Anal glands are small sacs located just inside the anus in cats and dogs. These small sacs contain a very foul-smelling oily fluid. The fluid in anal glands is often secreted while defecating, as it can help to lubricate the stool. Dogs and cats also have the ability to express this fluid during times of duress or when marking territory.
To maintain healthy anal glands, they must be emptied regularly. This usually happens naturally when the dog is defecating. However, sometimes animals have difficulty expressing these glands while going to the bathroom, so they must get help from their veterinarian. The veterinarian will properly relieve tension in the anal glands by gently massaging the fluid out of the glands. A veterinary professional is able to determine that the glands are completely empty to lessen the potential for complications. When anal gland fluid is not expressed regularly, either naturally by the animal or manually by the veterinarian, the fluid can become thick and harder to relieve. When this occurs, the compacted fluid can cause an infection or even an abscess. Common signs of anal gland issues include a foul fishy odor, chewing near the anus, licking in the region, scooting on the carpet, and pain.
Anal gland infections require medication for treatment. There are oral and topical options available, and your veterinarian will be able to determine which is best suited for the pet. An abscess requires additional care, as the infection can erupt through the skin causing a secondary infection in an area that is difficult to heal.
Some animals are more prone to anal gland problems than others. Small breed dogs are more likely to need assistance expressing their anal glands than cats and large breed dogs. Overweight or obese dogs often have more difficulty expressing their anal glands due to having more fat and less muscle contractility in the region.
If your pet is having consistent problems with anal glands, or needs to have them expressed often at the vet office, it may be helpful to discuss diet changes or the addition of supplements with your veterinarian. A diet rich in fiber can provide bulk to the stool, which can help to naturally express the glands. New to the market, anal gland supplements can be added to your pet’s diet to increase fiber and add nutrients that foster a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics may also be a consideration, as there are formulations specifically designed to improve gut health.
Regular upkeep and check ups can be a huge help in preventing long-term complications. As always, visit your regular veterinarian to clear up any concerns you may have about your pet and their glands. When in doubt, always have them take a look just in case.