Have you ever been blessed with a shot of anal gland fluid from your precious baby? I have, and it was not a pleasant experience. Rila and I were in the car on Halloween when Rila was still a puppy and a party-goer dressed as a gorilla thought it would be hilarious to throw himself on the hood of my car. Needless to say, Rila thought we were under attack and she immediately doused me with everything she had in her little glands. Since that day, I’ve had a very healthy respect for the nasty fluid stored there and like to do everything possible to ensure that all my pets express their anal sac fluid naturally and regularly – and preferably not on me.
What are Anal Glands?
Dogs (male and female) have anal sacs under the skin on either side of the anus. These sacs fill with fluid produced by the anal glands. This fluid is assumed to be a scent marker useful for delineating territory. Dogs normally “express” or empty some or all of the fluid in the sacs each time they defecate. Anal sac disorders involve impaction of anal sac fluid, inflammation of the sac(s), and abscess of the sac(s). Impaction is the most common anal gland disorder and small breed dogs like Miniature Poodles, Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas are more predisposed to anal gland disorders than other breeds.
Causes and Symptoms of Anal Gland Issues
Anal gland problems typically occur when your dog’s feces are too soft to provide the pressure necessary to adequately empty the anal sac fluid as the feces passes through the anus. In addition, if your dog is obese, the excess fat around the glands can make it more difficult for your dog to express the glands. You will know that your dog may be having an anal gland issue when he – or she – begins to frequently lick or bite his anal area, drag or scoots his bottom along the floor, strains to defecate, chases his tail or if there is a smelly discharge around the anal gland area when your dog is not attempting to defecate.
Luckily for you, this is a situation you can take care of at home. However, if the glands have become infected you will need to seek immediate veterinary care. Signs of infected glands can include red or discolored glands, indications that your dog is experiencing severe pain, developing a fever, losing her appetite and/or becoming lethargic. The sacs are considered enlarged if you can easily palpitate or feel them. The normal clear or pale yellow-brown secretion will be a thick, pasty brown fluid if the anal glands have been impacted and abscessed anal sacs will have a red-brown fluid.
In the event of an infection, your veterinarian will immediately express the contents of the anal sacs. If the situation has advanced to the point that one or both of the sacs have ruptured, your vet will open the abscessed anal sac(s) in order to allow drainage. The anal sacs will then be cleaned and flushed, and antibiotics will be infused into them. If your dog is suffering from chronic anal sac infection, the anal sacs may need to be surgically removed. If your dog is suffering from severe fistulation (abnormal openings in the anal sacs), he may benefit from oral cyclosporine (antibiotics) therapy.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Anal Glands
When you decide that it’s time to clean out your four-legged baby’s anal glands yourself, that is when you realize how much you love your pup. We would strongly suggest that you enlist the help of a friend (preferably with a weak sense of smell) to help hold your dog. Dress in old machine washable clothing and wear disposable gloves. Put an old blanket or sheet under your pup as the fluid you will removed from the anal glands will be smelly and can stain carpets. Cut or shave any long hair beneath the tail around the anus so that you can see what you’re doing. With one hand, lift the tail way up over your dog’s back so that you can expose the glands (located at 5 and 7 o’clock positions relative to the anus). You will be able to feel the sacs if they are full. The ducts that will actually empty the glands are located a little bit higher at 4 and 8 o’clock. Use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze the glands in a C-shaped sweeping movement. The fluid should be a dark brown to clear color. If it is yellow or blood tinted, it is likely that your pet has an infection and should see a veterinarian immediately.
After you have finished, sooth your pet’s anal area by applying a warm, wet cloth to it. Once the cloth cools, warm it again with water and repeat the process several times a day for several days or until your dog gets annoyed by too much attention to his nether regions.
Natural Solutions and Prevention
Here are some natural remedies for you to try to help eliminate or decrease the incidence of anal gland issues for your pet.
- When changing your pet’s diet, slowly transition to the new food over 7-10 days. Additionally, if trying a completely new food trial you must be patient as it can take up to three months to see the true benefits of the new food. The transition process can take a long time because the old food must be “cycled out” of your dog’s system. During this time it’s also imperative to eliminate all treats which might interfere with the benefits of the new food.
- If you do want to give your dog treats during the transition to a new food, you may want to make your own treats using the new food.
- Increase fiber intake by introducing a fiber supplement or raw vegetables such as: carrots, green beans, cabbage, celery or pumpkin (raw puree NOT pie filling). Modulate the amount of added fiber to suit your pet’s size. It’s always best to start out with small amounts and increase until the desired result is achieved.
- Coconut Oil (unsweetened and organic): You can start by letting your dog lick this off your fingers. It’s always best to start with a small portion (1-2 teaspoons/day). You can even “glaze” their favorite treats with the coconut oil. For persnickety pets, warm the coconut oil to a liquid consistency and add it to the princess’ water. Coconut oil is a natural laxative so don’t go overboard.
- Raw Food Diet: Raw food tends to produce firmer stools thus making the anal glands less likely to experience interference. You can read more about raw food diets here.
- Grain Free Diet: Grain-free diets (including treats) can be easier for your pet to digest, thus helping to regulate their elimination routine.
Healthy anal glands for your dog will mean a happier and healthier pup AND a happier you.
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