Anal Gland Impactions in Dogs

Anal gland impactions are more than just a nuisance where you have to take your dog to the veterinarian to get them cleaned every few month. They can become very dangerous situations to your dog as they can lead to infections, abscesses, and even serious disease if not cared for properly.

Gland impaction is a very common problem for all dogs, especially smaller breeds of dogs. The anal glands are also referred to as anal sacs and are located on both sides of your dog’s anus, or butt. They open up to the outside world by very small passageways or ducts. The primary use of these glands by your dog is to lay there scent and mark out there territory as a means of communication to other dog.

However, what is not well known is that dogs will also use the scent from these glands as a defense mechanism when they are frightened.

By communicating in this manner, other dogs can tell when they have crossed into someone else’s territory. Every time your dog passes a stool, a small portion of this scent goes out. Other dogs can identify a particular dog by smelling their scent. That is why you will see your dog go up and smell droppings, even in their own yard.

If you have more than one dog they will check it out just to make sure that it is there companion. It is also why you see dogs almost immediately go to another dog’s rear and smell it. They are identifying the smell of the anal glad.

How Anal Glands Become Impacted:

Anal glands in your dog produce a liquid that is a dark brown, although in some cases when something is wrong, this secretion may become thick and turn yellowish in color. There are several reasons why these glands become impacted or basically close up.

These glands have a normalcy in shape, and when that shape becomes something other than normal is considered to be a conformation. This can cause the gland secretion to become thicker than normal and cause the glands to clog up. Clogging will also occur with soft stools as small particles will stay in the glands. Anything other than a normal bowel movement can also cause the glands to clog.

When the glands do become impacted, there will be two very distinctive signals that your dog will show you. The first is what is referred to as scooting. As owners, we have all seen it. Your dog will sit down on their hindquarters and drag their anus or rear end along the grass or even your carpet.

The other sign will be a very distinctive and prolonged licking at their posterior. They know something is wrong and they are trying to clean it out; the problem is they can’t.

However, there is a third sign that you should watch for. If your dog starts to bite or scratch their anus, or if they snap at you when you try to examine them, something more serious has developed. These glands have now become infected.

Bacteria can very easily enter these glands and cause both infection as well as abscesses. Once the ducts become clogged, it becomes a potential breeding ground for bacteria. This will become a very painful condition for your dog, and it can become a very smelly situation. When these glands become infected, they produce a very strong odor. If they are severely infected, they will have to be surgically removed.

How are the Anal Glands Cleaned?

In most all cases owners will take their pet to the veterinarian to have the glands cleaned. However, if not infected, it is not that difficult of a process to do yourself. These glands can easily be cleaned either internally or externally.

Raise your dog’s tail and look for the glands. They will be in lower left hand and right hand corner of your pet’s anus. If you were looking at a clock they will be in the 4 o’clock position, the right gland, and the 8 o’clock position, which is the left gland.

In the external method of cleaning simply take some paper towels and squeeze on both sides of your pets anal area. If it is not infected, it will burst out. It is a little messy, but not too bad. However, watch this very closely. If it is not a pure liquid form but instead is more of a paste form, you can not get rid of all of the secretion to empty the sacs properly on your own.

With the internal method you will need to get some rubber gloves and lubricate them with Vaseline. Than you put your finger into the rectum of your pets and simply squeeze the sac between your thumb and forefinger. Drain the liquid onto some paper towels and repeat the process on the other gland.

However, again watch it very closely, as the glands should appear firm. If you get any type of discharge that is not clear, your pet will have to go to the veterinarian. In most cases the discharge will be just a clear fluid, but if it is not they can rupture and damage your pet’s skin and spread infection.

This is a normal process for all dogs and will save you a lot of money once you learn how to do it. However, if they become clogged more than 2 to 3 times every couple of months, you may have to have the glands surgically removed. The surgical removal will not harm your dog but it does take away one of their most prized talents; the marking of their territory and communication to other dogs as to who they are.

Prevention and Treatment:

If your pet anal gland impactions do not become infected, they are no real threat to your pet health. However, chronic impactions in most cases will become infected. Abscesses must be lanced by your veterinarian followed by antibiotics. Abscesses may also cause scaring that may affect your pets nerves and muscle tissue in the anus. When this does occur, it can lead to incontinence where your pet can not hold the stool in.

The best method of treatment is to change is to change your pet’s diet and supplement them. High fiber diets will make your pet’s stool much firmer and more bulky which reduces the pressure on the glands.

Several nutrients will also help with anal gland impactions. Omega fatty acids help to be a very slight laxative to your dog but do not make the stool watery, just easier to pass. A small teaspoon of olive oil in your pet’s food will also bring a lot of relief in your dog as it accomplishes the same thing as thing, allowing the stool to remain firm but pass easier.

Summery:

Anal gland impactions will happen in your dog; but learning to understand the symptoms and the ways you can help to reduce or eliminate it will save both your dog and yourself a lot of agony.

I am an avid lover of pets and my wife and I have had several pets throughout our years. We are especially fond of dogs, and we have a 12 year old Dalmatian (our 3rd) and a “mutt” that we rescued when someone threw him away to die in a vacant field.