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Swollen Glands in Dogs: Understanding the Symptoms and Causes

Swollen Glands in Dogs: Understanding the Symptoms and Causes

If your beloved dog has recently been showing signs of discomfort, such as licking their rear end more often than normal and scooting across carpets or tile floors, then they may be dealing with swollen anal glands. It can be unpleasant to watch our furry friends display these symptoms which is why it's important to understand what causes this common problem in dogs and how best to treat them for fast relief. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs that indicate a need for treatment of swollen anal glands in dogs as well as helpful tips on how to safely reduce swelling and maintain healthy anal glands moving forward.

What are dog anal glands?

Every dog has two anal glands (or sacs) on either side of their anus. They produce a strong-smelling liquid that dogs use to mark their territory and let other dogs know who they are. Ever wondered why dogs like to sniff each other’s butts when they meet? Well, the answer is their anal glands.

Causes of swollen dog anal glands

Prevention is always better than cure and it is key to make sure your dog is eating the right foods to make sure their digestive system is working properly. If your dog has loose stools then there isn’t enough pressure put against their glands to help empty them. This means not all the liquid in them is expressed and what remains can become thicker and block the duct, leading to swollen glands. However, when your dog’s poops are healthy each time they pass stool their anal glands are squeezed and emptied so it is important to do what you can to help them have healthy firm poops.

You can do this by ensuring they have a healthy diet that’s digestible and is packed with fibre to help produce firm stools. Making sure your dog has regular, healthy poops is key for anal glands to be emptied naturally. You can also make doubly sure this happens by giving your dog a supplement that helps, such as our anal gland support chews. These are packed full of fibrous ingredients such as flaxseed, psyllium seed husk and pumpkin powder that all help maintain the health of your dog’s digestive system.

If your dog is overweight this can also lead to problems with their anal glands as fatty tissue around the glands means the muscles that help express the glands as your dog poops can’t work as well as they should. So remember, making sure your dog has a healthy diet and is a healthy weight can really help stop a trip to the vets.

Signs of swollen anal glands

If the glands aren’t drained naturally though they can become swollen and uncomfortable for your pooch and there are a few common signs your dog’s anal glands aren’t as healthy as they should be:

  • The dreaded scoot: Whilst seeing your dog scoot across the floor may seem comical it is actually a sign that they are uncomfortable or in pain. If their glands are swollen they will try to relieve them by scooting 
  • Excessive licking and chewing their bottom: If you see your dog chewing or licking a lot under their tail it could be a sign they are trying to help stop the itchy sensation of full glands 
  • A smelly back end: When anal glands aren’t emptied the liquid that’s left in them can start to develop a bad smell which is often compared to the smell of rotting fish.
  • Not wanting to be touched: If your dog starts to not be happy about having their rear end touched, stroked or patted it could be a sign that something is wrong with their anal glands. They may also become slightly aggressive from being in pain.

  • You may also see spots of smelly discharge on the floor, most likely after a dog has been scooting, and you may notice it’s becoming painful for your dog to poop. Now you know what to look out for, we're going to let you know what you can do to help your dog.

    Treatment of swollen anal glands

    If you spot your dog doing any of the signs their anal glands are swollen then it is important to make sure you do something about helping them. Swollen glands can become extremely painful and infected if not treated and if you see any blood, pus or an abscess around your dog’s anus it is important to contact your vet and get your dog an appointment as soon as possible because if left untreated it may mean your dog needs to have antibiotics or even surgery to clear up the infection.

    It may be that your dog needs their anal glands expressed. This can be a messy job and if you think your dog’s glands may need to be emptied, especially if they haven’t needed to before, then it is important to speak to your vet to see what the underlying cause is. Your vet will be able to express the glands for you however this can get expensive if this needs to happen regularly. It is possible to do this at home yourself once the problem has been diagnosed but it is important to know how to do this properly so you don’t cause any damage to your dog’s glands. If you’re uncertain about doing this yourself then you can speak to an expert first such as your vet or groomer and they will be able to provide further advice.

    How to empty dog anal glands

    1. Have your dog on all fours and gently lift up their tail.
    2. 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.
    3. 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!
    4. Repeat the process with the other gland.
    5. Wash your dog’s bum with warm soapy water to get rid of the smell.
    6. Get both you and your dog a treat – you both deserve it!

    What do I need to remember about swollen glands?

    Scooting is often an easy-to-gauge symptom for swollen anal glands in dogs. That said, several other symptoms can indicate there’s a problem, such as when your dog has frequent licking at their rear end, smells particularly strong around their tail and anus, or they show signs of pain when standing up or sitting down. If you recognise any of these signs in your pup, it might be time to make a trip to the vet to get them checked. In the meantime, make sure that you are helping them by feeding them a healthy diet full of fibre that can help firm up poops so that anal glands are emptied naturally.

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