Helping your dog empty his anal sacs
Garima Singhal with Bruno Boo
If your dog suddenly takes to rubbing his butt on the floor, bed or carpet, or starts to ‘scoot’-drag his butt on a surface as he moves along, or is chasing his butt, or licks, chews or tries to bite his anal area, you might be in for a not so pleasant and slightly dubious experience of expressing your dog’s anal glands.
As a pet parent, you should be aware of the most common problem with anal glands occurs when inflammation of the anus causes swelling at the site of the anal gland discharge. The material of the gland starts to accumulate, creating discomfort for the pet. Some dogs bite their rear or twirl continuously in a circle, and in some dogs, there is a gross fishy odour, which indicates that it is time for a clean up,” says Lopa Saikia, co-founder and pet groomer at Ruff in Bangalore
Anal glands or anal sacs are small grape like glands located just below the anus to the either side. These are located just below the sphincter of the anus, the flap-like opening that covers the anus when not in use. In dogs, these glands are occasionally also referred to as ‘scent glands’. You might have noticed how dogs sniff each other’s bums when they meet. These glands secrete vital pheromones that carry all sorts of information about the dog – where they’re from, what they do, what’s their position in the pack hierarchy and so on. The glands are connected by two tiny ducts that lead to the anus. Secretions of these glands are expelled with every bowel movement, which is also the reason why dogs insist on sniffing, inspecting, and if need be, overriding every dropping and poop they encounter.
In times of stress, the odours of these glands can change, and occasionally, if you notice a very musty, distinct odour about your dog that has nothing to do with flatulence or skin infections, it could be stress, and it is helpful to detect the source and cause of this stress and rectify the situation. These scent glands are located so strategically that if the diet of the dog is consistent and the dog has regular, well formed and reasonably hard stools, they empty out on their own. For thousands of years, dogs and cats have existed with anal glands in their body, without needing human assistance to empty them. But since veterinary science and grooming methodologies became prevalent and commonplace, more and more dogs are regularly getting their anal glands expressed. Due to recurrent expressing, the tiny ducts that connect the gland to the rectum get inflamed and swollen and shut. Also, the muscles in the anal area which are responsible for the movement of fluid from the glands loses its tone and is no longer able to perform the natural function of emptying the anal sacs. This causes accumulation of the anal gland fluid and severe pain, itching, irritation, and inflammation. To get rid of this discomfort, the dog starts to scoot along the floor or bites or claws at his anus. The secondary effect of an inflamed anal gland is that the infection can travel up the gastrointestinal tract and cause poor health of the GI tract and even leading to irritable bowel disease and inflammation of other internal organs.
How to express the anal glands yourself?
For mild cases, if you do not wish to vist the vet or the groomer, you can learn to express the anal gland yourself. But it is best to have someone who knows the process teach you the first time, and then follow up on the instructions. Only attempt to express the gland when there are two people involved in the process and you are sure of your dog’s temperament that he or she will not react aggresively as the process can be more than a little painful for the dog. Looking at it from behind, the glands are located on each side of the anus, one at 4 ‘o’ clock and the other at 8 ‘o’ clock immediately around the anal opening.
- Things you will need: Keep treats handy. Have a washcloth or disposable paper towel ready to prevent squirts.
- Readying for process: Small dogs can be placed on a table, while you can kneel behind a big dog.
- Restrain: One person can restrain the dog by placing one arm around the dog’s neck and the other around his body and reaching all the way under his belly. Do this in a gentle way without appearing threatening to the dog.
- Treat and appreciate: Treat the dog for being calm and for allowing you to handle him
- Ready yourself: Put on a pair of disposable latex surgical gloves and wet the index finger and thumb with petroleum jelly or a water based lubricant.
- Finding them: Locate your dog’s anal glands by lifting his tail and palpating on either side of the anus at 4 and 8 ‘o’ clock.
- Expressing anal sacs: Holding the towel over the anus, begin applying firm but gentle pressure to the sacs. This should cause some of the fluid from the sacs to be expelled through the rectum and out through the anus.
- Clean him: Wipe your dog’s behind clean. Give him a gentle wash with water if required.If you are alarmed at how messy this process will be, the secretions are minute for a minor impaction, and you shouldn’t smell anything. If you do, take your dog to the vet for examination in case of an infection or inflammation. Under no circumstance should expression of the anal gland be a regular procedure and nature should be allowed to do its job which is best for the dog’s health and well being.(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and a long-term per parent)
Tips to take care of your pet’s anal health
- Never: DO NOT express your pet’s
- Balanced diet a must: Feed them a species appropriate diet which results in a well-formed, firm stool so that the glands express on their own and there is no cause for fluid build up.
- Fibre works for dogs too: If there is a mild buildup, then increasing fibre, or probiotics, which would lead to harder and firmer stools will usually solve the problem.
- Stop: If you have been getting the glands expressed till now, it is time to stop and change the pet’s diet to allow the system to revert to normal.
- Seek a vet: If there is an underlying infection of some sort, due to which fluid accumulation or buildup of any sort has happened, or if the duct has swollen shut to the point that the animal is scooting or biting his rear, they might need to have the glands expressed once. Once the inflammation is dealt with, revert to the
- Take help from a professional: In the case of an emergency, as described in the fifth point, it is important to get veterinary or grooming help from professionals who know how much pressure to apply to just allow for the glands to open and empty. If you see blood or pus around the anus, or if there is severe redness and inflammation, or there is swelling and severely foul odour or if your dog is in extreme discomfort, DO NOT attempt to express the gland by yourself. It is best to get professional medical help.