Dog Health: Understanding Anal Gland Problems

Dog anal gland problems, is your dog becoming a skunk?
Dog anal gland problems, is your dog becoming a skunk? | Source

What are Anal Glands Exactly?

You might have been totally unaware of dog anal gland problems until Rover started having issues. The fishy smell may have been overwhelming, or he may have started scooting across the floor. Regardless, of what he did, the problem could not have gone ignored. But what are anal glands exactly? what are their function? and most importantly, why do they cause problems?

Anal glands are not strictly present in dogs, indeed, they are present in a variety of mammals. Anal glands are basically small glands found around the dog's anus. If you look at the dog's anus, they are located at approximately the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock position. Normally, these glands go unnoticed, until dog anal gland problems erupt.

The Function of Anal Glands in Dogs

So what is exactly the function of these glands in dogs? Anal glands have a variety of functions and some are quite peculiar from a dog owner's perspective. Yet, their functions can be quite fascinating at the same time. Following are some of the purposes of anal glands in dogs.

  • Purpose 1: Spreading Information

You know that dogs wag their tails to demonstrate friendliness, but there is more into it that giving a visual sign of friendliness. Equipped with more than 200 million scent receptors dogs communicate a whole lot through smell. Tail wagging basically helps the anal and pre-caudal glands spread pheromones which are meant to be picked up by other canines to retrieve important information. The tail, therefore, works almost as a fan effectively spreading these odors. This explains why dogs are so interested in sniffing their rears. Dogs who are asocial or fearful, may not wish to spread these odors and may, therefore, decide to simply keep the tail tucked in.

  • Purpose 2: Leaving Tracks

When dogs defecate, the anal glands release some pheromones as well which further provides other dogs with important information. This explains why dogs are so interested in sniffing other dog's feces. Steven Lindsay in the book Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training: Procedures and Protocols, explains how certain secretions found in feces may act as a repellent to keep other dogs away from territory.

  • Purpose 3: Revealing Threats

There is a special reason why many dogs are very fearful at the vet's office. This fear at times may seem unfounded but it stems from something us humans at times cannot perceive. Fearful dogs at the vet office often release secretions from their anal glands. Such secretions are picked up by the sensitive noses of other dogs which causes them to be alert and aware of something troublesome. In this case, the anal glands in dogs function in a similar fashion as the glands of a skunk facing a perceived threat.

While anal glands are used for recognition among dogs and scent marking, these two glands may at times encounter problems. This is when they go from unnoticed to impossible to ignore. Next, we will see some common dog anal gland problems.



Dog Anal Gland Expression Explained by Vet

Dog Anal Gland Problems and Their Resolution

Causes of Dog Anal Gland Problems

Anal glands are normally the size of a chickpea and commonly secrete a yellow-brown fluid when the dog defecates. This tends to occur when the stools are firm enough to allow the glands to successfully empty. Problems start when the stools are soft for quite some time, not allowing the glands to empty. When this happens, the glands may become overfull and cause discomfort in the dog. The affected dog may therefore start scooting or biting in hopes of expressing the glands in a DIY project.

This is where a little bit of help goes a long way. Your vet may express the glands for you or you can have a groomer do this for you. Some dog owners may be interested in learning how to express these glands on their own, but this can be a very smelly affair and is not for the faint of heart.

Failure to express the glands may lead to complications such as impaction and subsequent inflammation, infection and abscesses causing swelling, pain, bloody discharge, a foul odor and even fever. Some dogs may feel uncomfortable to sit and may "sit sloppy" to avoid the pain. Also, anal glands may be prone to developing growths which can turn out being malignant adenocarcinomas.

Treatment of Dog Anal Gland Diseases

In the case of persistent diarrhea, it is important to treat the problem so the stools firm up and resume successful emptying of the glands. The addition of some extra fiber may prove helpful in allowing the feces to become bulkier and more effective in emptying the glands. Some dog owners have obtained results by feeding plain pumpkin (not the pie version with spices added)

When the anal glands are starting to get inflamed, it helps to apply a warm compress to the area for 10 minutes at least 4 times a day for the first 3 days, and then twice daily for the following 3 days, explains veterinarian Dr Fiona for Just Answer. It helps to re-warm the compress every couple of minutes or so. This can be done until the dog can be seen by a vet and the glands can be emptied.

In the case of an abscess, the dog is put on oral antibiotics and once the swelling and pain diminishes, the vet may attempt to express them.

Finally, in severe cases such as in tumors or persistent dog anal gland problems, a procedure known as anal sacculectomy may be necessary. In such a case, the anal glands are completely removed.

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has developed anal gland problems, please seek the advice of your vet.

Alexadry © All Rights Reserved Do not Copy

Revolutionary Products for Anal Gland Problems

Pet Naturals of Vermont Scoot Bars 30 count
Pet Naturals of Vermont Scoot Bars 30 count

The name says it all! Scoot Bars are a fiber product designed to support fecal volume and healthy anal gland function with the additional benefits of immune, digestive and colonic support.

 
PetAlive AnalGlandz for Anal Gland Health (50ml)
PetAlive AnalGlandz for Anal Gland Health (50ml)

PetAlive AnalGlandz cleanses and disinfects the anal area to reduce swelling and pain in pets. Use AnalGlandz to encourage natural emptying of the anal glands; as an aid to manual extraction of impacted or congested anal glands.

 

Did you know your dog had anal glands?

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Comments 11 comments

Gloshei 4 years ago

Thanks for such an interesting post, I am amazed how many people don't know about Anal Glands. At one time our groomer used to do them for us, but in France they don't so we had to go to the vet to get it done. This is best left to the experts.

Love the other links as well thanks.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

It's an interesting topic, isn't it? Especially since they play such an interesting role in inter-dog communication.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Very timely hub as our 15 yr old lab cross has just started getting very stinky (but we still love her). Off to the vet with her!

Thanksfor the info.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Hello Gypsy, thanks for stopping by! Anal glands are a very stinky affair, the first time I worked for the vet and got a whiff of fishy glands I felt like losing my lunch!


Lawrence Da-vid profile image

Lawrence Da-vid 4 years ago

Thank heavens "the Madam" goes to her vet every six months for a routine inspection. Dr. Epstein does give her a workout every trip. Next time I take her, I'm going to query about those glands.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Lawrence, many dogs never have a problem. When they pass firm stools the glands empty and everything is fine and in order. When dogs have soft stools for some time, things can start getting troublesome and the dog will start trying to empty them by scooting, biting etc. If Madam has normal stools chances are her glands work just fine. Best wishes and thank for stopping by~!


BethDW 4 years ago

Great hub! I adopted an older lab mix a few years ago, and a few months after her adoption she started to REALLY smell! With the help of google I managed to figure out she had an anal gland infection, and before that experience I didn't even know such a thing was possible! (and I'm not a stranger to dogs, growing up my family had a small breed dog for 16 years). We determined that she was on the wrong type of food. We had to try several different diets before we managed to fully fix the problem. It has taken almost two years to finally find a diet that perfectly suits her needs, but she's much healthier and happier now. This is a very helpful and informative hub, voted up and shared!


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Diet can really help. My female (this is kind of gross) had some episodes of mushy diarrhea, and I guess her anal glands were not emptying correctly, so when she groomed herself I guess she emptied them as I got whiffs of that fishy smell. After adding pumpkin to her diet, her stools were well formed again and no more smell.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Wow, very informative. My dogs currently don't have this issue, and I never heard of this, but I will definitely be on the look out with my dogs. Thank you for an educational and thoughtful hub. Voted up, shared,etc.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

Even though either the groomer or the vet expressed my dog's anal glands regularly, they became impacted frequently and so uncomfortable that she had to undergo the surgery to remove them when she was about three years old. The aftermath (doggie diapers because the vet prescribed a stool softener) wasn't pleasant, but after healing from the surgery she's never missed the glands. No problems from not having them, I mean.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Sounds like those glands aren't missed at all! thanks for stopping by!

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