Understanding Your Dog's Anal Glands and How to Care for Them

Every dog has two small scent glands or sacs located around the anus. When the dog passes stool, these glands release a strong-smelling fluid designed to aid in territory marking.

Unhealthy anal glands in your dog can be a real pain in the butt, for both you and your dog. When your dog is suffering with a problem in that region, the pain and discomfort can be considerable. It is particularly a problem in small dogs, but unfortunately, it is common amongst all dogs. For a number of reasons, your dog's anal glands can become clogged or impacted, infections can then develop, and abscesses can occur. As an owner you may have to put up with a foul smell, but your dog may have to put up with severe pain and possibly surgery. We will look at the warning signs of impacted anal glands and abscesses, plus advise how you can prevent any problems and care for them in general.


Warning signs of impacted anal glands and abscesses

When your dog fails to empty their anal glands properly they run the risk of impaction. Impaction occurs from blockage between the gland and the opening. It often comes about from several days of diarrhea and soft stools. Vets warn of the risk impacted anal glands pose, for prolonged impaction and swelling can cause nasty infections, fever, and abscesses and the condition may require surgery to relieve.

If your dog has an anal abscess you should see a large, swollen area around the rectum, full of pus. If it has ruptured you will see a visible tear in the abscess. If your dog is ‘scooting’ (rubbing itself along the ground to scratch the area), licking, and paying that area more attention than usual, and if a foul smell is coming from that region, your dog may be suffering with anal gland issues.


How you can treat impacted anal glands and abscesses

Fortunately there are several things you can do from home to help care for your dog’s anal glands (if you’re feeling brave enough). If the dog’s glands have become impacted, you can clean them out. If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, a vet can give you advice or do it for you. If you are feeling brave, Fortitude Valley Vets have advised applying pressure with the finger underneath the gland, pushing upwards to relieve any contents. This can be done every week or two.

If your dog’s glands look swollen and they have visible discomfort and pain, you can apply a warm compress to relieve the swelling and aid with the pain. You can apply the compress up to several times a day, as you deem necessary.


How to prevent anal gland issues

One way you can impact the health of your dog’s anal glands as an owner is to tweak their diet. For example, a high fiber diet will make your dog's stool more substantial and bulky. The stool will then press against the glands as it passes, aiding in the glands’ expelling fluid.

Vets also indicate that grains in pet foods can be inflammatory, causing gland issues. So cut out any grains such as potatoes and certain dog foods. Your vet may also recommend changing the meat you feed your dog regularly. If you only feed them chicken and beef, it can cause them an allergic inflammatory response. So introduce a new protein to their diet-- rabbit for example-- and change it up every so often.


What to do from now on

Keep an eye on your dog, paying extra attention to their southern region. Also keep a nose out for a particularly foul odor, especially after a bath. If you do notice irritation or an abscess, you can always see your vet, who will give you guidance and offer treatment. From home, you can ease the pressure on their anal glands yourself with the above mentioned technique, and apply a warm compress to relieve discomfort. You can also help to prevent any problems arising by altering their diet, increasing their fiber content and introducing novel proteins. It is vital to keep your dog’s anal glands healthy--if left to complicate, your dog may endure considerable pain and have to undergo surgery to solve the issue.

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