Recently we went through a period where Dylan was struggling with anal gland issues. So, we thought that we would share more information on this bothersome and uncomfortable (and very stinky) condition for dogs. It’s good to understand and be prepared to deal with anal gland issues in dogs.
Table of Contents
Anal gland issues in dogs
What are anal glands
To gain a thorough understanding of anal gland issues in dogs, it is important to start with the anatomy and function of anal glands. Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are two small, scent-producing sacs located just inside of a dog’s anus. They are usually located at about 4:00 and 8:00 and can range in size from the size of a pea to a grape. They contain a unique (and smelly) secretion that plays a crucial role in canine communication. During defecation, the pressure exerted on the anal glands causes a small amount of fluid to be released. The secretion can range from being a thin liquid to a thick paste.
Causes of anal gland issues
Anal gland issues in dogs can be attributed to various factors, including:
- Poor diet: Inadequate dietary fiber can result in soft stools, which do not provide enough pressure during bowel movements to properly empty the anal glands, leading to blockages and irritation.
- Obesity: Overweight dogs may experience increased pressure on their anal glands, making them more prone to issues such as impaction or infection.
- Breed predisposition and genetics: Certain dog breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, and Basset Hounds, have a higher likelihood of developing anal gland issues due to genetic predisposition. Dogs may just develop anal glands that are more difficult to express.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Dogs with limited physical activity may have compromised bowel movements, which can contribute to anal gland problems.
- Allergies: Dogs with allergies, particularly food allergies, may experience inflammation in the anal area, increasing the risk of anal gland issues.
- Stress or anxiety: Emotional stress or anxiety can affect a dog’s digestive system, leading to changes in bowel movements and potentially causing anal gland problems.
Symptoms of anal gland issues
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of anal gland problems is crucial for early detection and prompt treatment. Common symptoms include:
- Scooting: Dogs may drag their rear end along the ground or on surfaces in an attempt to relieve the discomfort caused by impacted or infected anal glands.
- Excessive licking or biting: Frequent licking or biting of the anal area can indicate irritation, inflammation, or infection in the anal glands.
- Foul odor: A strong, unpleasant odor emanating from the dog’s rear end is often a clear indication of anal gland problems.
- Swelling or discharge: Visible swelling, redness, or discharge around the anus may indicate an infected or abscessed anal gland.
- Pain or discomfort: Dogs with anal gland issues may exhibit signs of discomfort, such as reluctance to sit or signs of pain when the affected area is touched.
When faced with anal gland problems in dogs, it is essential to consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. You can try and treat the issue yourself initially. But if left untreated, serious infections can develop. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatment options:
- Manual expression: Your vet can manually empty the anal glands by applying gentle pressure to alleviate the dog’s discomfort and promote proper gland emptying. This can sometimes be done by “massaging” the outside of the anus. But they may need to do so internally. While this is something that your vet can show you how to do, trust us, you really don’t want to do it yourself.
- Medication: In cases of infection or inflammation, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate symptoms and promote healing.
- Surgical intervention: In severe or recurrent cases, surgical removal of the anal glands may be recommended as a last resort.
In addition to conventional treatment options, natural remedies can be used to complement the treatment of anal gland issues in dogs. It is important to note that natural remedies should be used under the guidance of a veterinarian. Some natural remedies that may be beneficial include:
- Warm compress: Applying a warm compress to the affected anal area can help soothe inflammation, increase blood flow, and promote healing. To create a warm compress, soak a clean cloth in warm water, wring out the excess moisture, and gently apply it to the dog’s anal area for up to 10 minutes, 2–3 times per day. You can add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to 1 cup of warm water. The Epsom salt will help to draw out the impurities.
- Homeopathy: We have had success using Silicea homeopathic medicine with Dylan. At first sign of issues, we give him silicea (6c). At a dosage of: 3 pills, 3 times per day for the first week. Then 3 pills, 2 times per day for the second week. Please only use this treatment in consultation with your vet. If we don’t catch the issues in time, this doesn’t seem to work as well.
- Herbal soaks: Certain herbs possess natural anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that can provide relief for anal gland issues. Chamomile and calendula are good herbs to use for herbal soaks. Brew a strong tea using either herb, allow it to cool, and then use a clean cloth to apply the herbal solution to the affected area.
- Essential oils: Some essential oils have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that may aid in the treatment of anal gland issues. We have made a tincture using Frankincense, Lavender, Helichrysum, and coconut oil, which has helped. Always consult with a veterinarian before using essential oils on your dog, as some oils can be toxic to pets or cause adverse reactions.
- Dietary supplements: Certain dietary supplements can help support anal gland health in dogs. Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, can help reduce inflammation in the anal glands. Probiotics and pumpkin puree can also be beneficial. They both help promote healthy digestion and firm stools, reducing the risk of anal gland issues. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage and type of supplements for your dog.
Prevention is key in avoiding anal gland issues in dogs. Implementing the following preventive measures can help maintain anal gland health:
- Dietary modifications: Provide a balanced and high-fiber diet to promote regular bowel movements. Foods rich in fiber include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. Consult with your veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations.
- Regular exercise: Engage your dog in regular physical activity to promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. Exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight, reducing the strain on the anal glands.
- Weight management: Maintain a healthy weight for your dog to minimize pressure on the anal glands. Obesity can contribute to anal gland problems. So consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate diet and exercise regimen for weight management.
- Regular gland expression: Please don’t allow your groomer to express your dogs anal glands. Overexpressing glands can cause issues as well. And really your dog expresses them every time they poop. If your dog has chronic issues, you can work with your vet to establish a routine for regular gland expression.