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Your Dog’s Anal Glands

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Dog Health and Nutrition, Featured Articles

Editor’s Note:  if you are reading this over your breakfast table, STOP NOW.  You’ll appreciate this article much more if you read it after you’re done.

Have you ever noticed a foul odor coming from your dog’s back end?  He or she may have clogged anal glands that need to be emptied.

What are anal glands?

According to PetMD,   “Anal glands are two small grape-shaped glands located just under the skin at four o’clock and eight o’clock to the anus.  The odiferous material they normally produce is used by dogs, cats, and other small mammals to lend a unique scent to their stool, thereby identifying it as their own.”

Anal glands are about as useful as an appendix, and can cause nearly as many problems.  Normally, the glands are emptied when the dog defecates, the feces providing the pressure required to force the fluid out of the glands. The fluid helps to lubricate the process.  However, if the dogs stool is soft, there may not be enough pressure to empty the glands with each bowel movement.  Normally, the fluid is yellow to tan in color and watery.

The primary complaint about anal glands is that they can often become impacted or clogged, allowing the fluid to become trapped inside the glands.  The glands continue to produce fluid, and since it cannot flow out of the gland, the dog becomes uncomfortable as the fluid pressure rises.

Fun Facts

Anal glands are sometimes referred to as “scent glands” and are at least partially responsible for that oh-so-attractive habit of butt-sniffing.  It is thought that dogs use the scent from the anal glands to identify each other.

The nasty smell from a skunk is anal gland fluid expressed in a spray as a defensive mechanism.

What are the symptoms of clogged anal glands?

A dog whose anal glands are impacted will worry excessively over his or her hind end.  The animal may scoot, lick, or bite the area to try to relieve the pressure and itch.  In addition, you may notice an especially awful smell.

If the glands are not re-opened to allow the fluid to drain, the glands may become infected and may even ulcerate into the anal canal.  The infection causes swelling and redness, while ulceration can allow the stinky drainage to exit through the anus.  Anal gland fluid is thick and brown or grey when the gland is impacted, and will contain pus or blood if an infection is present.

Most dogs will exhibit the signs of an impaction which allows you to treat the clog before an infection develops.  However, some dogs quickly advance to infection without ever showing any early signs of a problem.

What causes anal glands to become clogged?

The most common cause of anal gland impaction is allergies which cause the anal tissue to swell, blocking the outlet of the glands.

What’s the treatment for impacted anal glands?

The only way to treat anal gland impaction is to break through whatever is clogging the gland, allowing the fluid to drain out.  And yes, this is just as gross as it sounds.  Using a gloved hand, you simply squeeze both glands to allow the fluid to empty out, catching it with an old towel.

Your vet or groomer might do this regularly, particularly if your dog has frequent infections without any early symptoms.  Without infections or abscesses, the anal glands are typically expressed only when the dog shows discomfort.  You can do this at home, or request that the vet or groomer take care of the problem.

Instructional videos are available on e-How, as well as on YouTube.

Once you have emptied the glands, you may be able to treat the dog’s allergies to prevent recurrence.  If signs of an infection are present when the glands are emptied, your vet will put the dog on antibiotics.

In especially troublesome cases where the dog experiences near-constant clogs and infections, your vet may choose to remove the anal glands entirely.  Consider this option carefully as there are some complications.  A slip of the surgeon’s hand can sever the nerve involved in allowing your dog to control his or her bowels, and post-surgical infections can set in due to the incisions being made in the very same area where feces are likely to congregate.

Comments

One Response to “Your Dog’s Anal Glands”
  1. Scott swindle says:

    So this was very helpful. I took my dog to the groomer a few weeks ago and when I went to pick him up he has a rupure gland I was kind of up set thinking it was something they did but andy how they healed up really quick. But I have started to notice hI’m checking his butt a lot so I lifted his tail and a small amount of puss came out of his an us I expressed his glands but nothing else came out should I be worried about this or see if it escalates also I wonder if the food he eats could have a problem cause I switched him from soft can dog food to hard dog food recently and he is a toy poodle almost 2 years old.

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