There are so many things that your dog does for you, whether it’s keeping you warm at night, playing games with you in the park or just being a loyal companion. And he needs you for many things too, such as food, water, shelter and companionship. However, dogs may rely the most on their owners when it comes to health conditions. One common and possibly serious problem that dogs can develop and need human help with is anal gland disease.
Anal gland disease is a term that refers to a number of conditions that affect the canine anal glands at various stages of severity. If you own a dog, you should know the warning signs of this condition and how to treat it.
What is an anal gland?
Anal glands, or anal sacs, are located on either side of your dog’s anus. These glands, similarly to skunk anal sacs, are built to release an odor. However, unlike skunks, which release the odor as a defensive mechanism, dogs use their anal glands to mark their feces as their own – it marks their territory with a unique smell. This is one reason why your dog may sniff other dogs’ anuses when they interact.
The glands are under the skin and release the yellow-brown scented liquid when pressure is applied through the excretion of feces or when the anus is contracted, such as when scared.
What is anal gland disease?
Healthy anal glands release their fluid regularly. Anal gland problems usually occur when the glands’ ducts are impacted and the fluid can’t release. Impactions that are left untreated can lead to infection, which can eventually create abscesses and anal sac ruptures. Each stage of this disease is progressively more painful and makes passing stool difficult.
Impaction of the glands can occur for a variety of reasons, including stool being too small or soft to exert the necessary pressure, blockages of the ducts or weakness of the muscles surrounding the anus. Bacteria thrives in this area and can easily develop infection.
Look out for the warning signs
The top evidence of anal gland disease in dogs involves your dog paying too much attention to his anus. Scooting or rubbing his behind against the floor or carpet is a common warning sign. Biting, licking or excessive sensitivity around the anus are also signals your dog has an anal gland issue. Difficulty defecating is another red flag.
Keep an eye out for visible redness, swelling or inflammation. If you suspect an abscess, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. Blood or pus around or from the anus are indications that the anal gland may have ruptured. Small and obese dogs are particularly susceptible to this condition.
How is anal gland disease treated?
The earlier the issue is addressed, the better. If your dog has impacted anal glands, you, your veterinarian or another professional can express, or empty, your dog’s anal glands. This process involves releasing the fluid in the glands manually to prevent buildup and issues that can lead to infections or diseases.
Infected anal sacs require a two-pronged approach that uses expressing as well as medication to kill the infection and prevent its immediate return. Animax ointment is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory drug that’s used for topical skin infections and anal gland disease. Dermalone ointment is another common medication, which works to treat a number of infections in dogs, particularly anal gland and skin infections. Some dogs who have repeated infections require anal gland removal surgery.
Abscesses need to be treated by a veterinarian who can lance the sac before it ruptures on its own, tearing a hole through your dog’s skin.
Keep an eye out for the warning signs of anal gland disease to make sure your dog gets the help he needs.