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A dog’s anal glands are more than just the smelly situation we think they are. They have long confounded experts as some believe they are there for lubrication, while others think they are what identifies each dog from one another. Whatever the purpose is, anal glands are functional parts of your dog and they need to be cared for. Clogged anal glands can present a slew of issues that can impact your dog’s health.
Let’s take a deep dive into what anal glands are about and how to care for them.
About Anal Glands
The anal glands are small fluid-filled sacs located on either side of the dog’s anus. When full, the anal sacs release a foul-smelling liquid that is unique to each dog. Dogs use this smell to recognize each other and some believe it’s to mark their territory as well. Anal gland expression can also happen involuntarily when the dog is scared or stressed.
Anal gland problems are not uncommon, but many dogs go through their entire lives without facing any anal gland issues. However, if dogs get their glands expressed regularly, it will keep anal gland infections and clogging at bay. How do you know when to express your dog’s anal glands? Read on to find out.
5 Signs And Symptoms That Your Dog’s Anal Glands Need Expressing
Whether or not dog owners should take initiative with anal gland expression is still an ongoing debate. Some experts believe that going number two will naturally express a dog’s anal glands and that dogs should only get their anal glands manually expressed if there are issues. Others believe that getting the glands expressed regularly is fundamental in preventing impacted anal glands.
You will notice any or all of the following signs if your dog’s anal glands need expressing.
Scooting of the butt along the ground is one of the most common signs that your dog needs his anal glands expressed. This humorous display of irritation is often depicted in cartoons, movies and seen in real life. However, it is no laughing matter because your dog is uncomfortable and it is a sign of anal gland issues. If you notice scooting, then it may be time to get the anal glands expressed.
Excessive licking around your dog’s anus, like a dog scooting, is another more mild symptom of a dog needing his anal glands expressed.
Since some experts believe the anal sacs possess lubrication for pooping, it’s only normal that difficulty relieving himself or constipation is another sign of your dog needing his anal glands released. However, we would suggest monitoring this for a couple of days because it could just be constipation and not clogged anal glands.
Look for other symptoms such as excessive licking and scooting to accompany the difficulty defecating to be sure if it’s an anal gland problem.
Blood in the Stool
Blood in your dog’s poop or around your dog’s anus is a telltale sign of anal gland problems. If you notice any of this, rather than expressing the gland, we would suggest a vet visit first.
Pus Around the Anal Area
Impacted anal glands tend to exhibit pus or a swollen and irritated look when the situation is more severe.
Causes of Anal Sac Problems
A dog’s anal sacs are a sensitive area, which can see a lot of issues. What causes clogged glands that get infected? Many factors including your dog’s diet to his weight could cause problems with the two anal glands.
An overweight dog may be more susceptible to gland issues. To avoid this, make sure your dog gets daily exercise and only consumes nutrient-dense and high-quality foods.
Fiber firms up your dog’s poop, which can help the anal glands express as it passes through your dog. If your dog is suffering from softer poops, high-fiber dog food is a top solution.
Chronic Soft or Loose Stool
As we said, firm stool can help express your dog’s glands, so it makes sense that dogs that suffer from chronic soft stool will have problems with this. Try adding some fiber to your dog’s meals from sources such as pumpkin puree and carrots could help, or check out dog foods for firm stools.
Allergies and Food Intolerance
Anal gland problems can also be a result of allergies and food intolerance. Dogs react differently to the previously mentioned issues, and having anal sac problems is one of them. To treat it, we would suggest targeting the issue at its roots, which means curing the allergy and cutting out the food your dog has problems digesting rather than just getting the anal glands expressed.
Is your dog having anal gland trouble that seemingly comes out of nowhere? It could just be because he has a natural disposition to these issues due to his genetics. It isn’t much you can do about this except to monitor and treat the issue when it does flare up.
Chronic Skin Dermatitis
Skin dermatitis, which is common skin irritation, can also extend to your dog’s anal area and lead to trouble with your dog’s glands. Treating your dog’s gland problems that stem from chronic skin dermatitis is similar to dealing with it if your dog had allergies and food intolerances – treat the problem at its core. Deal with skin dermatitis to relieve anal gland issues.
What Happens if the Anal Glands are Not Expressed?
You must be wondering what could happen if you leave the glands unexpressed? Just in case your dog has been having anal gland problems and you didn’t catch it in time, the problems aren’t too detrimental unless it’s been left untreated for a long period.
If serious, the anal glands could be infected, become impacted, and form an abscess which can be very painful for your dog. It could lead to even more severe health issues as the abscess can rupture, and this will need immediate vet attention and sometimes even surgery.
This bloody and painful mess could be a one-off but for some unfortunate dogs, it is a frequent reoccurrence. If this happens often, your vet may present you with some choices such as anal gland removal to save your pooch from extreme discomfort.
Can Anal Glands Be Removed?
Many pet parents may wonder if removal is the best solution since it nips the problem in the bud. We agree that it can provide permanent relief, it does come with risks (as with any surgery). Compared to other forms of operations, anal gland removal comes with a high rate of infection. This can happen solely because your dog’s anus can never really be kept clean due to defecation, but there are some pet parents that do a good job during the healing process.
Another issue may lie with the veterinarians themselves. If they fail to remove every last bit of the problem, in this case, the anal gland, then it could lead to chronic issues such as anal leakage. The procedure takes a very experienced surgeon, so don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure whoever is performing the surgery is up to the task.
Consult with your vet until you feel comfortable with your decision. While the vet should have the best idea of whether anal gland removal is necessary, the decision is yours. However, if your dog is regularly suffering and if the condition is severe enough, we would recommend it.
Ask the vet about post-surgery care. Understand how to manage pain relief, how to keep the area clean, and any other questions you may have about aftercare. Since it’s a specialized operation, the costs aren’t cheap. If you have pet insurance, it’s a good time to call the provider to see whether the costs are covered. If not, you should make sure you have enough to pay for the surgery.
How Do You Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands?
You can request for your dog’s anal sacs to be expressed during regular grooming, but if they need to be emptied before your next appointment, you can attempt to do it yourself. You will need a pair of latex gloves, a lubricating balm such as Vaseline, plenty of paper towels for cleanup, a warm rag to wipe your dog’s anal area, and a trusted friend or family member.
The first step is to make sure the other person has your dog in a secure but comfortable grip. Lay down the paper towels on the ground near your dog’s rear end to contain the mess, and slip on the latex gloves.
Lubricate your finger with Vaseline and slide it into your dog’s rectum. Gently feel around on either side of your dog’s anus to find the anal sacs. It is a pea-sized sac that shouldn’t be difficult to locate. Once you have it, grasp it between your forefinger (the one inside the rectum) and your thumb, which is still outside. Gently apply pressure to the sac to release the fluid. You will notice the sac diminish in size.
Don’t use too much pressure as it could irritate the sac. Once you’re done with one side, do the same to the other. The liquid should squirt out onto the paper towels you have laid out. Once you’re done, give your dog’s bum a wipe with the warm rag and clean up the mess.
How Often Do Dogs Express Their Anal Glands?
The answer to this question depends on your dog. Some dogs can manage with anal gland expression a few times a year, while others need it much more often. If monthly expressions during grooming can prevent your dog from exhibiting any symptoms, then that should be enough. The key is to keep an eye on any displays of discomfort.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if your dog’s glands are full?
You will know your dog’s anal glands are full when if they feel hard to the touch. A full anal sac may or may not irritate your dog. Some dogs can naturally express their glands through pooping, while others need manual aid. The key is to monitor your dog for symptoms such as scooting, licking, and even blood.
How do you tell if a dog’s anal glands need to be expressed?
Your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed if he displays any or all of the following: excessive licking, scooting of the butt, problems pooping, or blood or pus in the stool or around the anal area.
What dog breeds need their anal glands expressed?
Smaller breeds tend to need anal expression more. Breeds that are more commonly impacted include Beagles, Basset Hounds, miniature and toy poodles, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, and Malteses to name a few.
What happens if you don’t empty your dog’s anal glands?
If you don’t empty your dog’s anal glands, it could result in infection, impacted or clogged glands that can form an abscess or swell shut. If this happens, we recommend seeking treatment right away and consulting your vet about removing the glands altogether if this is a regular occurrence. however, the best treatment is prevention, so we strongly suggest monitoring the glands closely to avoid them getting to this point.
A dog’s anal sacs are a necessary part of his anatomy, but it’s also one that can see many issues. Your best course of action is to keep a close eye on them and watch out for any symptoms your dog may display. Prevention is the best solution to impacted glands, so make sure to keep a close eye and consult your vet if you have any questions.