Anal glands. Just the name alone sounds kind of gross to many people. Unless you have had a dog or a cat that has had issues with them, you may have never even heard of them.
Anal glands are sometimes referred to as “scent glands,” because they enable animals to mark their territory and identify each other by smell. Anal glands are located under the skin on the sides of the anus at the 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock position. These glands produce and store a dark, foul-smelling fluid that is often expressed when your pet defecates.
1. Why do I need to know about anal glands?
Some dogs and cats are unable to empty their anal glands normally, and they experience discomfort and irritation. If pets can’t empty anal glands on their own, they may need help from their veterinarians to express the fluid from their glands.
2. How will I know if my pet needs to have them expressed?
Not all dogs and cats will need to have their anal glands expressed for them. Pets that need help expressing anal glands may scoot on the carpet, lick excessively under their tails, or emit foul odors from their hind ends. Pets with anal gland issues may have pain near the tail or may have a swollen appearance around the anus.
3. Can I just have my groomer express anal glands?
Groomers express anal glands differently from veterinarians. Groomers typically perform external anal gland expression, meaning that they put pressure on the outside of the glands to push the fluid out. This method may partially empty the glands, but some fluid can remain. Because the glands aren’t emptied completely, problems may reoccur in a short period of time.
With external expression, there is an increased risk of anal gland rupture. In addition, this method doesn’t allow for detection of thickening of the glands or abnormal growths. With internal anal gland expressions, veterinarians can completely express all fluid and assess the gland for structural changes or abnormal growths.
4. Why is my pet having anal gland problems?
There are many reasons that an animal may have problems with normal anal gland expression. Some causes may include:
- Soft stools (caused by illness or medications) may not exert enough pressure on the glands to express them.
- Abnormal location of the glands inside the rectum may make it difficult to empty the glands.
- Allergies or infection may alter normal gland secretions making the fluid harder to express.
5. What if my pet has chronic anal gland problems?
Consult with your veterinarian before making changes to address anal gland problems. However, there are some things you can do to help a pet with chronic issues:
- Increase dietary fiber by adding canned pumpkin or Metamucil to firm up stools. Talk to your veterinarian about dosage.
- Use a high-quality, grain-free or raw diet to firm up stools.
- Schedule frequent anal gland expressions with your veterinarian to help empty the glands and provide comfort for your pet.
- Schedule an anal sacculectomy surgery to remove the anal glands if the issue becomes too problematic.
Anal gland problems can be a “pain in the butt” for both the pet and the owner. Knowing symptoms of and treatment for anal gland issues can make the situation more manageable. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for help.