If your dog has trouble going to the bathroom, it’s likely because of impacted anal glands. These small glands are on either side of the rectum, just above their tail. They produce a waxy substance known as sebum that helps lubricate feces so they can pass through more easily. This secretion also contains pheromones that help dogs communicate with other members of their species.
If these glands become impacted or infected, they can cause your dog pain and discomfort and even lead to serious health problems if not treated promptly. Read on to learn more about why this happens, what symptoms you should look out for, and how you can give your pup some relief:
What Are Dog Anal Glands?
Dog anal glands are two tiny sacs on either side of the anus, producing a foul-smelling liquid when your dog defecates. The fluid marks territory and identifies other dogs as members of their pack.
However, suppose these sacs become impacted. In that case, your pup can have problems, including pain and discomfort, as well as behavioral changes, such as aggression or a loss of confidence.
According to recent research by Royal Veterinary College, anal sac disorders impact around 4.4% of the canine population. Moreover, certain dog breeds are more vulnerable to this problem than others. These breeds with higher risks include the following:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are 3.31 times more likely.
- King Charles Spaniel is 3.30 times more likely.
- Cockapoos are 2.59 times more likely.
- Shih-Tzu is 1.66 times more likely.
- Bichon Frise is 1.63 times more likely.
- Cocker Spaniels are 1.24 times more likely.
Signs of Impacted Anal Glands
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign that your dog’s anal glands are impacted:
- Your dog is scooting on the ground. If your dog is moving around on all fours in pain, this could be a sign of impacted anal glands. They may also have a foul odor coming from their rear end.
- Your dog keeps licking his/her rear end and the area near your home. This behavior can indicate discomfort or pain in the anal region. You may also notice blood or pus around their rectum when they squat to defecate.
- He/she has had abscesses after relieving themselves due to infection caused by impacted anal glands or stones that were not released during regular activity.
Knowing and identifying the signs of anal gland problems at the right time is vital for quick treatment. This is more important for dogs as anal gland issues impact them more. According to a study published on the NCBI website, dogs are at a higher risk of developing anal gland problems than cats. Also, diarrhea and skin problems can increase the risk of anal sac diseases.
Treatment for Impacted Anal Glands
Here are some options for treatment:
- Expressing anal glands. This can be done by a veterinarian or through home expression. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to do it regularly until your dog’s anal gland problems are resolved.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. If your dog has an impacted anal gland, he may also have inflammation of the rectum and colon and pain from his affected anal gland. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics to help ease your pet’s discomfort while also helping with healing after surgery if that becomes necessary.
Drugs with anti-inflammatory properties like Tresaderm can help relieve the discomfort. Tresaderm is an anti-fungal and antibiotic drug that can help treat anal sac infections. It is an FDA-approved solution with properties to treat multiple infections, including skin and ear infections, alongside anal glands. It is capable of treating bacterial and fungal infections.
- Surgical removal of the affected glands. Surgical removal is usually necessary if a large amount of stool becomes lodged in one or more of the dog’s anal glands and they become impacted. This is to avoid further damage occurring to other parts of his digestive tract over time due to constant pressure placed against him by stool build-up inside those glands during each bowel movement process.
Surgery is usually avoided until necessary because it can lead to complications. A study published on the NCBI website showed that most complications were grade II and higher. Of all the complications, intra-operative, surgical site infections, and local recurrence were the common complications observed in the dogs that were a part of the study.
How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands
Anal gland expression is essential to your dog’s health and well-being, especially if they have frequent problems with impacted anal glands. Regular expression will prevent problems from occurring and help keep your dog free of infection. Here are some tips to help express your dog’s anal glands:
- Wear latex gloves
- Get help from someone to hold your pet’s head while you focus on the tail
- Find the glands and cover the area with tissue
- Use your thumb and forefinger to push the glands to remove the fillings in the sac
You can refer to this guide from The Spruce Pets to learn how to express your dog’s anal glands at home.
Diseases Associated With Anal Glands
If your dog’s skin is red, irritated, and inflamed, he may suffer from allergies. A vet will be able to prescribe medication for this condition.
- Fungal infections can cause irritation and inflammation of the anal glands and other body areas.
- Anal gland cancers are rare but can happen in extreme cases of long-term infection or inflammation of the anal glands.
- Trauma from scratching or biting at the anus can result in bleeding, swelling, pain, and discomfort for your puppy. This can also lead to an abscess forming around his anus, which needs to be drained by a vet immediately.
- If your dog has loose stools, it’s likely he has an impacted anal gland that needs immediate attention.
As you can see, anal gland problems can cause much distress for your dog. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and treat this issue, so it doesn’t get out of hand. As with any health condition, it’s best to catch it early on before it becomes a severe problem.
If your dog shows signs of anal gland problems like frequent licking or scooting on the floor near their rear end, then take them to the vet immediately. The sooner they get treatment, the better off they will be in the long run.