Oh, the anal glands! If you have ever had a dog with anal gland problems you know they stink (figuratively and literally!). Anatomically dogs have two little sacs that sit just inside their rectum - they are scent glands. When dogs are sniffing away saying hello to a new friend this is what they are smelling. If you have ever smelt a coppery fishy odor those are anal glands! Positionally anal glands sit at "4 o'clock and 8 o'clock"(... now you'll never think of a clock the same way again!). When your dog is going to the bathroom, having a bowel movement, they are meant to be expressed naturally- however, sometimes they are not and they need to be expressed manually.
When the glands get full our pets will try to express them on their own. There are some "tell tail" signs to know when your dog is having problems with their glands. The most common being scooting or dragging their behind on the ground. When they do this they are applying pressure to the glands and attempting to express what they can on your floor, or carpet- don't forget to thank them if you ever catch them doing this! Another way they can tell us that their glands are bothering them is, they will turn around suddenly and nip and bite at their tail area, almost as if they are trying to get to a flea. In addition, you may notice some balding areas under their tail, on the inside or outside of their hind legs, or even on their lower back. As the glands get full they quickly become itchy and irritating to you and your animal!
Typically, the little dogs are the ones that we see most frequently with anal gland issues. It does however happen to our larger friends. Grain is a common ingredient in dog foods that we are trying to avoid more and more as it can be an allergen. The grain however added more fiber to the diet and more substance in the stool aiding with natural expression of the glands. If your animal is on a grain free diet there are other ways you can add fiber. Canned pumpkin and metamucil are two great sources. Also, if your pet has really irritated themselves and their rectal area is inflamed and agitated you can always apply some Preparation-H. This should help soothe the area allowing the animal to be more comfortable.
If you notice that your animal is having a problem with their glands and the tips provided above are not helping you will need to bring them in to see us.The glands can become impacted or even infected if they get too full. When you notice that they need to have them expressed you can always schedule an appointment. We will be happy to help.
If you are a brave person and would like to learn how to do them at home we would also be happy to teach you how to complete this lovely task on your own-if you dare!