If there is one thing that can make a dog clamp their tail and a person hold their nose it’s the anal glands! If your dog has ever had an anal gland problem I am sure you understand what I mean. My darling boy Beau just recently had infected anal glands and it was not a pleasant experience for him or me.
You may be asking, what are anal glands? Well 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 (thankfully). 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 and your dog may never have any issues with them, chances are you will never notice them or think about them. Sometimes however things can go wrong and the anal glands can become blocked or infected. If the anal glands become blocked or they do not empty effectively an excess build-up of fluid can occur. This can then lead to an infection and if left untreated an abscess can form which could then rupture.
The most common sign of a problem with the anal glands is seeing the dog “scooting” or rubbing/dragging their bottom along the ground. The dog may also be licking or chewing at the base of the tail or around the anus in an effort to relieve the discomfort. Your dog might be constipated or in pain when passing faeces or when sitting and there may be a foul smell. When the anal glands become blocked and/or infected you can often notice swelling around the anus and it can be very painful.
The way to fix the problem is to express the anal glands. This should be done by a vet or someone who is experienced at it, especially if it is the first time. A vet may be able to show you how to do it for the future. To express the anal glands you need to squeeze or apply pressure to the glands. 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. I will just warn you, the smell that comes with expressing the anal glands is more than disgusting, it really does make your eyes water.
Some dog’s may only ever experience the problem once however it can be a reoccurring problem, with some dog’s requiring the glands to be expressed monthly to avoid an excess build-up. It is possible that some dogs will develop chronic problems which can sometimes mean that the only option is for the anal glands to be removed. This is a complicated surgery with the possibility of resulting in faecal incontinence.
There are some things that may help dogs that suffer anal gland issue. The main cause is of the problems is due to the improper emptying of the glands, usually because of insufficient stimulation. To improve stimulation at the time of passing faeces the faecal bulk needs to be increased. This can be done by feeding bones and making sure they have a good quality diet. Overweight dogs are also more prone so try and keep your dog in a healthy weight range.
As for Beau, he is back to normal now after a course of antibiotics. Hopefully it is a once of occurrence for him, as I would really prefer not to have to smell that again.
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 a good idea to have your vet check your dog’s anal glands as part of their routine check-up.
Until next time,