The Delicate Subject of Dingleberries (or Pseudocoprostasis)

The best motivation yet for keeping your pet’s rear end clean and groomed.

If a pet isn’t grooming themselves regularly, pseudocoprostasis (or dingleberries) may result. By: zaimoku_woodpile

You know the sort of world where your shoulder bag priorities are having separate pockets for poop bags and dogs treats, whereas your pet-less friend only tolerates a designer name hanging off her arm?

In my parallel universe, there are often 2 names for the same thing. Take “dingleberries” and “pseudocoprostasis” as a classic example. These 2 words have the same meaning, but whereas you nod knowingly over a dingleberry, the alternative “pseudocoprostasis” leaves you blank-faced.

Such is the world of veterinary science versus sensible English. And occasionally, these worlds collide. Sometimes I feel overly sheltered, because while I can happily diagnose pseudocoprostasis, a recent client who was worried about “dingleberries” had me scratching my head.

The Meaning of “Dingleberries”

When faced with an unfamiliar expression, I’ve learned to keep a straight face and wait for clues. When a patient had the word “dingleberries” as the reason for the visit, my immediate thought was some sort of skin tag. However, the truth was soon revealed by the awful smell following the dog into the room.

It turns out “dingleberries” is a cuter-than-the-truth word for feces trapped in the hair near the animal’s anus. The penny dropped. “Ah, pseudocoprostasis!” I exclaimed to my bewildered client. Although, to be fair, pseudocoprostasis goes a step further — it’s often associated with a fecal “butt plug” caught in the hair (gee, I hope you aren’t eating while reading this).

An Extreme Case of Dingleberries

This is now my new favorite word (I’ll get over it), and I use it at every opportunity.

The worst case of dingleberries I’ve ever seen was a Persian cat. A fast-food strawberry milkshake resulted in raging diarrhea that got tangled in the cat’s long trouser hair. The cat’s dingleberry was so extensive that it had formed a plug, and now the cat was unable to defecate.

The smell was offensive, and the client was so convinced his cat was dying that he actually dropped him off to be euthanized. Following my nose, it was easy to diagnose the problem as pseudocoprostasis — then the human fessed up to the milkshake.

Now faced with a nonterminal problem, after a smelly morning’s work clipping and bathing, the cat lived to snack another day (though I hope not on anything related to ice cream).

If clipping off dingleberries is more than you can handle, ask your vet tech to help you. By: 50-phi

How to Avoid Dingleberries

Dingleberries develop because of:

  • Long fur around the rear end
  • Upset stomachs
  • Lack of grooming

Fortunately, at least 2 of these 3 factors are always under your control.

If your pet has long or thick fur around their nether regions, then consider the pet equivalent of a bikini wax. Carefully trim away the long fur, especially around the anus.

This needs to be done with great caution. If you aren’t confident about trimming fur without cutting the skin, then ask a friendly dog groomer or your local vet tech to take care of things. It’s the work of seconds in professional hands to chop away the fur with a pair of clippers, and your pet will be all the better for it.

In addition, comb through the fur on a regular basis. It’s often a mat that attracts company in the first place. With regular grooming, not only will your pet benefit from a healthy coat, but also you’ll nip dingleberries in the bud.

Signs Your Pet Has Dingleberries

OK, stuff happens. It’s no big deal if your dog or cat develops dingleberries. Just recognize it swiftly and seek help to get it sorted.

The signs to watch out for include:

Other problems (especially anal sac disorders) can mimic these signs, but the giveaway is if their anus has disappeared.

What to Do About Dingleberries

When you spot an offender, avoid trying to wash it out. Water has a way of spreading everything and makes the mess bigger and more sticky.

Instead, put on latex gloves and use dry paper towels to clean things up. Once the worst has gone, then you can bathe the area.

Be exceedingly cautious about using scissors to cut the lump free. Often, tension on the mat pulls skin up inside the knot, so snipping straight across means lacerating the skin.

It’s best to contact the vet and have them shave the problem away. Also, feces in contact with the skin causes nasty sores. It may well be the dog needs treatment, such as ointment or antibiotics, to settle any secondary dermatitis.

Make sure to regularly groom your pet to avoid severe matting, as seen in this video:

Factors Predisposing to Pseudocoprostasis

If the pet has an upset tummy (such as the Persian after drinking a milkshake), this makes soiling more likely. It’s always a good idea to know what your pet is passing, so follow them out into the yard — or litter box — to see if their poop is normal or not.

Diarrhea can be triggered for all sorts of reasons, including:

  • Garbage gut
  • Parasites
  • Infections
  • Dietary allergy
  • Sudden change of diet
  • Stress
  • Medical conditions such as pancreatic enzyme deficiency or inflammatory bowel disease

If your dog is otherwise well and is a known scavenger, then starve them for 24 hours. Allow access to fresh water at all times, then reintroduce a bland diet.

However, if the dog is off-color, vomiting or passing blood, or the problem won’t settle down, then seeing a vet is a must.

So there we have it: the lowdown on dingleberries, or pseudocoprostasis (take your pick). Now back to my parallel universe to see what other surprises the clinic has in store today. I hope life in your parallel universe treats you well. Send me a postcard sometime.

vet-cross60p

This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Sept. 1, 2017.

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