Experts don’t know what use the anal glands have to canines, although many ideas have been tossed around. Anal gland disease occurs due to impaction, also known as a blockage of the two ducts that remove the excretions of the dog anal glands out via openings on either side of the anus. This article explains what they are, and how to treat anal gland problems in dogs.
What are dog anal glands?
Anal glands are not technically glands, in fact; they are small sacs filled with glandular cells that produce a potent yellow fluid consisting of both oils and sweat. This fluid flows through two small tubes in the dog's body that open on either side of the anus.
The obstruction, often referred to as anal gland problems in dogs, means that the liquid inside of the sacs builds up and ultimately can result in infection, and rupture of the sacs themselves. If there's a dog anal gland problem, you may see the following symptoms:
- Your dog scooting rear end along the floor
- His persistent licking of the afflicted area
- The dog's bad breath
- Blood around the dog's anus or on stool
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Most dogs will make the condition worse by continuously licking the area to ease up the pain and discomfort. The most common way to stop is by using either a Elizabethan dog collar, which may not be possible for all dogs, or a dog diaper to cover the area.
The anal sacs blockage can cause your dog severe discomfort and pain, therefore, veterinary treatment should be sought immediately. Without treatment, infection and abscesses are likely to occur. Smaller breed dogs are more prone to anal gland disease – most notably the Beagle, Chihuahua, Miniature Poodle, Cocker Spaniel and Lhasa Apsos.
Problems with dog anal glands, if not treated promptly, can lead to serious lifelong health issues.
With correct nutrition, weight management and personal hygiene routines, it’s possible to prevent and reverse any negative symptoms caused by anal gland problems in dogs. If you’re worried that your pooch may be suffering from this condition, it’s always best to take your dog to the vet for an examination.
With little medical treatment available, most of the care required to rid your dog of anal sacs blockage can be undertaken at home. If you believe there is an issue with your dogs anal glands, seeking veterinary assistance should be the first thing you do. In order to prevent issues in the future, there are many things that you can do to treat dog anal glands at-home. Here's what you should know.
Dog Anal Glands
12 ways to treat and prevent them
Why Do Dogs Have Anal Glands?
Little is known as to why these sacs are present, but scientists have hypothesized that it could be for one of the below reasons:
1. Marking Territory
The strong, rancid smell that is attributed with anal sac secretions could, in theory, be used as a way for dogs to mark their territory. Seen on both male and female canines, this could be a way to ward off unwanted visitors by saying “Hey, I live here.”
2. Health Check
The scent of the secretion does vary depending on the health of the canine in question. It may be used by dogs to communicate health or sickness to other pooches.
Through extensive research, it’s possible to see that throughout history, canines have been masters of adapting their diet based on what was available. The anal gland releases an oily gunk directly on either side of the anus opening, leading some scientists to believe that this could be a natural lubricant to ease the passing of harder feces.
4. Piece Of History
Potentially the least useful idea as to why dog anal glands exist is the historical thought. Dogs may have these glands simply as a leftover from their ancestor's anatomy when it may have been necessary to spray these fluids at predators.
Dogs Anal Glands Disease
Anal Gland Disease, also referred to as Anal Sac Disease or anal gland impaction, is a condition which can affect dogs of all ages, breeds and genders. However, statistically studies show that it is much more likely to occur in small breed dogs.
Impaction is essentially a blockage within the tubes leading from the dog's anal sac. When impaction occurs, the buildup of fluids causes the dog’s rear end to emit a pretty horrendous smell.
Some of the most common reasons that dogs anal glands can occur are:
Prior Infection – Scar tissue can form if your dog has suffered from a past anal sac infection which then makes it more likely for impaction, and additional infections to occur.
Past Trauma – Injuries can deform the opening of the anal gland duct, and make it difficult for the secretions to escape.
Allergies – Ingested or environmental allergens cause inflammation to many different areas of the body, and can in some cases cause inflammation surrounding the duct opening; again this makes it difficult for anything to get through, and without treatment – this can cause infection.
Loose Stools – If your dog suffers from diarrhea, loose stools, or irregular bowel movements, this will place little to no pressure on the colon which is required to expel the anal glands. Short term changes won’t cause any problems, but when happening for longer duration – this can cause impaction.
Symptoms of Dog Anal Glands
When your dog suffers from this condition, the symptoms will likely stand out due to the extreme discomfort associated with the condition. These symptoms may include:
1. Scooting Butt
When you see your dog dragging his butt across the floor, don’t immediately jump to diagnosing him with worms. Sure, an internal parasite infestation is one of the leading causes of “scooting.” But, the second most common is due to irritation, infection, or impaction of the anal gland.
It can be difficult to diagnose which of these conditions he’s suffering from at home, but your vet will quickly and easily be able to run some tests to determine which condition is apparent – and therefore, what treatment is necessary.
2. Distinct Odor
The healthy excretions of the anal sacs, while not smelling like roses – isn’t overpowering. However, when there is a build up of the oils and sweat contained within the gland, you will likely notice a constant strong smell coming from your dog’s rear end.
3. Bad Breath
I know what you’re thinking, how can something from the complete opposite end of the body cause my dog to suffer from horrendous breath? Well, the answer isn’t a pleasant one. Your dog has two main ways to relieve the discomfort posed by the anal gland disease.
The first is scooting. The second is licking at the afflicted area. To put it bluntly, your dog is picking up these rancid secretions as he licks at the area and then breathing out that horrific smell for the rest of you to experience. I know, it’s horrible, so for goodness sake, if you’ve noticed this symptom just take him to the vet right now!
When a blockage persists for an extended period, the anal sac itself can swell from the pressure and burst. This would then result in one of two outcomes. Either the area surrounding the rectum will appear swollen, or a pus like liquid will be oozing from the area.
Diagnosis of Dog Anal Glands
Diagnosing anal gland problems in dogs is usually a quick and straightforward affair, with owners ordinarily listing the common symptoms of dogs licking at their rear or scooting their butts across the floor. Blood work and urinalysis will be performed.
This is a routine procedure and will not directly show whether there is impaction of the anal sac duct, but will show whether there is infection relating to this or another underlying condition that may be causing it. To diagnose problems with dog anal glands, your veterinarian will take a sample of the anal sac contents.
During this procedure he will be able to see whether blockages are evident and examine the potency of the liquids to see whether they have been there for some time.
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Prevention and Treatment
There are many ways that you can help prevent dog anal glands from becoming swollen and diseased. Most can be performed at home, but if you're nervous or do not want to care for your dog's anal glands at home, your veterinarian can assist you.
1. Correct Diet
The best preventative measure for this condition is feeding a high-quality diet high in fiber and low in fat. Anal gland secretions can be expelled naturally by regular bowel movements, but not when the fecal matter is not too loose.
2. Weight Loss
The common theme for most medical conditions is that they are far more likely to occur in a canine that is holding onto a few extra pounds. Making sure that your dog is at a healthy weight for his breed, age and height is one of the most responsible things you can do as a dog owner.
3. Fiber Supplement
If your dog isn’t getting enough fiber in his food, and you don’t want to switch him onto a different food altogether, a great option is buying a fiber supplement which you can add to his food. Fiber is by far the best solution to this problem when in its early stages.
Adding some additional fiber to his diet will help to firm up the stool and keep your pooch going on a regular schedule. As previously mentioned, firm stool helps to express dog anal glands naturally. However, be wary of drastically increasing your dog’s fiber intake if he suffers from pain when going to the bathroom, or worse if there is any bleeding around the anus.
Food allergies are a common reason for inflamed obstructed anal glands. By placing your pooch on an exclusion diet, and determining the allergen that he is reacting to – you can remove this from his diet and in turn, remove the risk of future inflammation.
5. Fish Oil
Adding a fish or vegan omega-3 supplements to your dog’s food can help relieve itching, and lessen inflammation. There are also far more benefits of fish oil for dogs than just fixing dogs anal glands, many of which may subsequently benefit the condition.
6. Warm Compress
Holding a warm compress against your dog’s anal gland openings, either with only water, or salted water can really help to open up the ducts and relieve impaction.
Getting your dup to move around can also open up the tubes that connect the dog anal glands to the outside world. This should be vigorous exercise, either hiking, running or playing frisbee are all great options!
8. Expressing The Anal Glands
Some dogs do have difficulty expressing their anal glands naturally and may require manual assistance to ensure that anal sac impaction or infection don’t occur. But, do not attempt to do this without your veterinarian's consent and instructions on how to do this at home.
1. Expressing the Anal Glands
Messing with your dog’s anal glands when not necessary can, in fact, do more harm than good. Not to mention, nobody wants to get involved if it’s not required. But, if your veterinarian feels that manual expression is required, you have two options – do it yourself (with their instruction) or have them take care of it.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
After draining, your vet will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the cause of impaction in the first place, as well as fend off any additional swelling caused by expressing the sac.
If your dog is suffering from an infection or has a history of them, your vet may administer antibiotics after draining the dog anal glands to prevent another infection from occurring. Having said that, overuse of antibiotics can lead to other health issues, or resistance.
4. Surgical Removal
In extreme cases of a dog suffering from repeat anal gland infections, removing these is a possibility. However, there are many risks and complication which can occur during, and after this procedure, therefore, it’s rarely advised except for in the cases where the risks are greater to the canine when left untreated.