Anal Glands

Dogs do have a doggy smell and sometimes the smell can be really dreadful. The awful smell may go away when the dog is bathed, but after a while the horrible smell would be there again. If your dog has the same problem, your pet’s anal sack could be over filled or impacted. Anal sacs or anal gland contain a foul smelling liquid that has to be emptied normally. If the anal sacs are not emptied normally the result would be impaction, infection and abscessation.

Years ago, when dogs have a diet of bones anal gland disorders are unknown. This problem developed when dogs were domesticated. Because of modern canine diets anal gland is not emptied as it normally should. Canine food that has a lot of cereal fillers often result to soft stools thus very little pressure or no pressure at all is applied to the sacs.

Emptying the anal sac is a highly individual need. Dogs with overactive anal glands would need the sacs to be emptied every two to three weeks. Other dogs would need the sacs to be expressed more often. In such a case, dog owners may opt to have the sac surgically removed. Anal sacculectomy is a simple surgical procedure but apart from distorting the dog’s anatomy the procedure would certainly affect the fecal continence.

Anatomy of the Anal Sac

Anal sacs or anal glands are located on each side of the anal opening, approximately at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. The anal gland secretes a foul smelling brownish liquid through a small duct that opens directly beside the anus. Sizes of anal sacs vary from dog to dog but normally the size would range from pea to kidney bean. This bean sized gland is situated between the external and the internal anal muscles or sphincters.

Anal glands are scent glands that are used by the dogs to mark their territories. Dogs have a unique smell that makes them distinct from other dogs. The secretion is also used by dogs to identify each other. People would say hello though handshakes; in the world of dog’s this is done by sniffing each others butts. Notice how dogs would raise their tails when they met another dogs. By raising the tail pressure is applied to the anal gland and a small amount of liquid that has the personal scent of the dog is expelled.

Normally, the anal glands are emptied when the dog urinates or defecates. When a dog defecate the anal sphincter contracts thus a small amount of pressure is applied to the anal glands. Anal muscles are involuntarily contracted if the dog is upset or frightened.

Signs of Anal Gland Disorder

Signs of anal gland disorder are pretty easy to see. If your dog is scooting or dragging its rear on the floor or on the carpet; if the dog is constantly licking its anus or if the dog turns around and around chasing its own tail there’s a big chance that the anal sac is impacted. You will also notice the dog’s stool is kind of soft. Some dogs can empty the anal sac by scooting. If the dog has stopped scooting it could be because it was able to express the sac. Some dogs though could not express the sac on their own.

An overactive anal gland, soft stool and small anal sack opening are usually the causes of impaction. Impaction is the result when the duct from the gland to the opening in the anus is blocked. An impacted anal gland’s secretion would be thick, pasty and yellowish in color. Because the glands are not emptied bacteria could set in. This would result to infection. Blood and pus in the secretion is a sign that the anal gland is infected. An abscess could form and rupture the dog’s skin. This can be a very messy and smelly condition. The dog will be extremely uncomfortable. Ruptured abscess are also painful, would cause fever and oftentimes mistaken as rectal bleeding.

Impacted anal glands need to be manually expressed. Some dog owners can express the dog’s anal glands; some would enlist the help of dog groomers. Ruptured abscess however would need professional attention. In most cases, the vet would lance an abscess, administer oral antibiotics as well as infuse antibiotics on the gland. Antibiotic infusion is done by placing the tip of the antibiotic ointment tube to the anal gland duct opening and squeezing the tube to fill the gland.

How to Express the Anal Sacs

Anal sac examination should be done regularly. Naturally it would be ideal if the dog can express the anal sac themselves but if not it would be the owners responsibility to see to it that the sacs are emptied. Anal gland secretions are extremely foul smelling substances and emptying the anal can be an off putting distasteful task. However a lot of dog owners have learned to express the anal sacs themselves. Full anal glands can be easily emptied if the contents are still liquid. Clogged anal glands would be harder to empty as the contents have already thickened. Anal sacs can be expresses internally and externally.

To express the anal sac internally:

  • Wear a lubricated rubber gloves and insert the forefinger into the anus of the dog
  • Squeeze the gland with the forefinger while at the same time applying firm but gentle pressure with the thumb externally
  • Hold a folded tissue or damp rag to catch the excreted fluid
  • Repeat the procedure in the other sac

To express the anal sac externally:

  • Lift the tail of the dog with one hand and locate the anal glands on both sides of the anal opening. These are two lumps on the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions
  • Holding a folded paper towel or a damp rug to catch the secretion, gently but firmly apply pressure on the sacs simultaneously until the liquid is expelled through the anal opening
  • Wipe the dog’s behind and you are done.

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