How do you know if your dog needs its anal glands expressed?
Original Question: What are the signs and symptoms that my dog needs its anal glands expressed and can my dog develop an infection if they aren't expressed. - Anonymous
Anal glands are two sacs that sit beside the anus that fill up with this really stinky stuff. When a poop comes out it puts pressure on these glands and causes them to express and this liquid gets on the poop that is really meant for marking. What happens when we have anal gland problems is that they can leak releasing that really smelly odour. In fact, if the anal glands don’t express they can become firm and the material inside can dry out and become inflamed which can be quite painful. The thing we usually see with dogs is that they rub their bums along the ground and some will lick back there. Sometimes anal glands that are impacted won’t express and they can cause an anal gland infection in dogs. An abscess may form causing a drainage hole and this will open up beside the anal gland outside of the regular tube that this stuff is supposed to come out of so it can be very painful.
To treat this you would go to your veterinarian and some groomers express anal glands as well, and what happens is that with a glove you have to put your finger in and express the anal gland. Some groomers will do it from the outside so they may not fully express it and by doing it this way you can’t tell if an anal gland is fully empty. If the anal gland is inflamed sometimes it produces more material rather rapidly so I always tell people you might see the symptoms come back in about two or three days. In that case, come back in for another expression. I always say that because some people will see it come back in about two or three days and they’ll think we must not have empty emptied them fully but in fact, if they’re inflamed, it can sometimes fill up rather rapidly and usually after that second expression they’re fine.
There are lots of things that are suspected of causing anal gland problems like allergies, vaccinations, and diseases but we don’t really know any rhyme or reason. I had a cat that I had for a number of years who was an older cat and it basically had an anal gland problem once but never again. On the other hand, there are some dogs I see that need their anal glands expressed once a month for six months and then never again after that.
If you’re starting to have problems beyond that, and the expressions don’t work, there are actual surgeries you can do called an anal sacculectomy where the anal glands are removed. In 13 years I have never had to do that and I’ll tell you why. The thing that I do is I will actually sedate the dog and insert a catheter into the tube of each anal gland and flush them out really thoroughly. I’ll then pack the anal gland full of a medicine with an antibiotic and a yeast anti-inflammatory. It’s actually a very common ear and skin medication but I actually put it in the anal gland. It’s not really used for that but it’s never caused a problem and has really settled the anal glands down and it’s avoided the surgery for me every single time.
As always please consult with your veterinarian about the treatment options that have been presented.
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