What are anal glands?
Anal glands (also referred to as anal sacs) are located on either side of the anus, at the 8o'clock and 4 o'clock position, between the external and the internal sphincter muscles. Each anal sac has a duct which empties into the rectum. The sacs and ducts are lined with glands which secrete a characteristic foul smelling material.
These glands are occasionally also called "scent glands" as they enable dogs to mark their territory and to identify other dogs. The glands can also spontaneously empty when dogs are stressed – you might have smelled your dog has an unpleasant odour/change in odour when you visit the vet – this is due to a discharge from the anal glands. Other than that the glands have no other primary function.
Healthy and normal anal glands will empty when your dog defecates. In some small breeds, the anal glands get blocked/impacted and then infected. This can lead to the gland rupturing and forming an abscess.
Signs of impacted anal glands:
- Scooting along the floor/grass.
- Excessive licking of the anal area.
- Problems with defecation.
Symptoms of infected anal glands:
- Painful swelling of the area next to the anus.
- Draining fluid from a ruptured abscess next to the anus.
- Infected anal sacs may have a discharge which is coloured a combination of red, yellow, or green. The normal secretion is yellowish brown.
Emptying anal sacs:
To prevent infection you can empty your dog’s anal glands as part of his grooming routine. Consult your vet on how often you should do it and also ask him to give you a training session.
- Wear latex gloves.
- Hold a wad of cotton wool in the palm of your hand to absorb any expelled fluid.
- Be sure to know the exact location of the sacs. If full, they can easily be felt below the surface of the skin. Injury to the sensitive tissues around the anus can occur if excessive pressure is applied to the wrong area.
- Use one hand to hold up the tail the tail while the other hand is used to empty the sacs. To properly express, gentle pressure is applied directly to the filled sacs in a forward and upward direction. Only the amount which is easily expressed without discomfort should be emptied.
- If infected material is detected, you should consult a veterinarian. If neglected, an abscess can quickly occur.
Treating infected anal glands:
Infected anal glands must be treated by a vet. If a dog only has an occasional problem with the gland, it can be dealt with as needed. However, for dogs with repeated or chronic problems, surgical removal of the glands is recommended. With the removal of these glands all problems associated with these glands are eliminated for the remainder of the pet's life. Although a fairly simple procedure, complications such as faecal incontinence may rarely occur. – (Hilda Geyer/Health24, June 2009)