When it comes to identifying pet allergies, you’ll have to look closer than just a sneeze or two. The most common sign of allergies in pets is red and itchy skin, but sniffling, sneezing, and ear infections can also be telltale signs of allergies. In some cases, the glands at the other end of your dog’s anatomy can also be affected. 


If your pet has seasonal allergies or food sensitivities and they’re experiencing anal gland issues, it might be time to do a little investigating. We’ll cover potential connections between allergies and anal gland conditions, while sharing a few tips to help support your pet.

COMMON TYPES OF ALLERGIES IN PETS

Allergies can affect pets similarly to how they affect us, but can also be quite unique. We may experience itchy eyes, runny noses and a scratchy throat, while our furry friends may have itchy skin with infections. Depending on the type of allergen your pet is exposed to, their allergy symptoms may vary. Let’s start by covering the most common allergens affecting pets:

1. Environmental Allergens
Environmental allergens include dust, pollen, smoke, grass, mold, dander and other substances found in your pet’s environment. These types of allergens can be tricky to avoid, with recent research showing that the air quality inside the home almost identically mimics the air quality outside. Exposure to allergens can occur anywhere, even if your pet doesn’t spend much time outside. 
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2. Food Allergens
Food allergens trigger a unique inflammatory response that can sometimes be misidentified as a food sensitivity or intolerance. Carbohydrates are not always the culprit, as proteins found in food can also trigger an allergic response. Going grain-free is often not the solution. While meat is the most notable form of protein given to pets, plant-based proteins can also trigger allergic reactions.
3. Flea Allergy Dermatitis
As if these pests weren’t bad enough, flea bites can also cause severe allergic reactions in your pet. Pets struggling with flea allergies will bite at the base of the tail and itch frequently, and in some cases very few fleas are found. Allergic reactions to a flea bite can lead to more severe symptoms like inflammation, painful skin wounds, and hair loss. 

HOW ALLERGIES AFFECT ANAL GLANDS

Many allergens can affect your pet’s anal gland health. In addition to nonseasonal itching, sneezing, and skin rashes, allergies can also present themselves as symptoms related to anal sac disease. When anal glands become inflamed and swollen it can lead to stool impaction, leaking of fluid from the rectal area between bowel movements, and excessive licking of the anal area. Scooting and a foul smell are telltale signs that the your dog may be having trouble with their anal glands.

So, do pet allergies cause anal gland issues? If so, how do pet allergies cause inflammation in that area?

All allergens trigger an immune response in your pet. One textbook sign of an immune response is inflammation. Inflammation can cause heat, redness, pain, and swelling. This can lead to swollen tissue in many areas of the body, including the skin. The anal glands are lined by skin, so any inflammation in the skin can also affect the anal glands. When anal glands become inflamed, this can lead to swelling of the duct. This prevents the gland from emptying normally, and creates a potential for anal gland impaction.

Food and environmental allergens may also cause an allergic reaction in the anal glands by making direct contact with your pet’s rectum. This can happen as food allergens are digested by your pet, or as environmental allergens like grass, dust, and dander come into contact with the skin around their tail or bottom.

6 WAYS TO ADDRESS YOUR PET’S ALLERGIES

1. Avoid the allergen
The first–and best–way to address your pet’s allergies is by avoiding the suspected allergen that’s causing symptoms. In terms of food allergies, removing the offending food from their diet will reduce the allergic flare. However, removing specific allergens like pollen, dust, and dust mites from your pet’s environment is virtually impossible. 

PET TIP

If you suspect your pet’s allergies are causing scooting, rear-end-licking, or other signs of anal gland impaction, keeping the perianal and tail area clean with hygienic wipes or medicated spray can help reduce allergen exposure, relieve inflammation and reduce bacterial or yeast overgrowth. 


Rectal hygiene is especially important if your pet spends time outdoors or scoots their bottom on the floor, both of which might expose the area to pollen, dust, dander, and other allergens. Beyond the rectal area, wiping down your pet’s paws and belly is also helpful in removing potential allergens after they’ve been playing outside.


2. Support your pet’s immune response
Allergy symptoms are triggered by your pet’s immune system when it comes into contact with an allergen. When the immune system is working properly, it’s more effective at responding to potentially harmful allergens. There are a few ways to support your pet’s immune health: 

  • Regular exercise through play
  • A balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients 
  • Daily supplement chews for nutritional support
  • Stress management
  • Proper hydration (clean water)

3. Enlist soothing ingredients
Certain anti-inflammatory ingredients are known to help calm inflamed skin and can be useful when your pet is experiencing a flare-up. Using treatments with oatmeal, aloe vera, or coconut oil may help reduce inflammation related to allergies. 

4.Support GI function
By supporting your pet’s digestive health, you can help their system process and expel allergens more efficiently. Digestive enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber can all help support your pet’s overall health–including their response to allergens. Supplementing with anal gland support powder or chews made with digestion-friendly ingredients may help to reduce inflammation in the glands and improve the quality of your pet’s stool. These strategies can help glands express naturally, and may prevent anal gland impaction and infection. 

5. Help your pet express anal glands naturally
Manually expressing your pet’s anal glands may sometimes be necessary, but helping them express their glands naturally is ideal. Adequate fiber intake promotes firmer, bulkier stools that can help pets express their anal glands with each bowel movement. Pets dealing with anal gland impactions–from allergies, infection or otherwise–will have difficulty and pain passing stool, making fiber intake an important part of their treatment plan. Upping your pet’s fiber intake should happen gradually and will require adequate water intake to be fully beneficial. 

6. Get medication recommendations from your veterinarian
When allergies become a persistent problem, your vet might recommend allergy medicine for dogs or cats. They may also request an allergy test to identify what allergens are most likely to affect your pet, and use that information to formulate allergen-specific immunotherapy to decrease your pet’s allergic flare-ups.
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Determining the allergen in question might take a little investigative work on your part, but once identified, this information could be a key factor in your pet’s overall health. If your pet’s allergies seem to be connected with scooting on the carpet, licking the rear end, or changes in bowel behavior, begin by supporting their anal gland health. You’ll also want to seek advice from your veterinarian, to help determine if food or environmental allergies are the culprit. 

Putting the Vet in Vetnique

Joya Griffin, DVM, DACVD
Dr. Joya Griffin is an Ohio native and graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a special interest in fungal and immune-mediated skin diseases as well as feline and equine dermatology. Dr. Joya always strives to care for her patients as if they are her own pets and loves building long-lasting relationships with their pet parents. Dr. Joya also stars in the Nat Geo WILD television series, “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which highlights the challenging and mysterious cases she encounters in veterinary dermatology.

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