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5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Dog's Anal Glands Need a Vet's Checkup


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Updated: 9/1/2021

Anal gland issues can literally be a pain in the butt for your pooch. When anal glands are inflamed, swelling and distention can take place, even leading up to a problem like an abscess.

Inflamed glands make it painful for your dog to pass feces. Because of the discomfort, your dog will no doubt show you signs they need help.

Read on to learn 5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Dog’s Anal Glands Need a Vet’s Checkup.

What are anal glands?

The anal gland sacs are located at “4 o’clock and 8 o’clock”, right at either side of the anus. The sac walls are lined with glands that produce a liquid normally released every time your pooch passes a stool. 

Both male and female dogs have anal glands to express the fluid buildup. But sometimes the fluid is not released naturally when the muscles of the anal sphincter contract during a bowel movement. This is when the vet may need to check and see what’s taking place.

Signs your dog’s anal glands need to be checked:

an older Golden Retriever is lounging in the sun

1. Scooting: Your dog is scooting their bottom along the floor. This is a sure sign that discomfort and irritation are present.

2. Licking and biting: If your pupster keeps licking and biting the hind end or around the tail, there is an issue.

3. Presence of odor: If the glands are really full, there may be an odor that is on the stinky side.

4. Staining: In some cases, there may be staining where your pooch sits or lies down.

Don’t leave symptoms unchecked. Anal gland impaction or rupturing of the anal sac could occur.

In the event your dog has impacted glands or gets an infection, antibiotics may be needed. This is to clear up the problem and to prevent the spread of infection. 

Another reason to get your dog’s anal glands checked if you suspect they are inflamed is to rule out a medical issue like anal gland adenocarcinoma. If your pooch has a health condition like cancer, the sooner the tumor is addressed, the better.

If your dog is at risk of developing impacted anal glands, check out our pet insurance comparison tool. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like FIGO and Nationwide.

Anal Gland FAQs

What is the function of the anal glands?

The anal glands secrete the fluid that fills the anal sac. In the secretions are chemicals that work like territorial markers, allowing your dog to signal “this is my poop and my spot”, essentially saying “I’ve been here”. Other than that, the function of the anal glands is not clear.

Are certain breeds prone to anal gland issues?

No one breed is prone to anal gland problems, but smaller dogs and toy breeds seem to show up at the veterinarian needing their glands expressed most often. Anal gland impaction, which can occur when the glands are left to their own devices, affects these breeds the most:

  • Dachshund

  • Miniature Poodle

  • Toy Poodle

  • Chihuahua

What causes anal glands to become swollen, plugging the ducts?

Your dog’s anal glands problem may be something that will recur or could be a one-time event. A few reasons may be behind the problem.

  • Overweight dogs may have anal gland issues.

  • The glands could be located in the wrong place.

  • Your dog’s stools are too soft. 

  • Dog’s with inflammatory issues, such as those that occur with allergies, may have anal glands that are not functioning well.

  • There may be a medical reason for the swelling, impaction, or infection.

Can I express my dog’s anal glands myself?

Taking care of your dog’s anal glands on your own is not recommended. It’s a pretty delicate area and an error in movement could cause serious issues. Having the glands expressed regularly at a grooming session is not ideal either. Potential inflammation and anal gland sacculitis can occur with over-expressing when not needed.

What can I do to prevent anal gland problems?

Anal gland problems cannot typically be solved with a simple cure-all, although in some cases, increasing your dog’s fiber content helps. How to increase your dog’s fiber? Add a small amount of the foods listed below. Take a gradual approach and check with your veterinarian if you are unsure.

  • Oatmeal

  • Rice

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Pumpkin

Consult your veterinarian

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Any time your tail-wagger is feeling low, you should take them to the veterinary clinic. From nose to tail, there are any number of health issues that can plague your pet. With an anal gland checkup, a safely-done expression of the anal glands is often the remedy to get your pooch back to normal.

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