Anal Gland Expression in Dogs
It is now time to touch on one of the more unpleasant aspects of dog ownership – expressing your dog’s anal glands. All dogs have two anal glands or sacs; 1 gland on each side of the anus. These glands are occasionally refereed to as “scent glands”, because they enable the dog to mark its territory and to identify each other; this explains why dog sniff one another’s rears to see if they know another dog.
The anal sacs are normally expressed (emptied) by rectal pressure during defecation, but in domesticated dogs this does not always happen the way it should due to the fact that house dogs eat a lot more soft food than wild dogs. The anal sacs can also be emptied by contraction of the anal sphincter. This involuntary contraction can be due to the dog being upset, frightened or under pressure, or the contractions can be triggered by the dog feeling a need to mark its territory. The secretion from the anal glands is a brownish liquid, although is can become thick, yellowish or creamy looking.
Impaction of the Anal Glands
When the anal glands fail to empty normally, the result can be impaction. Impaction is most common in small dog breeds, but can occur in any dog. Impactions of the anal glands are caused by soft stools, small anal gland openings, and over active anal glands. The anal gland secretions become thick and pasty, and the only way to treat anal gland impaction is to manually empty the glands.
Emptying the Anal Glands
You will want to use a warm moist wash cloth or towel to empty the glands. Raise the dog’s tail and locate the anal glands – the glands should be at approximately 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock in relation to the anal circumference. You will feels the glands as small firm nodules in the perianal area. Position your thumb on one gland and index finger on the opposite gland, and press in and squeeze your fingers toward one another to empty the glands. If the discharge is bloody or purulent in appearance there is probably an anal gland infection, which should be treated by a veterinary professional.
Infected Anal Glands
This condition is recognized by the presence of blood or pus in the anal gland secretions. The dog may also exhibit discomfort when the glands are emptying or do a great deal of scooting. Your veterinarian can treat infected anal sacs by first emptying them and cleansing the area. The anal glands are then filled with an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection and encourage healing. If the anal glands are infected, the glands will need to be cleaned every 2-3 days until the secretions are clear of blood and/or pus. Dogs with anal gland infections are also usually given oral antibiotics to help minimize infection.
The following video demonstrates the way to express your dog’s anal glands: