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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Butt? 8 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

dog licking its butt

Vet approved

Dr. Ashley Darby Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Ashley Darby

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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This article has been fact-checked by a qualified veterinarian using information available at the time of review. Veterinary medicine is continually evolving and changing. Dog owners are urged to discuss their dog’s care with their veterinarian and this article should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice for your pet.

While dogs don’t self-groom as frequently as cats do, they still will lick themselves now and then to keep themselves clean. Licking is normal behavior in dogs; you can often find them licking their paws, and there are times when they’ll lick their butt. Your dog can lick their butt to groom themselves, but there are several other reasons why they may engage in this behavior. Here are some common reasons why your dog may lick their butt.

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The 8 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Their Butt

1. Self-Grooming

While it may seem unpleasant to us, dogs can regularly lick their butt to keep themselves clean. They can also lick their paws and other reachable parts of their body if they feel the need to groom themselves. So, if your dog occasionally licks their butt and other areas of their body, there’s really no need to feel alarmed or stop your dog from licking. However, if your dog starts licking their butt frequently, it’s best to start paying attention and look to see what’s causing the excessive licking.

Female dog grooming the genitals by licking
Image Credit: _SOORACHET-KHEAWHOM_Shutterstock

2. Allergies

Sometimes, allergies can cause itchy or inflamed skin around your dog’s behind. Allergies to food or environmental pollen are common causes of an itchy bottom. There are several things you can do to help alleviate allergy symptoms in your dog. It’s best to consult your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. They may prescribe medication, topical treatments, or medicated shampoo to help soothe itchiness and prevent your dog from licking their behind.


3. Anal Gland Issues

Anal gland issues are another common reason why dogs may lick their butts excessively. The anal glands are two sacs that are located on either side of the anus. When they’re functioning properly, they will secrete fluids that dogs use to mark territory and communicate with other dogs.

Sometimes, anal glands can become inflamed and impacted. This is painful and irritating to dogs, and dogs may try to lick the area to alleviate the discomfort. Other signs of anal gland issues include swelling on either side of the anus and a pungent odor that differs from feces odors. Dogs will also often scoot or drag their butt across the floor. Anal gland issues should be addressed in a timely manner, occasionally impacted anal glands can become infected, leading to a painful abscess.

pembroke welsh corgi dog butt outdoors
Image Credit: Natalia Fedosova, Shutterstock

4. Skin Infection

Sometimes, skin infections can develop around the anus. A common cause of this type of skin infection is fecal matter in hair sitting on the dog’s skin. It is similar to diaper rash in babies. Dogs with long and fluffy hair and diarrhea are often more susceptible to skin infections near their butt because feces are more likely to get stuck in their coat. If they’re not cleaned, they’ll eventually cause a skin infection.


5. Skin Parasites

Skin parasites can also cause severe irritation and increased licking in dogs. For example, fleas aggregate at the base of the tail leading to extreme irritation, biting, and licking the area. Infection with mites (mange) can also lead to intense irritation of the skin. Keeping your dog on a good preventative treatment will protect them against these parasites.

Male Black Dog Lick Their Privates, Genital licking
Image Credit: KHUNNINE, Shutterstock

6. Intestinal Worms

Your dog’s intestinal tract can play host to a variety of worms which cause an itchy bottom. Tapeworms in particular cause intense itching around the bottom as the egg packets or segments of tapeworm can be stuck around the anus. If you notice anything like grains of rice around your dogs bottom, their bed or in their poop this could be tapeworm. Your dog can become infected from ingesting raw meat or fleas. Your dog should be de-wormed regularly to prevent such infections.


7. Wounds

Your dog may also lick their butt if there’s a wound in this area. Dogs often lick their behind if they’ve been nicked by a shaver while they were at the groomer’s. Treatment for wounds will depend on the severity of the wound. It’s best to consult your veterinarian. The wound is located in an area that can get infected easily, and getting specific care instructions from your veterinarian can help protect and promote healthy recovery.

dog licking its paw
Image Credit: KPhrom, Shutterstock

8. Insect Bite and Stings

Dogs can get bites or stings from all kinds of insects, including fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and bees. It’s possible for their butt to get bitten if they are very unlucky! Once your dog has been bitten or stung, it’s likely that they’ll start to lick the bitten area to try to alleviate the itchiness. If your dog has an allergic reaction to the insect bite they may vomit or develop hives. Typically, they will need antihistamine medication from the veterinarian.

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When to Intervene

There’s really no need for concern if your dog occasionally licks their butt. They’re usually trying to clean the area or tend to have a minor itch. However, if your dog starts to lick their butt more frequently, it’s time to pay attention. Check your dog’s rear and look for any signs of skin irritation, infections, or wounds. If your dog’s anal sacs are impacted, you’ll also possibly notice swollenness (if severe) and maybe a strong unpleasant odor.

Minor scratches or nicks may just need an application of antiseptic medication. However, it’s still recommended to consult your veterinarian first. Most cases of skin irritation require veterinary attention, as they’re often signs of more serious conditions, like skin parasites, infections, and anal gland issues.

It’s also important not to express anal sacs on your own, unless you really know what you are doing. This can be very painful for your dog with anal gland problems, so it’s best to leave this to a trained professional.

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Conclusion

It’s normal for dogs to lick their butts every now and then to keep themselves clean. However, frequent licking often indicates an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary care and attention. Excessive licking can be caused by a wide variety of issues, including allergies, bug bites, and skin infections.

Even though it may sound strange, it’s good practice to be mindful of your dog’s licking habits. Knowing what’s normal for your dog can help you quickly detect any issues and get your dog the help they need as soon as possible.

 

Featured Image Credit: Jiramath Noomuan, Shutterstock

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