Not the most pleasant of things to discuss and most certainly a very stinky problem when issues arise… anal glands are a very important part of your dog’s health. They can be quite problematic but, in most cases, issues are easy to treat.
Nevertheless, if your dog's anal gland becomes blocked, over-filled or irritated it can lead to more serious problems such as infection and abscesses.
Where and What is the Anal Gland?
So, where can you find the anal gland? Every dog has two of these near the anal opening – if you think of their bum like a little clock face, you’ll locate these glands at 4 and 8 o’clock.
The purpose of the anal gland is to mark territory. When your dog poos, the gland secretes a strong-smelling liquid to announce who they are.
They are also the reason your dog spends time sniffing other dogs’ bums! If your dog’s gland isn’t working properly, they can overfill and block.
What Causes Anal Gland Problems in Dogs?
Have you examined your dog’s poop lately?
If it is soft in consistency, there might not be enough pressure on the anal glands as the stool passes through. The glands rely on firm, bulky poop to push past and empty their foul-smelling liquid.
Is your dog a little overweight?
If so, it is possible that they have weak muscles around their bum coupled with fatty tissue gathering around the glands. If this happens, it makes emptying the glands a little difficult.
Small dogs can also struggle to express their anal gland as, due to their size, the glands are small and could block more easily.
Does your dog like to bite or groom excessively?
This could lead to trauma of the anal gland as they are quite close to the skin surface. In turn, this can cause infection and skin inflammation. Allergies can also manifest red and inflamed skin all over your dog’s body including the anal gland.
Signs and Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs
There are many tell-tale signs that your dog is suffering with their anal glands.
Have you noticed any of the below?
• A stinky fishy smell
• Scooting – dragging their bums along the ground (and often leaving a stain)
• Pain when pooing
• Sitting uncomfortably
• Having difficulty standing or sitting
• Excessive licking or biting their bums to try and relieve the itchiness of full glands
• Reluctance to have their bum touched
If you have spotted any of these signs, it is likely your dog has a problem. In addition, if you notice pus, red spots or a swollen area near the anus, it is possible your dog has also developed an infection.
What Can You Do At Home to Help With Dog Anal Gland Problems?
Before you visit the vets, you might want to try treating the glands at home. Whilst this isn’t a pleasant task, it is straightforward. Simply follow the steps we’ve detailed below:
- Have your dog on all fours and gently lift up their tail.
- Insert a gloved, Vaseline-covered index finger into your dog’s bum. Use your finger and thumb on the outside to feel for the glands.
- One you’ve located the pea to plum-sized gland, gently squeeze and massage it. A brown liquid should leak from the bum – make sure you have some paper towels to hand!
- Repeat the process with the other gland.
- Wash you dog’s bum with warm soapy water to get rid of the smell.
- Get both you and your dog a treat – you both deserve it!
There are also preventative measures which you can do at home to try and minimise the risk of anal gland issues:
• Ensure you give your dog a high-quality diet to give them healthy poop to support a healthy anal gland function.
• Keep your dog slim so they retain muscle tone around their bum.
When to Seek Veterinary Help For Your Dog's Anal Glands
If you feel unsure about tackling anal glands yourself, it is quick and easy for a vet or groomer to do. Don’t hang about though, if left untreated, blocked anal glands can lead to more serious problems like infections and abscesses.
If you spot the signs of infection as we have discussed, contact your vet immediately.
We know this is not the most fun part of being a paw-parent but this is essential advice to ensure you have a happy, healthy pup. Make sure you regularly check the area to look for any abnormalities and act as necessary.