I don't want to shock anyone here, but dogs can be gross. You heard it here first. Dogs eat gross things and shove their noses in our crotches without shame. And, to the chagrin of dog owners everywhere, dogs are fond of licking their own butts.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Own Butts?
Why do they do this? Is it simply to annoy and embarrass us?
Some amount of butt licking in dogs is normal. Like cats, dogs lick themselves for grooming purposes, and their anal area isn't exempt from this ritual. Since dogs generally don't have access to toilet paper, they may lick themselves to get rid of any fecal matter that's hanging around. Gross, but a fact of life.
Anal Gland Issues
Dogs have two anal glands, also called anal sacs, inside their anus. These glands contain an oily, fishy-smelling liquid that's used to mark territory and ward off predators. Most dogs release a tiny bit of this liquid every time they defecate, but it's common for it to build up within the anal glands and become a nuisance to the dog. When this happens, your dog will need their anal glands expressed. (Don't worry, most veterinarians and groomers will do it for a nominal fee.) You'll know your dog needs their glands expressed if you notice them licking their butt excessively and/or scooting around, especially if this behavior is accompanied by a fishy odor.
Itching, Irritation or Infection
Any time your dog is paying extra attention to their rear end, it's possible that it's itchy or causing them discomfort. This may be due to fungal or bacterial infection, an allergy, or a more benign skin irritation. If you notice excessive licking in your dog, it's a good idea to take them to the vet. The vet will determine whether an infection is present, and if so, what's needed to treat it.
If your dog does have an infection, don't freak out! Infections in the anal area are common because of the presence of fecal bacteria, and are usually easily cured with antibiotics or ointment.
Similarly, excess licking can be a sign of parasites, like fleas or ticks. Your dog may be licking to soothe itching or pain caused by these tiny jerks. A visit to the vet will determine whether parasites are to blame, and your vet will prescribe medication (and possibly preventative measures to keep it from happening again).
If your dog licks their anal area once in a while, they're probably just grooming. But if you notice excessive licking, it's a good idea to visit the vet. Dogs often lick to soothe discomfort, and discomfort could be a sign that something weird is going on, butt-wise. Talk to your vet and let her bring you, and your dog, comfortably back to butt normalcy.