What is it?
Anal glands serve an important function in the social strata of canines. Also referred to as anal sacs, these scent glands are located on either side of a dog’s anus and release an oily substance that, to humans, has an unpleasant fishy smell. For dogs, however, it’s so much more.
When dogs meet and sniff around each other’s rear ends, the scents released by their glands reveal information about their hormonal status. Dogs may also express their anal sacs when they are scared as a reactionary response. Expressing their anal glands also allows a dog to leave a trail of their scent behind to stake claim to their territory in their home or yard.
How can I tell if my dog needs anal gland expression?
Some of the more common signs that trouble is brewing include:
- If you notice your dog scooting along the carpet or grass by pulling themselves forward with their front legs, they are probably trying to help with the release of secretion buildup in their anal glands or to help stop the itch that can come with impacted anal glands
- Signs of painful pooping, like straining or whining while trying to defecate
- Blood and/or pus either in their poop or left behind from where they were sitting
- Extreme licking or being protective of their anal area
- An unpleasant and ongoing fishy smell coming from your dog
- The glands will appear swollen when viewed or when you run your hand over the area
What causes impacted anal glands in dogs?
When anal glands are not emptied properly during a bowel movement or regular grooming sessions, secretions can build up, impacting the glands and potentially causing further issues.
Certain conditions and outside factors can increase your dog’s odds of having impacted anal glands. These include food and environmental sensitivities, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, bacteria, yeast and chronic skin infections, among other things.
If left unattended, impacted anal glands in dogs can become quite a problem. They’re not only uncomfortable and itchy for the dog, but they can become abscessed and even rupture when not handled properly. It’s best to leave the treatment of an impacted anal gland up to a trained veterinarian who can ensure the glands are expressed thoroughly and properly to avoid any further trauma.