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Thursday, June 11, 2009

To Express or Not to Express: Anal Glands

Hi all, happy Doggy Day! Its Nichole here once again and I regret to report that this will be my last article posting over here (no fear - esp you Sue! - you can still find me on my own blog, as well as in the world of Ravelry, Facebook, etc). I have made the tough decision to bow out of the little group that runs Dogs on Thursday (Chan, Sue and Nat will still be here), as in the past month I've quickly realized that with my growing responsibilities at work and other things, I'm just not able to put the time in that I would like here. Sure, I could probably manage an article once a month and all, but I prefer not to do it half-arse, so to speak. I have told the girls that I'd be glad to pitch-hit when they need a hand now and then, so who knows... maybe I'll be back next month with another posting!

In the meantime, I'm happy to bring you a very informative article on a subject that many of us doggy parents have had questions about... anal glands. I'd like to thank Tanya and Ashley at The Grooming Emporium for allowing me to reprint the following article, which was originally published in The Grooming Emporium's May 2009 newsletter.

To Express or Not to Express: Anal Glands
by Ashley (email: Ashley at TheGroomingEmporium dot com)

Anal glands (also called anal sacs or scent glands) are located inside the anus of most carnivores, as well as a few other mammals. These glands secrete a foul smelling fluid-like material. Normally, as an animal defecates, the glands empty some of this material for the purpose of scent marking. When an animal is stressed or scared, he may express his anal glands resulting in a noticeable foul odor. Some animals, such as skunks and opossums, use these glands as a defense mechanism. Skunks are well known for spraying, whereas opossums voluntarily express their anal glands as they play dead (or "play possum"). The odor gives the opossum a rotting smell, making its act more believable to potential predators. Clearly these glands serve an important purpose to all kinds of animals, however, they can also become a nuisance.

The quality of your pet's food may contribute to problems with the anal glands. The glands are expressed physically as stool passes. If the stool is not firm enough, the glands will not properly express. Because many pet foods contain low quality ingredients and grains, they can cause softer, less bulky stools, which can lead to inadequate expression of the anal glands. Ideally, the pet will be fed a high quality food which may improve or resolve the issue completely. In addition, what a pet eats may effect the material that builds up in the glands. If the material is too thick it will be difficult to express and may block the duct that drains the material leading to impaction. Dogs are more likely to suffer from complications with their anal glands than cats, and small breeds are more likely to have problems than other dogs. Alternatively, pets with medical issues causing chronic soft stools or diarrhea may also have trouble expressing their anal glands. Some dogs may benefit from the addition of 100% canned pumpkin (which is a good source of fiber) to their diet. The fiber helps to firm up and add bulk to the stool, which in turn will help to express the glands. Another possible cause for anal gland problems is the positioning of the glands themselves. In some animals, the glands may be naturally situated in a way that they cannot express, or not express easily despite a proper diet and normal, firm stools. This is far less common, however, if you pet is affected he will need the glands expressed routinely to avoid complications. The frequency varies from pet to pet, and those who need their anal glands expressed more than once a month may benefit from having the glands surgically removed by a veterinarian.

There are several signs that your pet may need his anal glands expressed. A common, often misunderstood sign is scooting, or dragging the rear end on the ground. This is often believed to be a sign of intestinal parasites, however it is most often an attempt to relieve the discomfort of full anal glands. Many pets will excessively chew or lick at their hind end which can cause the glands to express a small amount of material and a foul odor may be noticed. Some pets will circle and chew at their tail, others may sit abruptly at times, which may be followed by scooting, licking, or chewing. These are all signs that the glands are full enough that they are causing the pet to be uncomfortable. If the pet is not given relief, complications can occur, sometimes in a short period of time. It's important to remember that individual pets will show different signs and watching for any sign of discomfort is important.

If the anal glands are not expressed they will become impacted. This leads to infection within the glands. The gland will become painful. If they are expressed at this point, the material may contain blood and pus. It will require veterinary treatment to heal properly, and in many cases requires a pet to be sedated to have the glands flushed. If the infection is overlooked, the infected glands will abscess. This is often noticed by the owner as a swelling next to the pet's anus. If left untreated, the abscess may rupture through the skin, leaving a sore and drainage through the opening. This is a very serious condition that needs to be treated, sometimes surgically, by a veterinarian. This is very painful for the pet and easily avoided, which is why a basic understanding of these glands is so important to every dog and cat owner.

Anal glands should only be expressed when the pet is having difficulty expressing them on his own. If he is not showing signs that the glands are full, then the glands should not be expressed. Some groomers express all dog's anal glands every time they come in from grooming. If this is done, it may reduce the dog's ability to express the glands on his own, eventually leading to complications if they are not expressed manually on a regular schedule. When selecting a groomer be sure to ask about this and request that your dog's anal glands are not expressed routinely if he is not having any problems. If a pet needs his anal glands expressed it is most successfully done internally rather than externally. Vets will typically express internally, though many groomers express externally, so it's important to check which method your groomer uses. Here at the Grooming Emporium, we have been trained by veterinary staff to express anal glands internally. After the glands have been expressed, the pet may continue to lick, chew, or scoot for a few days. This is normal, although if the behavior continues, it may be indicative of a more serious health issue that should be addressed by a veterinarian.




15 comments:

Dughallmor Beagles said...

Thanks for publishing this very informative article. My dogs used to have anal gland problems and our vet used to charge us £18 a time for the pleasure of expressing them! Since moving over to the BARF diet we no longer have an issue....and apparently rabbit fur is very good for the problem, so if you're feeding raw rabbit.....feed whole!

soulbrush said...

very very interesting indeed. we had problems with snuffles a while ago, had to see the vet, she was in such pain poor baby, but now all fine. tanks heavens. good luck and pop back to see us as often as you can. 'woofs' from snuffles in london to you all.

dogyarnfun said...

Ginger and I needed this article.

Rose said...

Wow, thanks for this one! MaggieMae had done some scooting before and the vet said her glands needed expressed, which she did at the time. I found the pumpking added to the diet intersting. How often? I might try that, so she can have the relief naturally. Great article, and it will give me cause to research the subject more on the internet! Thanks so much!

knittinwolf said...

Great article....Fuji's first vet wanted to express her every couple of weeks. I asked why because she never showed any problems and he said cuz she's a little dog....switched vets and she hasn't had it done since! No problems either. Now she has done the natural express one time when she got scared...and of course I was holding her at the time and got my brand new blouse stinky! Thanks for all your great work on this group!

Charli and me said...

Great article!

Channon said...

Great article! We're not going to let you get far enough off the radar to be missed...

vegasangelbrat said...

Great Article! Thanks for sharing and sorry been gone so long..

Tee said...

Great article.

Snoopy suffers from anal gland problems ... she sometimes scoots and gives the Chief the uncomfortable-there's-something wrong-with-my-bum-bum look.

And thanks for the pumpkin tip. Must now tell chief to add pumpkin to our diet ...

Licks and wags

Tuffy and the Dog Woods Pack

Jennifer said...

Thanks for putting this together! I've always wondered why dogs scoot...but this makes perfect sense. Very useful information.

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Anonymous said...

My little Yorkie/ Chihuahua mix has been yelping when he moves a certain way. He acts like it is his stomach. He has been licking and nibbling at his bottom. Alot. Could the problem be the anal glands?

Anissa Ferguson said...

Answered all my questions, thank you!