Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Bleeding / Diarrhea / Licking / Odor / Straining To Defecate

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Rated as moderate conditon

21 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Bleeding / Diarrhea / Licking / Odor / Straining To Defecate

Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What are Impacted Anal Glands?

Impacted anal glands are often the first stage of anal sac disease. As the impacted anal glands become swollen and distended, they become inflamed and can make it painful for your dog to pass feces. This second stage of inflammation is referred to as sacculitis. Bacteria can begin to grow and cause an infection.  

The final stage is when an abscess forms. If the abscess bursts, pus will ooze out, spreading the infection to the anus and rectum, and leave a hole next to the anus that may need surgical treatment.

The anal glands are small, oval-shaped, and located in the rectum on both sides of the anus. The glands produce a greasy, foul-smelling substance that acts as a territorial marker for dogs. Normally, stool will push against the sacs while exiting through the rectum and force the yellow-brown to gray substance to be secreted out with it.

But if for some reason the pressure is not enough to cause this to occur, the substance can build up in the anal glands and thicken, thereby plugging the glands. Impacted anal glands can then begin to swell and become irritated, causing discomfort and possibly an infection in your dog.

Symptoms of Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

Symptoms of impacted anal glands should be taken seriously. If left untreated, an impaction can lead to a serious infection. Signs that include excessive attention or wariness of your dog’s anal area can be a clear indication that something is wrong. Symptoms you may see include:

  • Scooting rear end along the ground
  • Excessive licking or biting at anal area or root of the tail
  • Excessive tail chasing
  • Painful defecation
  • Straining to defecate
  • Foul odor from rear end
  • Red, swollen, and painful anal area
  • Increased aggressiveness 
  • Brown or red discharges from anal area, often spotting the floor
  • Diarrhea or other digestive problems preceding other symptoms
  • Abscess near rectum
  • Hole near rectum that releases bloody or greenish-yellow pus
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Causes of Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

Anal glands can become impacted if the substance inside is prevented from being secreted, thus allowing it to thicken. This will swell the sacs and plug the ducts, further preventing any secretions from leaving the sacs. Reasons this could occur include:

  • Inflammation of the anal sacs
  • Loose or irregular stools
  • Trauma, such as from pinching, squeezing, or unnecessarily manually expressing the glands
  • Obesity
  • Infections
  • Skin disorders
  • Excessive gland production
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Tumor 

Impacted anal glands are more commonly seen in obese and older dogs, perhaps due to the fact of a decreased ability to groom. All breeds can be affected by impaction, but it does seem to affect smaller breeds more often. Commonly affected breeds include:

  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Toy Poodle
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Diagnosis of Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

In order to diagnose impacted anal glands in your dog, your veterinarian will need to know when you first saw symptoms, the progression of symptoms, any recent illnesses or injuries your dog may have had, any changes of behavior or diet, and if your dog has had his anal glands manually expressed, either at home or from a groomer. A physical examination will often include a rectal exam. If the anal sacs are impacted or infected, your vet will be able to see it immediately. Through examining this area and noting any secretions, fluids, or blood, your vet can often diagnose this condition.

Your veterinarian will want to discover why your dog’s anal sacs have become impacted, and may run a series of tests. A urinalysis, fecal testing, anal swab, and blood work can all give your vet significant information about your dog’s health. In some cases, they can rule out causes or conditions, while in others, they can show hormonal, electrolyte, and other chemical levels or abnormalities that can help find a reason behind the impaction. X-rays may also be employed to look for tumors or other physical causes.

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Treatment of Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

Treating impacted anal glands may be as easy as having your veterinarian manually express your dog’s anal glands. This is accomplished by squeezing the small glands individually until the thickened substance is secreted out. If your dog’s impaction is severe, or has become infected, your dog may need to be sedated so that the glands can be flushed out with saline, or a softening solution. While one treatment may be sufficient, your vet may recommend that your dog have periodic manual expression of the glands to prevent the condition from recurring. 

Topical steroid ointment can relieve the inflammation, while topical or oral antibiotics can eliminate infections. If an abscess is present, surgery, antibiotics, and hot compresses can help them to heal. Pain medication may also be prescribed to make your dog more comfortable while the swelling and inflammation recede. Several treatments can help to re-establish anal gland health, such as dietary changes, homeopathic remedies, stool softeners, or anti-inflammatories for the GI system. 

In very severe cases, or for recurring impactions, your vet may recommend having your dog’s anal sacs surgically removed. While this does provide a permanent solution, it can result in fecal incontinence in your dog.

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Recovery of Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

Many dogs who have experienced an anal sac impaction will see it recur. Every time this happens, the ducts leading out of the sacs can become more damaged, which can cause another impaction. If the problem becomes chronic, surgery can provide a permanent solution. While the prognosis of recovery from surgery or other treatments is good to fair, you will need to monitor your dog. Periodic anal sac expression may be recommended. Using a warm compress on your dog’s anal area can relieve the pain and swelling after treatments, and feeding a high fiber diet may prevent impaction from occurring again.

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Impacted Anal Glands Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Henry

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Boxer Shepherd

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Vomiting
Licking Butt

My dog Henry has been sniffing and licking at his anal area. In the past I had taken him to pet smart to get his anal glands expressed but half the time I felt like they weren’t really doing it properly. So I changed his diet to a grain free food and that seemed to help. But within the past month he’s been licking at it again. And yesterday I came home from work to find that he had dirrhea all over the cage and vomit. I didn’t think it had anything to do with his anal glands but then I thought maybe he had an infection? He’s not vomiting anymore....it’s fhe next day. But he has diarrhea still and he is licking his booty after I take him outside. Help!

May 27, 2018

Henry's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Some dogs have constant issues with their anal glands whilst others go their whole life issue free; I cannot say whether or not PetSmart emptied the glands properly or not but you should note that in some dogs this issue recurs frequently leading to the recommendation to have the glands removed. I don’t think that the vomiting and diarrhoea is related to the anal glands and there are many causes for vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs, some causes are transient. Try to feed Henry some boiled chicken and rice to see if it will help calm his gastrointestinal upset, if there is no improvement visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 28, 2018

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Bell

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Miniature Schnauzer Mix

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Drags Prior To Glands Being Express

My 7 year old dog (small breed, but from the rescue center so breed unknown but possibly a miniature schnauzer/poodle mix) weighing 29 lbs. has had her anal glands expressed 4 or 5 times in the past 14 months. She has not been given any kind of medication for them. One vet recommends removing the glands, another does not. What is your opinion?

May 18, 2018

Bell's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Some dogs require constant expressing of the anal glands every few months whilst other dogs go their whole life without incident; generally if they are just getting impacted it would be best to keep having them expressed but if there are other issues like recurring infections, abscesses etc… it would be best to have them removed. This is a decision for you to make, once there removed they are gone. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 19, 2018

Thank you for your advice. I understand that removal of the glands may result in an inability to "hold" her movement which would mean I could no longer keep her in the house. The risk of this happening is very disturbing, however, I don't know if leaving the glands in place could also send infection throughout her body causing death. I am very torn about which decision I should make.

May 19, 2018

Bell's Owner

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PeeWee

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Chihuahua Shitzu mix

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Minimal Walking. Loss Of Appetite.

My dog was at the vet last week due to an abscess and anal gland expression. She wasnt eating and not active. She had been going to the bathroom in house. Vet expressed glands and prescribed an anti inflammatory and antibiotic. We have been doing our best to give her meds to her but sometimes she resists. She hasn't been walking or moving around much. Still lethargic but abscess is gone. She is having a hard time standing. Shes only 10 lbs. Is it normal to take this long to get back to normal?

May 16, 2018

PeeWee's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Recovery may be longer in older dogs and PeeWee may be weak from the loss of appetite; it is important to give the medication even though it can be hard to administer, you just need to be stronger willed then PeeWee. If there is no improvement in activity or appetite by the end of the week you should return to your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 16, 2018

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Shadow

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Husky

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7 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Scooting

I have a 7 month old husky and when I first got shadow he was wormed. Now he is starting to scoot his rear on the ground. I called the vet and they said it could either be that his anal glands are full or he could have worms. What is yours opinion?

May 15, 2018

Shadow's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The same really; scooting may be due to impacted anal glands, parasites, trauma to the anus, irritation from diarrhoea among other causes; you should be using an effective anthelmintic to worm Shadow regularly like Drontal Plus (praziquantel/pyrantel pamoate/febantel) to prevent any worm infections and you should give one to Shadow if you haven’t been doing so. However, without an examination with a finger to feel the glands I cannot say if the anal glands are impacted or not. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 16, 2018

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Eva

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Chihuahua

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Foul Smell
Limp Tail
Pain At Bottom Of Tail Bone

So... I was asleep and I dunno how the f it happened. But I pushed her away anyways her orientation wasn't wat I thought. And I accidentally poked her butt hole. Like urrgg It was a rude awakening for both of us trust me.. I feel/felt so bad. Like I'd just violated or raped her omg.. Anyways the next day her tail went limp and now she has a smell every now and then.. Wtf have I accidentally done.. ? Is she OK.. What's wrong with her tail?

May 8, 2018

Eva's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without examining Eva, I'm not sure what might be going on with her back end, but from your description, it would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian and make sure that everything is okay with her tail and her anal glands. I hope that all is well with her.

May 8, 2018

My dog is 7 months old and this morning she used the restroom but not much at all i noticed it was really hard then later on she went to go again and it had blood in it still really hard she just tried to go again but nothing would come out she started whining and spinning in circles she had brown liquid coming out her back end and her stomach is really hard she's also just laying around when normally she's really hyper

May 26, 2018

Hanna G.


I have a 7 month old husky and he was treated for worms when I first got him. he just started scooting his rear on the ground. I called the vet and they said it could be that his anal glands are full or he could have worms. What is your opinion?

May 15, 2018

Morgan

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Quessie

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Belgian Sheepdog

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Licking Her Anus, Straining To Poop

My 12-yr old Belgian Sheepdog has an impacted anal gland. Our vet has given her antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds, and the swelling seems to be reduced. However, I am concerned that that there may be a ruptured abcess. We have another appointment in 2 days. Should I try to have her seen sooner? I have the E-collar on her and it worries me because of her age and the possiblity that they may have to sedate her to treat her. Any suggestions would be welcome!

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Stitch

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Shih Tzu

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

None

While giving our shih tzu his nighttime grooming, I noticed his bum area was red and swollen. At the time I researched the symptom and was brought to the attention of this website. At the time, our shih tzu was not displaying any other symptoms. I made a mental note of the symptoms and to monitor him and his anal area. The next morning the gland must have burst as there was lots of pus and blood. I immediately brought him to the vet to get checked and diagnosed. My question being, is it typicall for this condition to accelerate in less then 24 hours? How could I have prevented this? Should i have brought him to the vet once i noticed the redness on his bum?

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Bo

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Boxer

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Squatting And Pushing
Messy Butt After Poop
Bad Smell From Butt
Swollen Back Thigh

Our boy goes out to poop and he groans like it's very painful to squat and push. He will stop and run then more poop will just come out. His butt almost always is messy and smelly. The inside of his right back thigh is very swollen but it doesn't seem to hurt. Any suggestions?

Cannanine