Anal glands are small glands that are located under the skin on either side of the anus (at about 4 and 8 o’clock). The glands are designed to secrete an oily semi-liquid substance when the dog passes faeces. The foul smelling substance gives each dog their unique smell that they use to mark territory and be identified by other dog’s. When the anal glands are working efficiently only a small amount of fluid is excreted and humans are generally unable to smell it. Dog’s will typically excrete some anal gland fluid when they pass faeces, urine, when meeting another dog or when they are startled or scared.
Generally anal glands take care of themselves but sometimes the anal glands can become blocked or infected. If the anal glands become blocked or they do not empty effectively an excess buildup of fluid can occur. This can then lead to an infection and if left untreated an abscess can form which could then rupture.
Signs of a problem with the anal glands includes;
- Scooting or rubbing/dragging their bottom along the ground.
- Licking or chewing at the base of the tail or around the anus in an effort to relieve the discomfort.
- In pain when passing faeces or when sitting.
- A foul smell.
- Swelling and/or redness around the anus.
- Pain around the anus.
If the anal glands do become blocked or infected they will need to be expressed by a veterinarian or someone experienced in doing it. This involves squeezing or applying pressure to the glands to drain the fluid buildup. This is usually done by inserting a finger into the anus and finding the glands or by pushing on them from the outside of the anus. When they are blocked and/or infected this can be a very painful process and some dogs can require sedation. If the glands are badly impacted or infected a vet may need to flush the anal glands while the dog is under anaesthetic. Once the glands are expressed and the fluid removed, the inflammation and discomfort should subside. If the glands are infected a course of antibiotics is often required.
If you think that your dog may be suffering from an anal gland problem please take them to a veterinarian to be checked. It is also advisable to have your vet check your dog’s anal glands as part of their routine checkup.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Spring 2016 Issue.
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