When you own an animal, few topics raise eyebrows as much as the term anal glands, but actually, this is a very important topic!
Anal glands are small pouches that are located between an animals internal and external sphincter muscles. These glands empty through narrow and short ducts inside the anus of the animal. These sacs are lined with modified sebaceous oil and sweat glands - the substance that is secreted from the area can be an oily almost brownish fluid that has a pretty strong odor to it.
Usually when an animal defecates the liquid inside the sac will be expelled, but if this process does not happen on a daily or weekly basis, the material inside will thicken and make it harder for the animal to pass it. If this situation keeps happening over time, the anal gland can become impacted, inflamed, or even infected. If it becomes bad enough, it can even cause a rupture through the skin via an abscess.
While some Veterinarian say that the reason for anal glands is to help create a territorial marker, others state that the anal sac oils actually help lubricate hard stool, which makes passage easier and more comfortable for the animal.
While this problem is less common in cats, it still is an issue. In dogs this issue becomes even more prevalent - around 12% of dogs will face the issue with their anal glands at least one time in their life.
Dogs who are overweight also experience this issue more than dogs who are not. Some breeds or certain dogs may be born with narrow anal ducts.
Age and Breed Considerations
Anal gland issues are more common in dogs, yes, but they are even more common in smaller breeds of dogs including toy poodles, teacup terriers, bichon frise's, cocker spaniels, beagles and even Chihuahuas. When it comes to anal glad issues and sexes - both female and male dogs can be affected.
Why Their Diet Matters
While a diet change won't resolve all of the issues your dog might be having right off the bat, it's still a good place to start. Make sure that your dog has a diet that is rich in fiber which will help prevent issues in the future.
Expressing The Glands By Hand
While you can express the glands by hand, most vets will tell you that this should NOT be done to a normal dog with no history of issues with their anal glands. Instead, if you are worried if your dog has anal gland problems or you find that they are experiencing issues when defecating; it's a good idea to talk to your veterinarian to see if there is a true issue or not. If the anal glands need to be expressed, your veterinarian can do this process for you or even teach you how to do it for your own dogs.
Recognizing A True Problem
Some of the more common symptoms, become very obvious almost right away because these "acts" may not be something your dog did before and suddenly does now. The symptoms or signs of something possibly being wrong include; scooting their bottom across the floor, trying to lick the anal region or displaying discomfort in the area of the glands.
Impaction and infection are two of the most common worries when it comes to issues with anal glands, but if you ignore the problem as time goes on, this can eventually turn into an even bigger problem such as cancer. If you find that your animal is suffering from issues with their anal glands, see your veterinarian immediately.