4 signs your dog has an anal gland disorder

Our dogs are adorable in so many ways. But not everything about them is cute. If your dog has chronic problems with their anal glands, you know what I mean.

Anal glands (also called anal sacs) are on each side of and slightly below the anal opening, at about 4 and 8 o’clock.

analsacs

Photo courtesy of petmd.com

 

As you can see from the photo, a tiny duct leads from the gland under the skin, to an opening right next to the anus.

What’s truly unpleasant about your dog’s anal glands is what’s produced in them… a smelly, oily, brown fluid your dog uses to mark its territory. When they poop, this fluid is excreted with the poop through those little ducts near the anus, leaving a distinct scent.

This scent also helps dogs identify each other. When your dog meets a new dog, he may raise his tail and let the other dog get his nose right in there. It’s this fluid in the anal sac that emits a scent.

Humans don’t have anal glands. But guess who does? A skunk. And they can empty them voluntarily when they feel threatened. You know that if one has ever sprayed you.

Dogs can’t voluntarily empty their anal glands. And the glands can become impacted or clogged if the dog doesn’t completely empty them when they poop and the fluid is left to thicken.

Why some dogs aren’t able to completely empty their anal glands isn’t known for sure. It could be the dog’s anatomy, the consistency of its poop, or the thickness of the anal sac fluid.

There isn’t a breed predisposition, but it’s said that anal gland disorders often occur in smaller breeds.

Hmmm, I’ve had three Labs and two of them have had chronic anal gland problems. So know what this condition looks like no matter the size of your dog.

Here are 4 signs:

1) The butt scoot – your dog drags its tushy along your nice carpet

Your dog is trying to empty the glands by rubbing them along the ground because they’re not emptying fully when they poop.

2) A foul smell – and sometimes super stinky breath too

The fluid is fishy smelling… a smell you may have also noticed when your dog is anxious. They’ll excrete anal gland fluid in times of stress.

3) Excessive licking and/or biting the tushy – resulting in that horrible breath

If the fluid has thickened and clogged the anal ducts, they’ll try to relieve the pressure and discomfort of the impaction.

4) Pain when your dog sits or poops

Once an impaction progresses to an infection or abscess, it’s really painful.

Is this serious?

Full anal glands can be uncomfortable but rarely affect your dog’s general health. If your dog is showing any signs of an anal gland problem, see your vet.

If the glands aren’t emptied and they become impacted, bacteria can get into the fluid and result in an infection or abscess.

That’s very painful. And abscesses can leave scar tissue that affects the nerves and muscles in the area. Sometimes, this can cause fecal incontinence and that’s a big problem. No one wants their dog leaking poop around their home, so be sure not to let full anal glands get to this point.

How are anal gland disorders treated?

If your dog’s anal glands are full and/or impacted, your vet can express the fluid with their fingers. If this becomes a chronic problem, your vet can show you how to do it.

Take a look at this video for a tutorial.

… Or just have the vet do it.

Our Lab goes to the vet every 6 weeks to have her anal glands emptied. And I can usually tell when it’s time. She’ll do the butt scoot, and the smell of her crate is reminiscent of low tide.

If the anal glands become infected, you may see bloody pus oozing from the glands. Your vet can tell when they drain the sacs if there’s an infection.

An infection is treated with antibiotics. But it can progress to a swollen mass of pus (an abscess) that is very tender if you wait too long to start treatment.

Unfortunately, once an abscess has formed it has to be lanced and then treated with antibiotics and sometimes an anti-inflammatory. Warm compresses can relieve the discomfort too.

Is there any way to prevent anal gland problems?

Some say a high-fiber diet, which makes the dog’s poop bulkier can help empty the glands fully. The poop puts more pressure on the glands as it passes. But some vets say a high-fiber diet does little to fix the problem.

If your dog’s anal glands are an ongoing issue, talk to your vet. They may recommend an anal sacculectomy—surgical removal of the glands.

This is a simple procedure but it can cause fecal incontinence. Weigh the pros and cons.

Having the glands drained regularly before full glands turn into an impaction, then an infection and ultimately an abscess may be a better solution.

Most dogs will go through life never having a problem with their anal glands. If that’s your dog, leave the glands alone.

Your groomer may offer gland expression as part of their grooming service. But if the glands don’t need emptying, most vets will say don’t touch them.

Has your dog had this uncomfortable and stinky problem? Do you express the glands yourself? Tell us in the comment section at the top.

 

 

 

 

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31 thoughts on “4 signs your dog has an anal gland disorder

  1. My 7 pound, 7 year old dog has an anal gland problem right now. He’s a yorkie cross. He always has stinky breathe. The vet opened the gland with a needle to get the infection ooze out. They also gave us antibiotics and anti-inflammation medication. He’s feeling better but his butt is still oozing

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      1. I don’t know how to start a new thread and I wanted to ask a question. My 16 1/2 year old German Shepherd is leaking anal fluid. It was expressed at the vets and he said one gland was infected. After a round of antibiotics, the leaking came right back. He expressed it again and put her on proin. He said for us to wait a week and if she doesn’t improve, then we should put her down, we’ve done all we can do. She did not improve. I know she’s way older than most GSD’s ever get, but I don’t want to put her down if we are missing something. Any ideas??

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      2. Oh Katy…I am so sorry to hear that. Did she have anal gland issues as a younger dog or did this just develop? Many times the chronic anal gland issues are anatomical so she would have had them throughout her life. I certainly cannot advise anything outside of what your vet would recommend. You have clearly taken good care of her for her to reach this age. Thank you for your note.

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  2. My 2 yr old pug has leaky anal glands. he was able to go about 2 months before we would smell the tell tale sign, then it became 1 month before they filled and now just days. Went to the vet 7 days ago after exam and expression..they were not full..and he has leaked at 4 days and again tonight. I have added Psyllium to his food ..he refuses pumpkin…and we get regular exercise. I switched his food to a limited ingredient turkey from chicken but he dislikes the kibble and only eats wet food with green beans added. Any advise would be greatly appreciated…we don’t know what to do for our little poo-per 🙂

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    1. The primary cause of anal gland problems is not usually food: the main causes are anal sphincter muscle dysfunction, enlarged anal sacs that are not compressed properly by the anal sphincter muscle, hypersecretion from the anal sac lining, obstructed or constricted anal sac ducts. So mostly anatomical reasons.

      However, inflammation can aggravate this problem, so feeding a Husse hypo-allergic product could prevent allergic inflammations which can contribute to the problem. A highly digestible food also gives more firm stools which give more pressure on the anal glands and help to empty them.

      Sometimes picky eaters respond to salmon based foods.

      Hope that helps.

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  3. My 4 year old female dachshund has leaky anal glands also. We just visited the vet to have them expressed last week and tonight she is leaking again. I am at a loss. Is there an under laying problem that I need to be concerned with? Both of my dachshunds are picky eaters. What type of food should I be feeding them? * note my 10 year old male dachshund does not have this problem.

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    1. The primary cause of anal gland problems is not usually food: the main causes are anal sphincter muscle dysfunction, enlarged anal sacs that are not compressed properly by the anal sphincter muscle, hypersecretion from the anal sac lining, obstructed or constricted anal sac ducts. So mostly anatomical reasons.
      However, inflammation can aggravate this problem, so feeding a Husse hypo-allergic product could prevent allergic inflammations which can contribute to the problem. A highly digestible food also gives more firm stools which give more pressure on the anal glands and help to empty them. The worst thing for dogs with this problem is to have soft stools.
      Sometimes picky eaters respond to salmon or lamb based foods.
      Hope that helps.

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  4. Hi my dog has brown yellow discharge from her bum and it smells half way down her tail is red and looks sore but it don’t really seam to bother her she sits to one side so it must be uncomfortable for her shall I take her to the vets or try and empty her glands

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    1. It is always a good idea to have the vet check her and make recommendations for longer term care of the issue. Again- often it is an anatomical issue and the best thing you can do is keep her on a diet that creates firm stool, and keep the area clean as best you can.

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  5. My 4 y/o 14 lb Shihpoo is having to have her anal glands expressed every 2 weeks by her vet. She eats a combo if we and dry lamb and rice diet with pumpkin added. I am now going to add Kellogg’s Bran Bud cereal once daily. Her stools are firm, and there is no leakage or foul smell. She has allergies that keep her from going outside to play. Today my vet discussed removal of her anal glands, but I hesitate. Anyone have other suggestions?

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  6. How do I get it out with out going to the vet cause I really don’t have any money so can u shoe me how to do it

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  7. The only time my dog leaks is when she is sitting on the couch next to me. She doesn’t scoot. And only licks after the fact. Nothing looks red or swollen. My vet said there is nothing to worry about. But boy does it stink. Any advice?

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    1. This just happened to me!! Omg. I love her but it’s sooooo gross! I feel so bad for her. She usually jumps off the couch when it’s coming but this time she didn’t even feel it. Makes me worried. She’s a 3 year old lab. We’ve had issues with this since she was 6 months-1 year. Glands expressed by Vet 4-5 times? And 2 accidents on the couch. Her butt hole is really healthy looking. Never any blood or abscess (thank God!). I just feel so bad for her :*( and of course it’s stressful! That smell…so nasty. And her breath is rank! This thread helped me connect the two. I wouldn’t get her glands removed and I certainly wouldn’t put her down. Poor thing.

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  8. My dog usually gets anal sacs released every 6 months by the vet this time i took her to the groomer they said they would do it but it’s only been two weeks and she is scooting all around and really smelly. I don’t think they did it.

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  9. My two year old Rhodesian ridgeback mix has this problem. He has food intolerances, and we have just recently figured out which food doesn’t give him diarrhea. We’ve brought him to the vet three times in the last six months to have his glands secreted, and he’s been licking back there again, so it’s time to bring him again. I’m hoping this isn’t a lifelong problem as our vet charges us quite a bit to do this.

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  10. about three days ago i took my 6 month old anatolian shepard to the vet to be spayed and shes pretty much back to her happy playful self but now she has stuff leaking from her anal. she is on both pain meds and an antibiotic for a staph. the day of the surgery she didnt poo which i was told was normal, the next day she had super soft poos, and today they are still soft. should i get her checked out for the leakage?anyone with the same problem?

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  11. Our baby was in real pain when moved his tail UP,and a pal of our said it was his gland,,we have had lots of dogs and never herd of this,”We called a vet and were taking him in today,thank you for all the formation.
    A DOG LOVER.

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  12. My 3 pound Chihuahua rat terrier mix had a large swollen inflamed land around her anal area this morning when I got home from work. I put her in some warm water in the sink and pressed on it and it busted open expelling bloody and brownish discharge with these little black chunks in it that appear to resemble small chunks of dirt but not bowel movement. The area where it busted open is now like another slit. I expelled all I could and a warm bath tub and then I close it with peroxide and Betadine and I packed it with ioda form gauze . I cannot really afford to take her to the vet right now, does this sound like it was applied to anal gland that just burst open? And is there any other things I can do to help treat her at home?

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  13. Ok! My 9 month old pug just started licking his behind. He doesn’t do it all the time, but he’s never done that before. It doesn’t have a odor, he doesn’t scoot or chew, So if u can let me know what you think. Like to get opinion’s. I would really appreciate ur feedback. Thank You!

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  14. My 2.5 year old Rotti x Kelpie has been having leaky glands. It happens about every six months. Never had an infection and her poos are solid. Shes healthy in every other way. Is this something I should be concerned about, if it only happens twice a year?

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  15. My Lab had a terrible problem with anal glands when he was a young dog; got infections abscess etc. the Vet I went to then said that an op. was perhaps the only way forward as there was much scar tissue and thickness in the anal sacs, but I was worried about the possible damage to his anal muscles.

    Then with my dog’s morning snack meal I started adding High Fibre breakfast cereal, about a dessert spoonful soaked in warm water and mixed with dog food. (He already ate a lot of vegetables in his main evening feed but it didn’t seem to help his glands).

    But he hasn’t had a problem at all since.

    This was all done when he was about 6 years old and in 5 weeks time he will be 16, a good age for Labs.

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