Anal Glands……….the Scourge of Dogs, Cats, Owners and Veterinarians

The best thing about Anal Glands? The fact that WE don’t have them! For those of you who have never heard of Anal Glands (Anal Sacs) or who have never had to deal with issues regarding them in your dog or cat, consider yourself fortunate. Many, if not most pet owners, are familiar with the foul odor that often emanates from a pet’s back end either when they become suddenly afraid, are startled or sometimes for no apparent reason at all. The disconnect here is that patients who frequently eject this odorous brown fluid, may be less likely to have more serious problems although owners often find the discharge offensive. Unfortunately, when this fluid is retained or not “expressed”, these glands steadily increase in size, become very distended and may become impacted, infected or, in a worse case scenario, abscessed and rupture through the skin.

So what can be done to reduce or eliminate problems with these glands? Although there are several products (foods, powders, tablets and others), there have been no studies to validate these claims. Anecdotal reports are often glowing but real life trials fall far short of success.

So what should a pet owner do? The last several years we have seen an abundance of more serious anal gland problems than previously. Online advice, YouTube videos and pet store products have resulted in groomers and owners alike attempting to treat anal gland problems themselves without the input from veterinarians. Most commonly this involves “squeezing” or emptying the anal glands. These attempts to express these glands by non-medical people occur by squeezing on the outside the rectum. A recent veterinary journal noted that less than half of the material that is present in the glands is actually removed this way. The result of these attempts are two fold. First if the sac is not completely emptied, the fluid will continue to build up resulting in distention, impaction and sometimes abscessation. Secondly, attempting to express the sacs by squeezing rather than by rectal exam results in severe inflammation to the tissues that surround the glands. Over time frequent expressing in this fashion results in severe trauma to the rectal tissue and formation of scar tissue making the eventual removal of these glands (often the only resolution) much more difficult.

If you notice any behavior such as your pet scooting along the ground, licking his/her rectum or you note a foul smelling discharge (often described as smelling like rotten fish), have your pet checked as soon as possible. Attempting to use various products is often okay but only after you are first certain that these glands have been totally emptied. There are other options available rather than just expressing or removal of these glands. If you would like more information on how to deal with anal gland or anal sac disease, feel free to call us at the Brockton Animal Hospital. We’re happy to guide you through resolution of this very “stinky” disease entity.