All About Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

what to do about anal gland problems in dogs?

Top on the list of almost every dog’s daily agenda will be food and as much of it as possible. An everlasting search for more seems part and parcel of a dog’s life. And, as nature runs its course, what goes in has to come out. 

Dogs have 2 anal glands at the point where digested food makes its final exit. Find out what these small oval-shaped sacs on either side of the anus do as we look into some of the problems they can sometimes cause our dogs.

Why Do Dogs Have Anal Glands?

Each gland connects to a tiny tube that secretes a distinctive and foul-smelling fluid. The scent of this fluid is unique to every dog. 

There are a number of theories about the purpose of these anal sacs and the fluid they produce. They may act as territorial scent markers. Other people think the fluid may be there as a lubricant to help dogs pass their stools.

The scent can let other dogs know more about one another. It discloses information about a dog’s sex, health, and age group. The sacs excrete the strongly smelling fluid when a dog has a bowel movement. Sometimes though this can happen involuntarily when a dog gets stressed or frightened.

Most dogs tend to go through life with no issues related to their anal glands. However, there are moments when these glands can become full, impacted, or even infected.  If you see any of these signs you should always contact a vet for advice in the first instance.

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Common Signs of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Diseased or impacted anal glands can be painful for dogs. It’s a good idea to recognise the signs of problems and understand what to do when they crop up. Here are some of the common symptoms dogs may display when they have issues with their anal glands:

  • Scooting their rear end along the ground
  • Looking around at their back end suddenly
  • Excessive licking, nibbling or itching of the anal area including the lower back
  • Blood or pus appearing in the stool or close to the rectum
  • Sitting down all of a sudden in discomfort 

What Are the Main Types of Anal Sac Problems? 

Anal sac disease is a term used to cover a number of conditions. These include anal sac abscesses, anal sac impaction and anal gland cancer.

When a gland gets infected, bacteria cause pus to build up inside the gland. The infection can create an abscess when the pus-filled sac and swollen tissue obstruct the gland opening. If an abscess goes untreated, it can rupture. This can cause extreme pain. You may see yellowish-green or bloody pus coming from the ruptured gland.

Impacted anal glands are also painful. If the anal gland fluid thickens too much, it clogs the glands up and can create masses that are hard to the touch. In typical cases, it’s possible to express the anal glands using sufficient pressure.

The anal glands can be where you’ll find cancerous tumors. They may not necessarily cause any pain and are common in more mature, female dogs. 

What Causes Anal Gland Problems in Dogs?

Anal gland problems are typically a small breed issue although they can sometimes affect bigger dogs. Miniature and Toy Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas and Beagles are particularly prone to anal gland conditions.

Other factors that can raise the chances of anal gland problems include: 

  • Insufficient fiber in a dog’s diet or a generally poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Environmental and/or food allergies
  • Parasites
  • Major changes in the consistency of the stool e.g. diarrhea or very hard stools
  • Serious or chronic skin conditions  

Do I Need to Express My Dog’s Anal Glands?

Most dogs will express their anal glands naturally. If they eat high-quality food, are a healthy weight and get plenty of exercise, you should not need to have their anal glands expressed. If there is no issue, you need to do nothing.

A requirement to express glands due to a medical issue can happen. Before attempting this yourself, you must always consult a vet. This is not a particularly pleasant procedure usually best left to your vet to carry out or for them to advise you on how to proceed. 

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How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands

If you are happy to express your dogs’ anal glands, and only on the recommendation of a vet, here are some tips. You will need the following:

  • Latex gloves
  • Petroleum or a water-based lubricant
  • A second person who can help restrain the dog

Place your dog on a table or, if they’re big, kneel behind them. The person assisting you should hold the dog by putting an arm under and around their neck. They should use put their other arm around the rest of their body and hold them close.

Put on the latex glove and lubricate the index finger. Lift your dog’s tail and insert your index finger into the rectum. 

Feel with your index finger and thumb for a small but firm round-sized object towards the base of the rectum. 

Once you’ve found a gland, put a tissue between your hand and your pet’s anus. Milk the gland’s contents outward by applying light pressure on the farthest side of the gland and squeezing toward you.

Once empty, you should hardly be able to feel the gland. Wipe the area clean and repeat the process for the other gland. 

Treatment and Prevention of Blocked Anal Glands

For many anal gland issues, expressing them will offer relief. Medications like anti-inflammatories and/or antibiotics are only typically necessary if it’s not possible to unblock your dog’s glands or they’ve become painful and have caused an abscess or infection.

If your dog has ongoing anal gland problems, your vet may recommend flushing them under anesthetic.

Overweight dogs tend to have weaker muscles around their rear ends. This can make gland emptying harder. Your vet may recommend adding bran to your dog’s food to help their anal glands work better and prevent further issues. 

Fiber promotes healthy digestion and stool formation. The impact of a solid, bulkier stool against the colon wall close to the anus makes expressing the anal glands when there’s a bowel movement easier. 

Consult A Vet About Anal Glands. 

If you have worries about any behavior your pet is displaying that might lead you to believe they have an issue with anal glands, talk to us now. We have a team of highly qualified vets available to offer you help and advice 24/7 every day of the week.

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