Every dog owner has a responsibility to take care of their pet’s health. And while most are aware that regular teeth brushing, ear cleaning, and nail trimming are essential, some body parts remain overlooked. We’re talking about dog anal glands. So let’s learn what they are, why dogs need them, and how to express them at home.

Keep reading to find out:

What Are Dog Anal Glands?

The anal glands in dogs are small sacs located in the anal opening. They constantly accumulate a secretion that helps dogs to differentiate each other by their smell. 

The anal glands usually secrete a few drops of marking substance each time your pet defecates.

Why Do Dogs Need Them?

Dog anal glands perform several functions: 

  • Marking territory
  • Scaring enemies
  • Attracting other dogs
  • Intraspecies identification

If your dog has defecation issues, that fluid can accumulate in the sacs, which subsequently leads to infected anal glands in a dog. Being informed about the symptoms can help you take preventative actions. So let’s check them out.

Symptoms of Anal Glands Problems in Dogs

Anal glands problems can lead to specific changes both in appearance and behavior. Here are the common signs you should look out for:

  • Dog licking anal glands: The dog may lick the rectal area to ease its discomfort in response to the inflammation.  
  • Scooting or bottom dragging:  By scooting the rear on the ground, your dog is trying to get rid of the accumulated secretion. 
  • Biting the tail: It’s another sign of dog anal glands being swollen or blocked. That can also lead to constipation, and you might notice a foul smell from your dog’s backside. 
  • Red or swollen bottom: Dog anal glands symptoms of inflammation include redness of the anal area. Some anal sac abscesses may rupture spontaneously, producing an open, bloody sore with a foul-smelling discharge.
  • Vocalization while producing stools: Infected anal glands become painful, so your dog might even cry out in pain while trying to defecate. 

When to Go to the Vet

Dogs usually express their anal glands during defecation. But scooting is the most common clinical symptom observed in dogs with impacted anal sacs. If you notice that, you should take your dog to the vet.

The first step in treating inflammation is diagnosing the animal’s condition. The veterinarian will examine the affected area and ask you about the symptoms before assessing the dog’s condition and prescribing treatment. Your vet can gently drain the dog anal glands sacs and treat the infection with liquid antibiotics.

Causes of Anal Gland Issues

Blockage, inflammation, and abscess of the anal glands occurs due to a violation in the secretion flow. That can happen due to several predisposing factors:

  • Obesity
  • Low physical activity
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Inappropriate diet
  • Digestive disease
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Infections

In any case, the secretion isn’t evenly allocated. Dog anal glands become compacted, and the ducts get clogged. The sacs stretch due to the increase in dense, viscous mass. The next stage is the bacteria accumulation in the secretion, abscess formation, and sometimes a malignant tissue transformation.

Dogs at Higher Risk of Anal Gland Problems 

Anal glands problems in dogs may occur in all breeds. Statistics show that each year about 4% of dogs suffer such issues. 

Studies reveal that some breeds are at a higher risk of anal sacs disorder. They include:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bichon Frise
  • King Charles
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Shih Tzu

But other factors can also contribute to the possibility of anal glands problems.

Obese Dogs

Overweight dogs are more likely to develop anal glands problems, and trauma to the area can also precipitate them. The anal sacs of many obese dogs don’t empty well, leading to recurrent issues. 

Regular exercises and dietary fiber for dogs are key factors for proper treatment.

Small Breeds

Anal gland problems in dogs are rare in large and medium-sized dogs. In contrast, they often occur in miniature dogs, like:

  • Toy and Miniature Poodles
  • Chihuahua
  • Lhasa Apso

That may be due to the low activity of small pets and inaccuracies in their diet, resulting in a softer stool and disruption of the natural process of emptying the anal glands.

Senior Dogs

As they age, dogs often suffer a decline in physical activity and reduced muscle mass. No matter the dog grooming, anal glands also worsen in time. Interestingly, the issue is more typical for older female dogs.

small white and brown dog standing on a cliff

How to Express Dog Anal Glands

Before you go on with the dog anal glands expressing procedure, you must ensure that your dog has a problem with that area. To do this, prepare mentally to feel your dog’s anus from the inside. 

It’s best to carry out the procedure with gloves. Insert your index finger shallowly into the hole (almost at the very exit) and start probing lightly. If there’s no abnormal thickening, the sacs would be soft and hardly palpable, so you can be sure that everything is normal. If the dog anal glands are clogged, you’ll immediately feel a thickening even with slight pressure. 

Equipment

How to clean dog anal glands? Before starting the procedure, you need to prepare:

  • Sturdy surface for the dog to stand on: A bathroom countertop would do the job. You may want to line it with a layer of newspapers or towels.
  • Disposable rubber gloves: You’ll want to avoid getting the extremely potent secretion on your hands.
  • Wet wipes: You’ll need them to clean the anal area after expressing the glands. You can also use damp paper towels.
  • Vaseline. Use petroleum jelly or a water-based lubricant. 
  • Dog treats: Hemp calming treats for dogs are handy for ensuring your pet’s cooperation. Plus, your dog will need a reward when it’s over.

There are two methods on how to express dog anal glands — internal and external. Let’s take a look at each of them. 

External Method

Put your pet in the dedicated bathroom place. If the dog is small, you can use a basin. Ask a friend or a family member to hold the dog. Then, put on gloves and feel the glands outside. Next, lift the tail as far as possible without causing pain to the animal. With the other gloved hand, or using a tissue, use your thumb and forefinger to apply pressure to the area on the sides of the anus. 

If you did everything correctly, a viscous, unpleasant-smelling liquid of beige color should come out of the sacs. After that, use water to clean everything thoroughly. If you notice your dog in pain after glands are expressed, you can give it pain relief drugs for several days to speed up the healing process.

If you see no improvement after the procedure, and the anal glands didn’t release the secretion, don’t press with redoubled force. It’s better to go to a vet clinic. The sacs might be clogged, so cleaning dog anal glands at home won’t help. In that case, your dog will need to undergo an operation.

Internal Method

Put your pet in the bathroom and call someone for help to hold the animal. Wear gloves. Next, lubricate the index finger of your right hand (over the gloves) with Vaseline. With your left hand, lift the dog’s tail as much as possible. Then, gently insert the lubricated finger into the anus. Your palm should be perpendicular to the floor. Gently feel the gland. Next, use your index finger and thumb of the same hand (outside the anus) to press on the sac, squeezing the secretion out. Clean the area with water.

How Often Should You Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands?

As a rule, a dog anal glands expressing is sufficient for a maximum of six months. But if you take preventive measures, you may not need to repeat the procedure in the future.

Side Effects of Anal Glands Removal

Every surgical intervention is stressful for а dog, and sometimes it may do more harm than good. Side effects after dog anal glands removal are rare. Still, your pet may experience short-term side effects like: 

  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Chronic discomfort

The tissue around the anal glands is very delicate. If the anal sphincter muscle is damaged during the operation, that may result in fecal incontinence. 

Preventing Dog Anal Glands Complications

Here are essential to keep your dog’s anal glands healthy:

  • Vet care: If you don’t want to express the dog’s anal glands yourself, it’s best to leave it to the vet. Plus, your vet can carry out dog food allergy testing to determine if allergies are causing the issues. 
  • Exercise: Make sure your dog gets plenty of walks. Regular exercise stimulates bowel movements and encourages anal sac secretion.
  • Diet: Dog clogged anal glands can happen because of the food, especially if your pet’s meals contain grains and unnecessary fillers. A raw dog food diet can reduce anal gland inflammation, so you can consider feeing your dog with premium dog food like Raw Wild
  • Anal glands supplements:  Supplements help prevent anal gland infections and diseases. To support the healthy dog anal glands function, we like NaturVet No Scoot for Dogs on Amazon. 
  • Probiotics. Good bacteria, i.e., probiotics, can help your dog’s digestive health. Plus, they’re beneficial in reducing anal gland issues.
  • Fiber. A high-fiber diet can help dogs with anal issues immensely by making their stools bulkier. That puts pressure on the anal glands, allowing them to function normally.

Conclusion 

While dog anal glands problems aren’t widespread, a basic understanding of their anatomy and function will make it easier to deal with such issues if they arise. You may be wondering if there’s a way to avoid that dog anal glands problem. Though no one understands why some dogs are more affected than others, early attention to symptoms can help eliminate more severe complications, like infections.

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