While dog anal glands problems are usually not life-threatening, with the exception of anal gland cancer, they are relatively common and can affect your dog’s quality of life. Not to be confused with dog hemorrhoids, tumors, fissures or rectal prolapse, dog anal glands issues occur specifically due to blockage of the two ducts that remove the excretions of anal glands out via openings on either side of the anus.
What are Anal Glands?
Anal glands, or anal sacs, are found on both sides of a dog’s anus, just underneath his tail. This pair of small glands is filled with oily fluid that has a similar smell as the odor a skunk releases.
While the exact purpose of dog anal gland remains a matter of debate among experts, it's theorized that they lubricate a dog’s stool and disperse his unique scent to allow the dog to mark his territory.
Some also believe that they contain pheromones, which are chemicals dogs use to communicate. In fact, the scent from one dog’s anal glands can reveal other dogs some information about the animal, such as his health, sex and approximate age.
Signs of Dog Anal Glands Problems
Anal glands usually drain naturally during a dog’s bowel movement, but they can sometimes get impacted and clogged up. This can lead to swelling and infection, or even abscesses. Here are the signs that your dog is having a problem with anal glands:
This is usually the first sign. When a dog’s anal glands become impacted, he may feel pain and try to empty them by dragging his bottom along the ground. If you notice that your dog is scooting often, it may signal a problem with his anal glands and needs to be looked into.
2. Biting and Licking His Rear
Another common symptom is biting and licking of the anus. Your dog might do this in order to try and get the glands drained or he might do it in sheer frustration. He might also lick his paws for the same reason. Some dogs even chase their tails when they feel uncomfortable or in pain.
3. Bad Odor
Since dog anal glands are responsible for canine's unique scent, when they get impacted this scent becomes too strong. If you notice that your pooch smells bad even after you give him a bath, then anal glands might be the reason.
4. Swelling and Redness
Impacted anal sacs can cause the area around the pet's anus to become swollen. There can also be a change in color in that area since swelling can also cause redness, or in some extreme cases, dog anal glands can even turn purple. Pets that suffer from chronic inflammation of anal glands can have hardened skin under the tail.
5. Abscesses and Drainage
If the problem of impacted anal glands is not addressed in the early stages, this can lead to infection. Infection of dog anal gland can be spotted by noticeable bulges just under the surface of the animal's anal opening and drainage from the rectum. In more severe cases, abscesses may appear in the area.
Causes of Dog Anal Gland Issues
There are many potential causes of dog anal gland issues, but the most common one is the inflammation of the anal ducts. Smaller breeds are more likely to suffer from this blockage because their anal sac ducts are smaller and thus more prone to the blockage.
Breeds that are more susceptible to anal gland problems include Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Poodles. Older dogs are also more likely to suffer from this issue.
Diarrhea is another common cause of anal glands because they're more likely to fill when the dog’s stools are soft and there is not enough pressure present to empty the glands. Similarly, constipation can lead to these problems because the lack of stools can prevent the emptying of anal glands as well.
Allergies are also linked with dog anal gland problems since they can cause anal sac ducts to swell. Bacterial, fungal and parasitic skin infections can also be the cause, as well as hypothyroidism.
How to Prevent Anal Gland Problems?
Preventing anal gland problems is possible with a proper, healthy diet and exercise. The highest risk of dog anal glands issues is present in small, obese animals. A healthy diet and exercise ensures a smaller risk of digestive problems, especially diarrhea and constipation, thus ensuring the regular emptying of anal sacs.
If your dog suffers from these issues often, try to increase fiber in his diet to make his stools bulkier, or switch to high fiber foods. Take your pooch to regular vet checkups and make sure that your vet checks his perennial area for any signs of anal gland issues.
How to Treat Anal Gland Problems?
The treatment of dog anal gland will depend on the severity of the problem. The immediate treatment for impacted anal glands entails emptying the glands manually by your veterinarian. This is called dog anal gland expression, and it is done by gently squeezing the liquid from the glands.
Your vet can show you how to express dog anal glands so you can do it yourself at home should they become impacted again in the future. In recurring or more persistent cases, adding a low-dose of oral steroids may speed up the recovery and reduce inflammation.
However, if the glands are not just impacted but infected, your veterinarian will first flush them out with some softening solution or saline in order to remove the hardened material.
If there are abscesses present, the vet will probably lance them and prescribe antibiotics for a week or two. The treatment after that will be done under anesthesia due to pain when the vet will open and drain the abscesses. After that, veterinarian will once again prescribe antibiotics, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs.
In the most severe cases when the problem persists after treatment, or if there is an anal gland tumor present, your vet may suggest surgery to remove your dog’s anal glands completely. This is a simple procedure that will resolve the problem permanently but it may lead to fecal incontinence.
In conclusion, while dog anal glands issues don’t present a serious danger to your pup's life, they can nonetheless cause discomfort and pain. Pay attention to signs like scooting, biting and licking of the anus and any physical changes in the area around your dog’s anal opening. Feed your dog a healthy diet with enough fiber and exercise him regularly to prevent potential anal gland problems.