Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

What is an Anal Gland?

“Anal sacs are two small pouches under the skin near the anus that hold a thick, fatty substance that is strongly scented and produced by the anal gland,” says DVM Yvonne Szacki. Normal emptying of the anal sacs occur with defecation, however, they can become infected or impacted, causing pain and discomfort for your pet. Small breeds, Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas can be more predisposed to anal gland problems than other breeds, and they occur more often in dogs than in cats.

Symptoms and Causes of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Clinical signs of anal gland problems—including impaction, infection or an anal gland abscess—can include:

- Scooting or dragging of the rear end on the ground.

- Excessive licking of the anal region.

- Discharge from the anal sacks.

- Straining to defecate.

“The area around the anus is commonly swollen, red and painful in dogs experiencing anal gland problems,” Szacki says. Causes of anal gland problems can include excessive or retained secretions, poor anal muscle tone, chronically soft feces or recent bouts of diarrhea. “Impactions can also occur when animals are overweight and have low-fiber diets,” Szacki says.

Diagnosis of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Diagnosing your dog’s anal gland problems will begin with a complete physical examination by a veterinarian. You’ll want to provide them with a thorough history of your dog’s health as well as any possible incidents that may have led to the problem. Your veterinarian will do blood work and a urinalysis to rule out other causes of disease. If the anal sacs are enlarged during the exam, they may be palpated and the secretion may be sent to a laboratory for culture.

Treatment for Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

According to Szacki, prognosis for anal sac impaction is excellent because it can easily be managed with manual expression, weight loss and dietary change. If a dog’s glands are infected, its severity will depend on the treatment, which can include draining and cleaning of the anal sacs and an infusion of antibiotics. If your dog suffers from chronic anal gland problems, the anal sacs may need to be surgically removed.  Szacki says, “Anal gland tumors are more serious because they can spread to the rest of the body.”

Prevention of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Your veterinarian will schedule a follow-up appointment three to seven days after diagnosing your dog and will schedule subsequent appointments as necessary to treat the condition. “To prevent future infection, anal sacs should be emptied by a veterinarian or groomer when they become impacted,” Szacki says. If your dog is constantly licking the area after treatment, or if the glands continue to drain or appear red and swollen, contact your veterinarian for further treatment. 

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