Just the term "anal glands" makes a lot of dog owners cringe, but it's important that you know a little about these glands and how to keep them healthy. Located to either side of your dog's anus, these glands secrete a substance that dogs use to indentify one another. Sometimes, however, they can become clogged or abscessed, and you (or your vet) will need to express them – in other words, drain them. Here's a closer look at anal gland expression and how to tell if your dog needs this done.
What causes anal glands to become clogged?
Normally, when your dog defecates, this causes the anal glands to secrete their fluids. However, if the fluids they contain become too thick, they may clog the opening, preventing the glands from emptying. There are several possible reasons why the glands may become clogged. Your dog may not be eating enough fiber, resulting in small stools that don't put enough pressure on the glands to release the fluids. An infection of the anal glands can also cause the fluid to thicken and clog the glands.
How can you tell if your dog needs his or her glands expressed?
Dogs who have clogged anal glands may scoot their bottoms across the floor or ground, especially before or after defecating. They may spend a lot of time licking their read ends, or they may seem to be in pain when they do defecate. Many dogs with clogged anal glands have a bad body odor.
What are the consequences of clogged anal glands?
In addition to causing discomfort for your dog, clogged anal glands may lead to irritation of the anal tissues, leading to cuts that could become infected. Infections can spread through the body and have deadly consequences. Even if the tissues do not become infected, dogs with clogged anal glands are often miserable because they are in pain. They may bite or snap at their owners or other pets.
How do you express the anal glands?
If you suspect that your dog has a clogged anal glands, you can attempt expressing them yourself. Fold several sheets of paper towels into a thick wad. Place the wad over your dog's anus, and place your fingers at the 8:00 and 4:00 positions (assuming your dog's anus is a clock). Squeeze those fingers together. A smelly, brown liquid should seep into the paper towels.
If you are having trouble expressing the anal glands yourself, you can take your dog to the vet to have this done. Note that dogs who develop clogged anal glands often do so regularly, so you may want to have your vet show you how to do this at home so you don't always have to come back to the office.
You should also seek veterinary care if the liquid that comes out of the glands is yellow or green. This means there is an infection, and your vet will need to treat it with antibiotics.
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