If you own a dog you may have heard the term ‘anal glands’ and wondered what it is, and if it is a normal part of all dogs. The answer is yes; all dogs have anal glands. In most cases there are no problems associated with these structures, unless they become filled, and in which case, they become uncomfortable. In fact, infections and other problems can result from this situation.
Anal glands are small sac like structures that are located near the anus. There is one gland on each side of the anal region. The glands have openings that are located just inside the anus. Anal glands hold a liquid substance until the animal defecates, and at that time the liquid is normally secreted, or expressed from the glands, along with the feces.
Fear, nervousness, or even excitement can also result in the expression of this foul smelling, dark colored liquid. As a result it may be seen under the animal’s tail, or near the rectum, or even on the floor near the pet.
Over-filling and/or inadequate emptying of the anal glands is not uncommon in dogs. When the glands are full the pet will begin to feel a discomfort in the anal region and strive to relieve that distress. Dogs are sometimes seen scooting their behinds across the floor in an effort to relieve the symptoms. Other times they will bite or lick at the area surrounding the anus and under the tail. Additionally, some dogs will keep their tail tucked down and under, or between their legs when they feel discomfort related to their anal glands.
Fortunately, the liquid can be manually expressed from the anal glands. One method is external manual expression. This involves squeezing the area on either side of the anus to ‘milk’ or force the fluid out of the anal glands. The other method is internal manual expression which involves inserting a finger inside the rectum of the dog and using another finger on the outside, with the anal glands between the fingers. Execution of either method should result in visible excretion of the fluid exiting the anal glands openings. Groomers and veterinarians are experienced in this procedure.
Allowing the fluid to continue to build without emptying the sacs can eventually result in the fluid changing consistency, from a fluid liquid to a much thicker substance that is even more difficult to express. At this point it is best to seek professional assistance from a veterinarian. If left unattended the anal glands can become infected and other problems can develop.
Depending on the severity of the resulting problems the dog may need to have flushing treatments of the anal glands and treatments with antibiotics, which may involve sedation, as well as pain medication. If the anal glands become repeatedly filled and problems continue it is possible that surgical removal will be suggested. The removal can sometimes result in (temporary or permanent) fecal incontinence.
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