Dog Anal Glands Treatment and Symptoms

Dog Health January 19, 2024
Dog Anal Glands Treatment and Symptoms
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Dog Anal Glands Treatment and Symptoms

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Dog Anal Glands Treatment and Symptoms

Anal gland problems affect millions of pets and can be costly and inconvenient. These issues arise when the anal glands become overfilled, blocked, or irritated.

These small glands, usually the size of a grape, release scent-marking fluid during defecation. Pet parents should consult their veterinarian for regular checkups, but they can be costly and inconvenient.

Do Dogs Need to Have Their Anal Glands Expressed?

Most dogs involuntarily express their anal glands, but if their nutritional needs are met, they should not need to be expressed. If not, consult a vet for routine expression.

Some dogs may require manual expression due to stool changes, which can cause glands to become irritated, inflamed, infected, or impacted.

If anal gland infections, impaction, or abscessation occur, it is best to have them expressed every 3–4 weeks.

How Often Do Dogs’ Anal Glands Need to be Expressed?

Dogs’ anal glands’ frequency depends on their health, but some can become full, impacted, blocked, or infected.

Blockage occurs from inflammation of the ducts, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty in bathroom use.

Anal Gland Problems and Symptoms in Dogs

Excessive anal gland filling in pets can cause discomfort, pressure, and symptoms like scooting, foul odor, licking, straining to defecate, and redness or swelling. Infected glands may require surgery, pain medication, and antibiotics for recovery.

Scooting may be caused by parasites, digestive problems, or an itchy butt.

Infected dogs may scoot more than once or twice, lick their rear end, and show redness or swelling around the sphincter.

Symptoms of anal gland problems include:

  • A bump or bulge near the anus
  • Red and irritated skin
  • Warm or painful areas
  • Brown or red discharge leaking from the anal gland openings
  • Openings or wounds near the anus
  • Licking the tail base
  • Straining to defecate
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Crying out or whimpering during bowel movements
  • Frequent sitting and/or odors

What Causes Impacted Dog Anal Glands?

Drugs, chemicals, poor nutrition, and vaccines are the main culprits behind anal gland problems in dogs. The body tries to eliminate these toxins through the skin, liver, and anal glands. Diet plays a significant role in anal gland problems, as processed and raw foods are too soft.

A balanced diet with fiber promotes wide push of the anus during defecation, allowing the glands to express properly.

Removing the anal glands is not recommended as it can cause permanent damage and prevent the body from cleansing itself.

Do Dogs Express Anal Glands On Their Own?

Dogs can naturally express their anal glands during pooping, releasing small amounts of liquid. Stress can also cause involuntary expression, resulting in a strong, unpleasant odor in stressed or frightened dogs.

What is the Purpose of a Dog’s Anal Sac?

Dogs have two anal sacs, or anal glands, located on the lower sides of their anus, which produce excretion with a scent that identifies them and tells other dogs about their sex, health, and age. These sacs express fluid when the dog has a bowel movement.

However, a poor diet or inherited biological problems can cause the sac to malfunction, making bowel movements difficult or painful. It’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible to avoid damaging the delicate tissue around the anus.

Your veterinarian can manually express the glands, but most owners prefer to pay for the procedure.

How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Dog Anal Glands Treatment and Symptoms

Anal gland infections are common problems in dogs, as they serve to mark bowel movements with their unique scent. To prevent infection and impaction, manual anal gland expression is recommended.

This can be done at home using disposable gloves, Vaseline, paper towels, and a warm soapy washcloth.

To express the anal glands:

  • Stand or kneel behind your dog with a friend gently restraining them
  • Insert the lubricated index finger of your right hand into the anus, ensuring not to block the opening with your index finger
  • Squeeze your thumb and index finger together to “milk” the fluid from the gland, ensuring the hole is not blocked
  • Hold a paper towel in front of the area, as the gland may express with force and squirt backwards

Normal fluid should have a brown, thin, and strong odor. Thick, chunky, or discolored fluid indicates a problem. It takes practice to express the anal glands, so don’t be discouraged. If you have any questions, consult your veterinarian or veterinary technician.

After expressing the left and right glands, use a warm, soapy washcloth to clean up the area. Anal glands have a strong, sometimes fishy smell, so it’s important to clean up your dog’s bottom to prevent the smell from lingering.

What Happens if Your Dog’s Anal Glands Are Not Expressed?

Dogs with difficulty urinating may have glands that swell due to thickening fluid.

Bacteria infected by defecation can reside in these glands, leading to the formation of anal sacs filled with pus, which can block anal fluid from leaving the body.

This painful and messy condition necessitates veterinarian treatment.

When Should You See Your Vet

If your dog has impacted anal glands, consult your vet for treatment. If you notice redness, swelling, or a pimple-like appearance, the gland is likely infected or abscessed. A ruptured abscess is an emergency and should be treated immediately.

If impacted anal glands are recurring, consult your vet to determine if there’s an underlying condition like a tumor or thyroid disorder that needs treatment.

What is the Treatment for Anal Gland Problems?

The vet will examine your dog’s nose to tail, performing a rectal exam to evaluate the anal sacs and surrounding structures. If full, the vet may express the glands.

If anal glands are abscess or ruptured, the vet may flush them out or prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.

In some cases, anal sac problems in domesticated dogs may require surgery, but this requires general anesthesia and may cause nerve damage.

Are Certain Breeds Predisposed to Anal Gland Issues?

Anal sac disease is more common in smaller and older dogs, with certain breeds such as King Charles spaniels, Cocker spaniels, Shih Tzus, Bison Frisé, and Cocker spaniel and poodle mixes at higher risk, though research on this topic is limited.

How Can you Prevent Anal Gland Problems?

Your veterinarian can provide advice on preventing future anal gland problems in dogs. Some dogs may benefit from adding fiber supplements like canned pumpkin or Metamucil to their stool, which can help them express their anal glands more effectively during defecation.

Routine anal gland expression at the veterinary clinic can prevent impactions or infections. Regularly evaluating the area around your dog’s anus can help catch issues early.

A weekly 5-minute dog wellness scan can be a helpful tool for this, including a section on looking under your dog’s tail for problems.

Final Thoughts

Your veterinarian will usually express your dog’s anal glands during an annual wellness check, or you can find a groomer to do this. Prevention is crucial, including a healthy diet with fiber and regular exercise, supplementing with limited-ingredient treats to reduce stomach upset.

If your dog is experiencing any of the problems mentioned in this article, consult your vet. Ultimately, your pet’s health and happiness are at stake.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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