If your Shih Tzu “scoots” across the floor, rubbing his rectal area, he may have fleas or other parasites or irritants, or fecal matter may have become caught in the hair around his anus. However, the likely culprit is anal glands that need to be expressed. These glands, located on either side of the anus at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock, were originally intended to produce an odorous liquid that would be expressed to mark the dog’s territory when he eliminated. Over time and with domestication, particularly in small dogs, this glandular material is sometimes not expressed. It continues to accumulate, causing swelling that creates sometimes intense pain. The area on one or both sides of the anus may be tender and swollen, or you may notice your dog chewing and licking the anal area, scooting, hiding away as if in distress, or having difficulty in passing stool.

Have your breeder or your veterinarian show you how to express the anal glands, and keep a watchful eye for signs that your dog may be having anal gland difficulties. Many dogs need to have these glands expressed monthly to avoid more serious problems. The best time to do this is while the dog is in the tub. Warm water softens the foul-smelling matter in the glands, and it can then be washed away while the dog is being bathed. The matter may spurt out for quite a distance if the anal glands are full, so be sure to place a tissue across the anus when you express them. If you feel unsure about dealing with the problem yourself, you can ask your veterinarian or groomer to express the anal glands for you when needed. Left unattended, swollen anal glands may rupture and/or require surgery.