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Anal Gland Issues

What on earth are Anal Glands??
Anal Glands (also called anal sacs) are 2 small pouches located just inside your pet’s anus. The material secreted into these glands is foul-smelling with an oily, musky odor. The secretion can vary from a brown liquid to almost a clay-like substance if impacted.

Most wild animals can empty these glands voluntarily for scent marking during defecation or in self-defense, almost like a skunk. However, domesticated animals have lost most of their ability to empty these sacs voluntarily. Normal physical activity and firm bowel movements certainly help facilitate the emptying of the glands, but some animals become unable to empty their glands on their own at all.

Dogs with impacted Anal Glands usually scoot their rear on the ground in an attempt to empty the glands. Some animals will lick that area or chase their tails. Cats often lick the area, creating a bald spot. Other pets will tuck their tail under or walk like they are in discomfort, mimicking back pain.

What do I do if my pet starts scooting?
The Anal Glands can be emptied one of two ways: externally or internally:

  1. In the External Method, a tissue can be held up to the anus and both sides of the area are squeezed. If the secretion is thin enough, it will leak out of the openings, located at 4 o’clock and 7 o’clock in reference to the anus.
  2. For the Internal Method, a gloved finger is inserted into the anus and each sac is squeezed between the thumb and forefinger into a tissue. This must be repeated on the opposite side.

What if scooting continues?
The area around the anus will be tender for 2-3 days following a thorough emptying. It would not be unusual for the pet to notice a slight bit of discomfort. However, if the scooting continues, your pet needs to be checked for other causes of irritation, like allergies, tapeworms, constipation or possible back or pelvic pain.

What happens if the impacted Anal Glands are not expressed?
At the worst extreme, the glands will abscess and burst externally through the skin beside the anus. This is a painful and messy condition that is often mistaken for rectal bleeding or an injury. If your pet gets an abscess, it must be treated immediately with antibiotics and thorough emptying.

How often should the Anal Glands be expressed?
Animals that are frequently groomed professionally will have their Anal Glands expressed every 4-6 weeks. This time-line seems to be average for most pets. But, all animals behave differently. The best thing is to watch your pet’s behavior and bring them in if scooting starts.

What if my pet’s Anal Glands seem to require emptying all the time?
To avoid frequent trips and the expense of having your pet’s Anal Glands expressed “professionally”, you can learn to empty them yourself at home!! However, most people feel it’s worth having a veterinarian or technician perform the service for them. Some theories suggest that a diet that is higher in fiber will “bulk up” the stool, making it more effective in compressing that area as each bowel movement is made. Certainly, increased exercise may facilitate agitation of that area and cause the glands to empty spontaneously.

Is there a surgery to remove the Anal Glands?
Some people have opted to have the Anal Glands permanently removed. This surgery is very complicated because the Anal Glands are located very close to important nerves that control the muscles of the anus. Any damage to that area can cause a secondary fecal incontinence. In addition, after chronic Anal Gland disease, the area will become distorted due to scar tissue. Also, draining tracts can develop after surgery if the gland is not completely removed. Therefore, for removal we will refer you to a specialized surgeon.

The information listed here is for information only and is no way intended to be used to diagnose or treat your animal. Your animal MUST be seen and diagnosed by a licensed Veterinarian.