground
  • Licking at the anal area
  • Quickly circling trying to lick the area
  • Licking at air while sitting
  • Foul odor from the anal area
  • Discharge or swellings in the anal area

    Diagnosis

    A good history and physical exam is most important in making a diagnosis. Visual inspection, too, often leads to a prompt diagnosis. Additional tests may include:

  • A rectal examination is always needed when evaluating a scooting animal. The anal glands, tissue around the anal ring, and distal colonic wall are evaluated.

  • Hair may need to be clipped in order to visualize the affected area.

  • A fecal examination may be recommended.

  • If a mass is noted, it may be aspirated or biopsied to obtain a diagnosis.

    Treatment

    Proper treatment depends on the cause of the scooting and may include:

  • Manual expression of impacted anal glands
  • Systemic antibiotics given orally
  • Surgical drainage of abscesses
  • Topical antibiotic or steroid therapy; removal of the hair around the area
  • Infusion of the anal glands with medication such as antibiotic or anti-inflammatory agents in chronic or intermittent anal gland problems
  • Oral antihistamines or corticosteroids if the itching is severe
  • An Elizabethan collar to prevent chewing at the area
  • Internal and external parasite control measures
  • Surgical removal of tumors and anal glands that are chronic problems

    Home Care

    Keep the area under the tail clean and groomed if needed. Warm water compresses are commonly used to increase drainage, decrease itching or sooth the skin.

    Excessive scooting should be discouraged, as it may only increase irritation at the site. Some antihistamines may provide itching relief and some sedation. Consult with your veterinarian first.

    If your pet has a frequent problem with anal gland impactions, you may be able to expresses the glands at home. Proper instruction by your veterinarian and a cooperative pet are needed if this is to be achieved.

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