Why would a dog nip at backside near the tail?

Our question this week was:

My German shepherd recently had treatments for heartworms through no fault of our own. The company that supplied the heartworm pills paid for everything since we had given her these without fail and on time each month since she was 6 weeks old. It has been three weeks and she seems to be doing better but she is nipping at her backside near tail area.

I thought it was a hot spot since this breed is so common to get these. This is my third GS to own. Anyway, I have looked for fleas, bugs, irritation, and I see nothing. Why is she nipping and seems to be bothered so much in this area? I am baffled. I have not called the vet since they are two hours away and they usually say to bring her in which is very inconvenient. Do you have any suggestions? HELP ME!!!!!!

Sincerely,

Angela Fava

Answer

Hi – thanks for your email. There are several reasons why a dog might nip near his backside. It is possible it is external parasites such as fleas, it could be skin irritation or infection (such as a hot spot like you mentioned), gastrointestinal cramps of some sort (some dogs can get belly cramps and have this behavior) and/or anal gland problems. Some dogs that have full anal glands or inflamed glands will turn around and nip at their back sides or do scooting (drag their bottom along the ground).

An article that might be helpful to you is "Fleas in Dogs", "Anal Gland Problems in Dogs", and Acute Moist Dermatitis (Hot Spots).

Examine the skin well to determine if there are any signs of problems. Look all over including in front of tail or in areas where the hair is very thin such as in inguinal area.

It sounds like your dog is uncomfortable. The best thing to do is to have her examined to make sure everything is okay. If it is her anal glands, they can probably express them and she will feel much better.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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