Dog Anal Glands

A Guide to Anal Gland Conditions, Health,
& Treatment for Dogs

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Do you and your pet make regular visits to the vet for anal gland expressions? Your pet’s anal glands are central to their health, but can be easy to overlook! Knowing how to support your dog’s anal gland health can help improve their quality of life, while making maintenance easier for you.

Struggling with inflamed, infected, or impacted anal glands in dogs can be difficult for you and your pet. Glandex® was created by veterinarian Dr. James Bascharon with a blend of beneficial Fiber, Digestive Enzymes, and Probiotics to support your pet’s best anal gland health!

Anal Gland Illustration

The illustration in figure 1 shows the relative size and position of the anal glands in dogs (often referred to as anal sacs). Note that the anal glands are internal and cannot be seen when viewing the rear end of a dog. When the anal glands become blocked or swollen they can enlarge which creates discomfort for your pet. Your pet may try to relieve this pressure by scooting or licking the area. This illustration shows only one enlarged anal gland but in most cases both anal glands are affected.

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Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems

If your pet's anal glands fill up excessively it can create pressure which can be very uncomfortable for your dog or cat. When this happens your dog might display symptoms of anal gland problems, the most common of which is scooting their rear end across the floor. Besides scooting, other symptoms of anal gland problems in dogs include a fishy or foul odor from your pet, excessive licking of the rear end, discomfort while walking or sitting, straining to defecate, or redness/swelling near the rear end.

Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems in Cats
In cats, it may be difficult to pinpoint any symptoms as cats are very good at masking their illness. One of the few signs that could indicate that your cat is having an anal gland issue is defecating outside of the litter box.
  • Scooting and discomfort of the rear end
  • Excessive licking of the anal area and hind end
  • Straining to defecate
  • Releasing a sudden foul (fishy) odor
  • Leaking of anal gland fluid
  • Bleeding and/or swelling near the anal region

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Causes of Anal Gland Problems

There can be many underlying causes of anal gland problems, and in many cases, it is because of a combination of reasons. The most common underlying cause of anal gland problems is poor gastrointestinal health. In order for anal glands to empty, they need firm and healthy stools to create pressure on the glands as they pass over them. If your pet has small, soft, or loose stool it will be very difficult for the glands to empty properly. Another common cause of anal gland issues is underlying allergies (including Atopy). Allergies in pets manifest as red and inflamed skin. This can affect different areas of your pet (ears, paws, belly, etc) including the area around the anal glands (perianal region). Another major cause of anal gland problems are due to your pet's anatomy. If your pet's anal glands are positioned abnormally (typically too low or too far internally) it can become difficult for the glands to empty on their own.

  • Poor gastrointestinal health
  • Small, soft, or loose stool
  • Allergies (including Atopy)
  • Pet's anatomy (abnormal positioning)
  • Other - Including infections, cancer, or frequent expressing (iatrogenic)

Dog Anal Gland Anatomy

The anal glands (anal sacs) are located near the anal opening between two layers of muscle. Normal emptying of the anal glands occurs as the stool passes over the glands and exerts outward pressure. The image also displays an anal gland abscess that has ruptured. Anal gland abscesses form when the anal glands become infected & impacted. As pus forms within the sac, it can eventually rupture causing pain & swelling. Anal gland abscesses can be prevented with healthy functioning anal glands.

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When to Seek Veterinary Help

Although watching your dog scoot on their rear may initially seem cute or funny, anal gland problems left untreated are definitely no laughing matter. The scooting you observe is a sign of pain and discomfort, as your pet is attempting to relieve the pressure by dragging their rear end on the ground. If the anal glands are unable to empty on their own, then your veterinarian will need to express them manually.

Anal gland problems left unchecked can develop into an infection, including a more serious type of infection called an anal gland abscess. Anal gland infections typically require prescription medications from your veterinarian including antibiotics. If the glands have become abscessed, then sedation and a minor surgical treatment to lance (drain) the abscess will be needed. An anal gland abscess may present as a large lump or red swelling beneath your pet's tail. If the abscess has already ruptured, you may see bleeding and puss coming from your pet's rear end.

What You Can do At-Home

In order for your dog's anal glands to empty normally they need large firm stools to create pressure during defecation. Feeding your pet a high-quality diet with the proper ingredients and nutrients is critical to ensuring healthy stools and healthy anal gland function. Using an anal gland supplement such as Glandex® can help ensure your pet is getting the recommended amount of daily fiber, and also helps to support the underlying causes of anal gland problems. When used regularly along with a high quality diet, Glandex® can help support normal anal gland function and healthy bowel movements. Some pet parents have also learned how to express their dog's anal glands at home. This is certainly not an easy task (nor one that you or your pet will enjoy) so the best recommendation is to leave this to a veterinary professional. If you're interested in seeing how the process is done, the video below demonstrates how a veterinarian expresses the anal glands.

How to Express Your Dog's Anal Glands


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