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Dog Bum 101: Should I Wipe My Dog's Butt?

…and other less than tasteful things to think about. You’re welcome!

We humans are unusually fastidious creatures when it comes to our own bums. We have toilet paper of various thickness and softness, pre-moistened wipes with aloe, rosewater, even cucumber, not to mention bidets that warm, wash and blow dry our undercarriages. When COVID hit, our toilet paper hoarding habit made headlines. Prior to the pandemic, I’d ordered a case of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper while drinking wine. It’s sustainable, beautifully wrapped – and who knew it would make me look so smart, let alone be a hero to the less prepared!  

Back to pooch poo…when we notice our dog or cat has a dingleberry stuck to their fur, or their little round rectum is less than pristine, we can’t help but wonder if we should be providing a little sanitary assist.

Should you help your dog clean their butt when you notice they don’t have a shiny hiney? Or should you let nature take its course?

Why don’t dogs normally need help to wipe their butts?

How is it that healthy dogs and cats usually have a nice clean bum, but we humans require additional steps to keep our nether regions neat and clean? Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that there’s only air between a dog’s butt and the ground, and maybe a few wisps of fur. Unlike humans, who experiment with unusual foods and spices, pet dogs generally eat a consistent, standardized diet specially designed for good canine digestion. This results in nice compact poops.

Dog and cats instinctively keep themselves as clean as possible by grooming themselves with their tongue, which is why you shouldn’t reprimand your dog for neatly licking their privates. If you find yourself squirming in embarrassment because your pet has hoisted their leg for a self-cleaning in front of visitors, simply distract your pup temporarily with a toy and let them return to their bath later.

How does a dog get a dirty butt?

A healthy dog on a nutritious diet usually won’t require any additional help with their nether regions. But here are a few reasons why cleaning can get complicated for them:

  • Your dog is a non-shedding breed who requires monthly grooming, and long tangled fur is interfering with a canine’s normally perfect elimination system.
  • Your pup has grown a bit too pudgy to clean their own bum.
  • Your dog is experiencing diarrhea from eating indigestible foods, being infected with an internal parasite, bacteria, or virus that makes it difficult for your dog to control their bowels.
  • Your dog has a smelly or irritated bum due to plugged anal sacs – two small glands containing a pungent secretion that are normally emptied when your pup poops.
  • Your dog is experiencing stiffness with advanced age or has simply grown disinterested in grooming – or anything more strenuous than basking in the sun -- as they enter their senior years.

 

While the occasional cleaning of your dog’s backside is something you can manage yourself, these underlying health issues could require the attention of a professional groomer, a change in diet, or a consultation with your veterinarian.

What should I use or do to keep my dog’s bum clean?

Most dogs benefit from a monthly bath. Encourage your dog to sit down in a few inches of warm water to soften the debris around their bottom while you bath the rest of their body. Scrubbing at your dog’s tender backside with soap could cause stinging and irritation, and it’s usually not necessary. Once debris is softened with warm water, it can usually just be rinsed or gently wiped away.

Pre-moistened wipes or a washcloth can help between baths. Dogs recovering from a bout of diarrhea or who have constant soft stool due to chronic bowel issues may need a periodic clean-up. A soft cloth dampened with warm water or hypoallergenic pet wipes specifically made for the sensitive areas around a dog’s eyes, ears or butt, can be gently applied.

Keep the fur around your dog’s bottom neat trimmed. Use grooming shears with rounded tips and take care not to cut too close to the skin. Those shears are super sharp!

Getting matted fur wet can sometimes make problems worse. Matted fur traps feces and dirt and is slow to dry once it gets soaked. The dampness can cause skin irritation or infection, so call a groomer for an appointment. If you discover that your dog’s anus is entirely obscured by mats, this is an urgent issue that requires immediate attention by your groomer or your veterinarian before your dog’s ability to eliminate is entirely obstructed.

Feed your dog a quality diet. Good food means firm stools, and less of them – if you aren’t overfeeding. If your pooch is putting on a bit of a paunch, reduce their portion size and make sure you aren’t slipping your friend too many dog treats or fatty table scraps. Your veterinarian can recommend a food if you find all the choices on the pet store shelves overwhelming. Our Basset Hound ladies had a bit “too much junk in their trunk” when they first came to us and needed to cut calories. Our vet suggested introducing green beans (frozen or fresh) to add bulk without calories. We’ve also included a little pumpkin to Bella’s diet. The girl loves her pumpkin, and the fiber keeps her regular.

Always pick up their poop. Make it easier for yourself and use a dooloop!

Like Murphy’s Law -- “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” -- there is also the dog-doo ancillary, Lassie’s Law: “Any poop left in the yard will go right into the house (on a shoe).”

Sometimes your dog may roll in left-behind BMs, but usually it’s poo on a shoe that creates the biggest mess. By keeping your dog’s play area scooped, both humans and pets are less likely to encounter a sticky, smelly disaster. And by keeping your trusty dooloop close at hand, loaded with a couple clean poop bags, you’ll be prepared to pick up after your dog when you’re out walking together. Other dog parents will thank you for keeping their feet and paws poop-free, too. If you don’t yet have a colorful dooloop of your own, pick up a pack online here!

When you’re on your next walk with your dog, give thanks for the great job Mother Nature did designing their rear-ends to be as mess-free as possible. Then let’s pay it forward as pet parents by cleaning up what they do leave behind.

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