What are anal glands?
The anal glands are located on either side of the anus at the 8:00 and 4:00 positions; they are positioned just under the skin. They connect to the anus by means of small canals or ducts. Anal glands produce and store a dark, foul-smelling fluid. These are the same type of organs that a skunk has to scare away its enemies. They are also used for scent marking. They usually empty as the dog goes to the toilet and they coat the poo with scent. If the glands aren’t emptying as fully or frequently as they should, the fluid builds up, solidifies, and becomes an ideal environment in which bacteria can grow.
What disorders can occur in the anal glands?
There are 3 diseases that occur in the anal glands:
- When the fluid becomes thick and solidified; this condition is called impaction.
- When bacteria grow in this material producing a yellow or bloody pus; this condition is called infection.
- When the infection builds to create a hot, tender swelling in the gland; this condition is called an abscess. Sometimes the pressure in the abscess gets so high the infection ruptures through the skin, this is very painful.
How will I know if my dog is having problems with its anal glands?
Symptoms of anal gland disease are:
- Scooting or dragging the anal area
- Excessive licking under the tail
- Pain, sometimes severe, near the tail or anus
- A swollen area on either side of the anus
- Bloody or sticky drainage on either side of the anus
How are the various anal gland diseases treated?
The treatment for impaction is to express (squeeze out) the glands and clean out the solidified material. For infection, the glands must be expressed and antibiotics administered to kill the bacteria. If an abscess bursts through the skin, this will need a longer course of antibiotics. It may also require surgical treatment.
Is there any way to prevent anal gland disease?
A high fibre diet can help the glands to empty when your dog goes to the toilet. Some commercial dog foods are quite low in fibre. Switching your dog to a different food with a higher fibre content can help. There are also fibre additives available that can be easily added to the food.