Why should I be expressing my dog’s anal glands?
Here’s all you need to know about dog anal glands. Starting from how they work, why you need to express them, how to express them, signs your dog has an anal infection and when to see the vet.
Let’s get to it...
What are dog anal glands?
Anal sacs, or as most people call anal glands, are two tiny pockets almost the size of a small grape found on the left and right sides of a canine’s anus.
Each anal sac links to a minute tube that secretes a foul-smelling, highly distinctive fluid.
Normally when feces pass through your dog’s anus, it applies pressure on the anal glands, which express (release) the fluid in the sack.
Both female and male dogs have anal glands. However, these glands aren’t essential for your dog’s survival; thus, he can live without them if a vet removes them for medical reasons.
In the wild, dogs use the smell from their anal glands to mark their territory or find mates.
But domesticated dogs don’t need to mark their territory. Hence some dog parents opt to get their dog’s anal glands removed by a vet.
They do so to avoid cases when the anal glands become impacted, full or infected, which can make a dog to undergo a lot of pain.
Can dogs express anal glands on their own?
Most dogs usually express their anal sacs naturally.
If a dog is eating highly nutritious food, does plenty of exercise, and maintains a healthy weight, he will be able to express the anal glands.
The expression will occur while the dog poops, as a small liquid from the anal sacks will be released.
Dogs can also express their anal glands when frightened or stressed, resulting in a strong, foul-smelling odor.
Why should you be expressing your dog’s anal glands?
Unfortunately, some dogs can’t express their anal glands naturally. Therefore, you will have to help out.
This mostly occurs when your dog’s stool consistency changes; consequently, the anal sacks won’t be expressed as the liquid will have thickened.
The anal glands may become inflamed, irritated, infected, or even impacted when such happens.
Once you realize your dog has anal gland issues like impaction or infection, you must express the anal glands every three weeks to prevent the condition from reoccurring.
Let’s take a closer look at the above health issues.
Anal sac impaction
Impacted anal sacs don’t cause much pain, though your dog will be uncomfortable.
The impactions mostly result from thickening the fluid in the anal sacs, and you treat the condition by expressing using significant pressure.
Anal sac abscess
An anal gland abscess can cause moderate or severe pain. When the organ is infected, bacteria in the sack will lead to a buildup that will block the anal gland opening.
You may notice slight discolouration around your dog’s anal area or a swollen spot next to the anal entry.
Ruptured sac abscess
If you don’t treat the anal sac abscess early on, it may rapture, and your canine will experience intense pain.
A bloody puss or yellow fluid coming from a dog’s anus is a sign of a ruptured gland.
Dogs prone to anal gland problems
Research has shown that small dog breeds are the most affected by anal gland issues.
However, the condition can also affect large dog breeds.
Some of the dog breeds largely affected include.
- Cocker spaniels
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature poodles
- Bassett hounds
Other factors also increase the chances of mutt having anal gland issues. They are
- Insufficient dietary fiber
- Internal and external parasites
- Genetics (particularly small dog breeds)
- Food or environmental allergies
- Skin conditions like seborrhea and itchy skin
Signs your dog has anal gland problems
You can easily notice when your dog has anal gland issues, as they will display certain behaviours like
- Refusing to sit
- Difficulty while pooping (dyschezia)
- Regularly turning to bite or lick their behind.
- Anal discharge
Some dogs might also:
- Start whimpering or crying
- Become passive or withdrawn.
- Refuse to drink or eat
- Develop a redness around the anal region.
Items you need to express your dog’s anal glands
When you notice your furry friend is in pain, you can help him by expressing his anal glands.
For small dogs, you will have to place them on a raised surface or a grooming table.
If you have a larger dog, you can express the anal sacks while he’s on the ground.
There are a couple of items you will need to carry out the procedure, including:
- Paper towels
- Petroleum jelly
- Trash bag
- Dog treats like peanut butter
- Bowl of soapy look warm water.
- Two towels
- Disposable surgical gloves
Depending on how your dog behaves, it might be helpful to have someone else hold the dog in place while you express the anal sacs.
How to express your dog’s anal glands?
Place your small canine on a table on top of a towel but if you have a large dog, place a towel behind the dog on the floor, then put on disposable surgical gloves.
Hold your dog firmly in place, or have your helper do so. Place a tiny amount of petroleum jelly on your forefinger and thumb, then push your fingers inside your canine’s anus.
A dog’s anal sacks are found on both sides of the anus. Therefore, if you look at your canine’s anus as a clock face, the anal sacks, the size of a grape, will be approximately at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions and feel somewhat puffy.
Using one hand hold a paper towel below and behind your furry friend to prevent the liquid from the anal glands from spilling on you.
Afterward, squeeze the anal sacks together using your index finger and thumb to extract the liquid.
While you squeeze, a brown smelly fluid will come from your dog’s anal glands. Ensure you press on both sides to express each anal gland fully.
Also, give your dog plenty of praise and treats throughout the process to keep him relaxed.
If you notice a chunky white, yellow, or green discharge instead of a brown fluid, it might be a sign of infection, and you need to visit a vet immediately.
Dip the washcloth in lukewarm water and use it to clean the exterior area of your canine anal gently.
Doing so will help eliminate the unpleasant smell from the anal sacks.
If your dog has long hair, thoroughly wipe off all the liquid from the coat.
Please take off your gloves and dispose of them with the used paper towels. Place the washcloths and towels in the laundry and wash your hands thoroughly. Don’t forget to praise your furry friend.
Tips for avoiding anal gland problems
You can lessen the chances of your dog developing anal gland problems by putting him on a diet with adequate fiber.
Fiber enhances digestion and promotes suitable stool formation. The force from a bulky and firm stool on the colon walls near your mutt’s anus can help express your dog’s anal glands when he poops.
You can also use supplements to add fiber to your dog’s system. Plenty of supplements like Safe Guard probiotics are formulated with fiber, enhancing your dog’s intestinal health.
Safe Guard will also help remove free-flowing radicals, which can cause health issues when they accumulate in your canine's intestines.
Ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight also lowers anal gland problems.
Obese dogs usually have excess fluid buildup in their anal glands since their body fat lessens the pressure on the sacks when the dog poops. Thus, the glands won’t let out all the liquid.
You can help your dog lose weight by taking him for regular walks and changing his diet.
Remember to be patient, as it may take time for your dog to shed all the extra pounds.
You must regularly express your dog’s anal glands, especially if you notice he is in pain.
However, if you find it hard to do it yourself, you can ask your vet to do so during your regular visits. There are also dog walkers and dog groomers who can do it for you.