Anal Gland Impaction in Dogs

Anal gland impaction is one of many anal gland diseases that can affect dogs. Anal glands are vulnerable to bacterial infection and abscess, since bacteria can creep into the glands through the ducts. Impaction occurs when the glands and ducts become clogged with fecal matter or the gland's own secretions. Here's what you should know about anal impaction in dogs.

Where Your Dog's Anal Glands Are and How They Work

Your dog's anal glands can be found on either side and just below the opening of your dog's anal aperture. These glands secrete the pheromones that dogs use as a form of identification or communication. When your dog moves his bowels, some of his anal gland secretions should remain on the feces, so that other dogs and animals can identify your dog. This is why dogs sniff one another around the anus when they meet; they're sniffing each other's anal gland secretions.

Anal Gland Impaction Causes and Symptoms

Your dog's anal glands can become impacted when feces or anal gland secretions clog the ducts of the gland. When this occurs, the gland can't secrete the pheromones that identify your dog to other dogs. Anal gland impaction isn't a serious condition, but it doesn't increase your dog's risk of bacterial infection and abscess in the anal glands.   

When your dog scoots his rear end around on the floor, chances are good he's suffering from anal gland impaction. Your dog may lick or bite at his anal area. These behaviors put him at risk of injury. 

Treating Anal Gland Impaction

If your dog's anal glands are impacted but there's no sign of infection, your vet can show you how to express, or empty, the glands yourself. You can do this by applying pressure to the glands with your fingers. You'll start below the glands and gently but firmly press up to empty them of anything that could be blocking the ducts. Wear rubber gloves while you do this, and cover the anus with a piece of gauze or cotton ball to collect the secretions and fecal matter that may come out of the glands; these secretions have a foul aroma and you don't want to get them on your clothing, furniture or carpet.

If your dog's anal glands have become infected, be may need antibiotics. Abscesses of the anal glands need to be lanced and cleaned by the vet. Scar tissue from abscesses can damage the nerves and tissues of the anal region, and can even result in fecal incontinence, a condition in which your dog loses the ability to hold his stool.

Some dogs are more prone to anal gland impaction than others. Some dogs may require anal gland expression, or emptying, every two or three weeks. In dogs prone to anal gland impaction, the condition recurs about every two to six months. Watch your dog for signs of anal gland impaction and empty the anal glands before your dog succumbs to an infection.