Collie lying on the grass

Anal Glands

Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask

What are they?

Anal glands are small secretory pouches located just inside the opening of the anus. There are two of them, and they have small tubes through which they are emptied.

Gross!

These glands certainly do contain foul smelling material, but at least it’s for a good reason. They’re used in scent marking and to assist in communicating with other dogs – this is, after all, usually the first place a dog goes to receive a hearty ‘hello’ from another dog. To humans, the material smells disgusting and can cause a dog to have an off, metallic, fish-type smell, although other dogs don’t seem to mind it at all.

Anal glands usually empty while a dog is doing a poo, but they may also empty when a dog is frightened. Playing practical jokes on your dog is unwise for this reason.

Signs they’re blocked

When a dog drags their bottom along the ground (usually your carpet, unfortunately) due to an itchy bottom, it’s called ‘Scooting.’ It’s often accompanied by a lot of licking of the affected area.

It can be caused by intestinal worms, or blocked or infected anal glands.

Treatment

The treatment for scooting due to blocked anal glands is to empty them. A veterinarian does this by placing a finger into your dog’s bottom and gently expressing them. While many dogs rarely if ever need this done, others need it monthly or even weekly. If that’s the case for your dog, ask your vet to teach you the emptying technique. They won’t mind handing over the reins to you, and might even provide you with some complimentary gloves. You might also have a chat about having the glands surgically removed.

Infected anal glands require antibiotics and sometimes need to be flushed out while your dog is anaesthetised.

Prevention

It's not totally understood what causes blocked anal glands. One theory is that some commercial foods cause dogs to produce smaller poos, and this may result in the glands not having enough pressure exerted on them to empty properly while your dog goes to the toilet. Adding some extra bran or fibre to the diet is therefore worth trying.

It's widely believed that some anal gland problems are caused by food allergies, so changing to a low allergen prescription diet may help. Talk to your vet about the diet most suitable for your dog. If you do not have a local veterinarian, why not use our handy 'Connect with a Vet' feature on the website? Go to www.pawclub.com.au/Community/VetFinder/Default.aspx