A Guide to Dog Anal Gland Problems

Dog anal gland problems are more common in small dogs, but the can afflict any breed. Located on either side of the anus, these small glands release a strong-smelling liquid that is used to mark territory, show fear and help dogs identify one another.

These sacs are usually emptied when the dog defecates. A small amount of the liquid is released along with dog feces. They are also emptied when there is a sudden contraction of the sphincter. This causes a characteristic dog smell when your dog is afraid or upset.

Most problems with dog anal glands involve an impaction or an abscess. Other, less common problems include fistulas, polyps and cancer, and perianal adenoma.

Impactions: Under Functioning Anal Glands

If the sacs do not empty normally, an impaction can occur. Symptoms of an impaction include "scooting" along the floor to attempt to empty the overfull sacs. This is more common in smaller breeds, but it can happen to any dog. Usually, it occurs because recurrent loose stools do not supply enough sphincter pressure to empty the sacs. It can also be caused by small anal sac openings or overactive glands. The glands must be expressed manually.

Infections and Abscesses

If there is blood or pus in the secretions or signs of pain, your dog could have an anal sac infection. Antibiotics will be needed to treat the infection. If left untreated, anal sac infections can abscess.

An abscess will cause swelling and redness around the anus. This is a condition that needs to be treated by a veterinarian, as the glands will need to be lanced and drained.

If your dog has recurrent anal sac infections, your veterinarian may recommend removing the glands.

Perianal Fistulas

Fistulas are open sores in the perianal skin. Often, there is also an internal opening into the rectum. This condition is most common in German Shepherds but other breeds are also susceptible. It appears similar to an abscess, but it is a more complicated condition, often requiring surgery.

Perianal Adenomas

These are hormone-related growths around the anus, usually seen in male dogs over the age of six. They can enlarge, ulcerate and bleed. These growths are usually not cancerous and treatable with surgery.

Polyps and Cancer

Polyps and cancer of the anus are rare. Similar in appearance to adenomas, they should be biopsied and removed.

Tips To Keep Prevent Anal Gland Problems:

  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight. Obesity increases the likelihood of anal sac problems.
  • Feed a high quality food that contains a named meat as its first ingredient. Add carrots, bananas, pears, squash, peas, bran and olive oil to your dog's rations. These foods will provide bulk and improve
  • your dog's overall digestive health.
  • Regular, vigorous exercise will stimulate the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Dog digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation are often improved by the addition of a probiotic supplement. These supplements will increase the beneficial bacteria naturally present in your dog's gut.

Emptying the Anal Sacs

  1. Lift your dog's tail. The anal sacs are located at approximately five and seven o'clock on either side of the anus.
  2. Wearing latex gloves, grasp the skin surrounding the sac with thumb and forefinger, push in and squeeze together.
  3. Empty the glands into a paper towel.
  4. A veterinarian or trained technician can demonstrate this technique for you.