In today’s society, dogs are treated as additional family members, as they should be! They have proven to us, again and again, their loyalty, kindness, and commitment to their owners. Dogs have been domesticated so much that they depend on us for their survival. We need to feed them, house them, and medicate them. Dogs, unlike some parrots, can’t talk, so because of this, we need to pay close attention to their body language and changes in behavior, as this is how they communicate their needs to us.
Dogs are one of few animals (as well as cats, skunks, opossums, and beavers) who have anal glands, which can cause problems for the animal if left unexpressed. Most dogs express their glands unintentionally as they defecate, however sometimes they may have problems doing so. As a dog owner, it is important to have a knowledge of anal sacs in the event of an infection or discomfort, so continue reading this article to inform yourself on how to assist your best friend when they need it!
What is the purpose of anal glands?
Anal glands are two small sacs on either side of your dog’s anus. Their purpose is to mark territory as your animal defecates. It is also believed that the excretion of this fluid provides lubrication for hard stool. Sometimes, these glands can involuntarily express themselves when your dog is stunned or startled. When expressed, a smelly fluid is released. This fluid can either be thin or thick, and its odor is very pungent, you won’t miss it!
How can you express your dog’s anal glands?
I understand that this isn’t a job that many would want to do, however, it is useful to know how to in case you are ever in a situation where you cannot bring your dog to a vet or a dog groomer. Generally, most groomers are experienced in this and will do it for your pet for a small fee.
There are two methods you can use to empty your dog’s anal glands; the external and the internal way. I prefer following the external method as it is less intrusive, however, some veterinarians prefer the internal way. This will ultimately be up to you or your groomer. For both of these methods, you will need a pair of disposable gloves, a lubricant (for example vaseline), warm soapy water, and a partner to help you restrain your dog. If there is someone to gently restrain your pet and keep them comforted while performing this procedure, it will be significantly easier and quicker. Expressing your dog’s anal gland is not painful unless there is an infection, however, your pet may experience some discomfort and pressure.
Have your dog stand on all four on an easily washable surface. The glands are located at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. Position yourself at eye level with your dog’s anus and gently lift his/hers tail. With your gloves on, use your thumb and index finger to locate the animal’s glands, they should range from the size of a pea to a grape. The gland can either be firm, or soft, depending on how full it is. Before continuing, use a towel to cover your dog’s anus as the excretion can be quite sudden, however, do not apply pressure as you do not want to block the opening, just catch the excretion. It is your decision whether you want to express one gland or both glands at the same time, however for your first time I recommend focusing on one sac at a time. Gently massage the gland upwards and inwards. It is very important not to squeeze, imagine you are milking the gland. As you are doing this, keep an eye on your dog’s opening for excretion. If nothing comes out, readjust your positioning. The excretion can be a variety of colors and consistencies. It can be smooth or thick, and clear, brown or grey, or if infected, it will be green and puss-filled.
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You will know your dog’s glands are empty when the sac has decreased in size. Use warm soapy water and a towel to clean your dog’s bottom after this procedure, and make sure to give them a cuddle and a treat as a reward!
When you are doing this method, the same guidelines apply as the external. Have your dog on all fours with someone to help keep him/her comfortable and relaxed. Raise your dog’s tail, and with a lubricated latex glove, insert your index finger into the dog’s anus. Place your thumb on the outside of your dog’s anus and move your thumb and index finger up and down the left side. Similar to the external method, once you have located the glands gently massage or milk them. The fluid will be excreted from the anus, and once you have emptied the left, repeat these steps with the right sac.
How do I know when to express my dog’s anal glands?
As stated said before, dogs cannot talk! So they communicate their needs through their body language and behavior. Some dogs may only have to express their glands once in a lifetime, and others may have too much more frequently. So here are some things for you to look out for.
- Scooting their bum on the floor, however, there are a number of reasons your dog may do this, such as skin irritation. Ensure to tell your veterinarian this along with any other symptoms to help form a correct diagnosis.
- Excessive licking or biting of their bottom. This can cause tears in your dog’s delicate skin surrounding their anus.
- Blood or pus in their stool, or staining the carpet/ their bed where they were sitting.
- Redness surrounding their anus.
- Difficulty when having a bowel movement.
- Diarrhea or other digestive issues.
- Pus on their anus, along with a fishy odor.
What causes anal gland problems in dogs?
Dogs naturally empty their anal glands during a bowel movement and the stool exerts pressure on the glands, however, if their stool is too soft, or if they have diarrhea, the glands may not empty completely. The leftover fluid may thicken, making removal more difficult. This thicker fluid can clog the duct (the small tube that permits the gland to exit) over time. Fluid might stay in the glands for longer than necessary due to irregular bowel motions, causing an infection or inflammation.
To prevent this, pay attention to your dog’s diet. Feed him/her a high fiber diet, and avoid giving them your leftovers as this is not nutritious enough. The best foods for your dog are the ones with limited ingredients. Fish oils and pumpkin seeds are always recommended. Do not overfeed your dog either, as obesity is a cause of anal gland issues. Another factor is your dog’s breed. Anal gland problems are more common in small breeds, however, every dog can suffer issues.
What can happen if my dog’s anal glands are not expressed?
A number of issues may arise if your dog cannot express their glands themselves, and this is left ignored by its owner.
The most common issue is Anal Gland Impaction, which is where their glands or ducts get blocked. The treatment for this is to simply empty their glands. Anal Gland Sacculitis can occur if the impaction is left untreated. This condition causes inflammation and redness around your dog’s anus and can be very uncomfortable for them.
Your dog can also grow an anal abscess. This is because the fluid excreted is an excellent medium for bacteria growth. An anal abscess can be very painful for your animal and requires medical assistance. It can be treated with an antibiotic, but sometimes may need to be surgically removed.
All of these problems can be easily avoided. Just pay attention to your furry friend and give them the assistance they need. Some pet owners schedule their dogs with the vets or pet groomers weekly to have their glands expressed, but if this is out of your budget, then just follow the steps in this article.
Dogs are a man’s best friend for a reason; they are loving, loyal, and protective. So make sure you are taking care of your dog. Care for them as much as they care for you and they will surely thank you for it!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Try_my_best/Shutterstock.com
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