A friend and client recently posed an intriguing question. Was it possible that the problem her dog was experiencing with scooting had anything to do with the food being fed?
Scooting is a problem that you may be familiar to you. Those who have watched their dog scoot around inside or on the grass, pulling themselves forward with two front paws while resting their rear on the ground, know what comes next. It’s an anal gland issue.
Dogs have two anal glands, one on either side of the anus
These soft sacs contain fluid which both helps your dog poop and leaves a signature scent on droppings. This is why dogs will greet each other’s backside- there’s a unique calling card back there!
When anal glands are functioning properly, they secrete some of their fluid as poop passes between and presses on the sacs. If your dog’s stool is too soft, there may not be enough pressure on the glands to release their fluid and it can build up. This can lead to the glands become impacted or infected, which will often lead to scooting.
Since a dog’s food is directly linked to a dog’s poop, there can be a relation to how the anal glands are reacting. If the food does not agree with the dog and causes diarrhea or soft stool, there’s a good chance that can lead to anal gland issues.
A low-fiber diet can also lead to problems
While we usually hear that fiber in food is just a cheap filler, a certain amount of fiber is necessary to aid digestion. Both soluble and insoluble fiber is utilized to process food.
Soluble fiber is broken down and absorbed along with other nutrients. Insoluble fiber provides bulk, or the “tracks” that help waste travel through the digestive system and out the other end. Without enough fiber, your dog’s stool will be soft or runny- a condition that can lead to anal gland problems.
Another common cause of softer or loose stool is overfeeding. While this may seem counter-intuitive, there’s a limit to what your dog can process in a certain period of time. This is often a problem with high-quality foods because they are so digestible.
Since less of a highly-digestible formula is needed to provide the required daily nutrients, it’s common to overfeed these foods. When switching from a lower quality formula with higher feeding guidelines, it’s easy to think the recommended amount is just “not enough.” Even with the best quality food, overfeeding can cause a digestive upset which can lead to soft or runny stools.
Consider some simple steps before changing foods
If you suspect your dog’s food may be contributing to the problem, an easy first step is to slightly reduce the daily amount being fed. If you’re certain you’re on track with that, you can add a bit of fiber to daily meals. A tablespoon of canned pumpkin works very well for this. Be sure you’re using 100% pumpkin, and not pumpkin pie filling which contains lots of sugar and may add to your challenges.
Another source of fiber is psyllium husk. This powdered ingredient is often used as a laxative or in baking and is readily available. Be careful when feeding psyllium husk, though. It absorbs loads of moisture and can cause impacted stools if over used.
Inflammation can also contribute to the problem
If you’ve reduced the amount of food being fed, added some fiber, and still have a problem, it may be time to consider switching food. This is particularly true if you’ve been feeding the same formula for an extended period of time.
When you’re pondering a change of food to address anal gland issues, consider the type of food you’ve been using with an eye toward finding something a bit different. If you’re feeding a food with grains, consider trying a grain-free formula. Although grains can provide fiber, they can also be a source of inflammation. If you’re feeding a grain-free formula, consider changing the type of protein(s) contained in the food.
It’s not unusual for a dog to develop sensitivities to a particular protein over time. Moving to a different protein often solves this issue, and you may be able to return to the “favorite” protein after a period of recovery.
Regular anal gland issues are not normal
If you’re used to having your dog’s anal glands emptied, or expressed, each time you visit your vet or groomer, consider some of the solutions mentioned above. Manual expression of the glands (a very stinky process) will usually relieve discomfort and stop scooting temporarily.
Manual expression addresses the symptoms and not the cause of the problem. You and your dog will be much better served by determining and addressing the underlying cause. Once the cause of the problem is corrected, the symptoms will disappear.
Your dog will be much more comfortable and your nose will thank you!