The anal glands of your dog are critical to their overall health and well-being. The anal sacs on a dog are basically two small pouches that are situated on either side of the dog’s anus. They are generally located at the four o’clock and eight o’clock positions of the dog’s anus.
From time to time, problems are likely to arise with their anal glands, especially if the dog is unable to express themselves through their anal glands (which is a common occurrence). Here’s what you need to know about their anal gland functions.
What’s Their Primary Function?
The primary functions of a dog’s anal glands are actually quite important. The secretions from the anal sac consist of chemicals that are basically known as “territorial markers” in a dog’s world. Think of it as a “calling card” left by a dog. You have to understand that the sense of smell for these animals is incredibly robust.
The secretions are similar to that of a skunk; they use it to repel animals and to make other animals aware of their presence. Whenever the dog has a bowel movement, these anal sac secretions are squeezed out as well. It has a pretty distinct odor, which ultimately creates a unique scent signature for its feces.
You might have noticed that dogs take a particularly keen interest in smelling each other’s behinds, and often take a long time smelling each other’s feces. They are simply trying to process the unique scent left behind by another dog. They can also trace it all the way back to the animal.
Why Are the Anal Sacs Becoming a Problem?
Anal gland expression is a perfectly normal habit for dogs. In fact, it’s a key part of their anus function and they don’t really have to worry about it. However, problems tend to arise in domesticated dogs, and the anal sac disease is now widely regarded as one of the most common.
Impaction might occur in the anal sacs, causing them to get plugged. This primarily happens due to the inflammation of the ducts. With the passage of time, the secretion in the impacted sacs is only going to thicken with time, and the anal sacs are likely to become distended and swollen over time.
This leads to a series of problems. As the anal sacs become swollen, the dog faces quite a bit of discomfort when it has to pass feces. More importantly, you should know that the material secreted by the dogs through their glands is quite suitable for the growth of bacteria, and it doesn’t take long before an anal gland abscess forms in the region. The bacteria that is readily present in the dog’s feces is able to travel readily up the ducts and make its home in the sacs.
But, this isn’t the case under normal circumstances. The bacteria is flushed out whenever your dog has a bowel movement. But, when the sacs are swollen, the fluid isn’t able to flush out, and eventually gets infected.
What Happens Next?
As the fluid sacs get infected, they start turning bloody. When that happens, the sacs fill up with pus, and this eventually creates an abscess. It looks like a red, swollen, and incredibly painful bump on one or either side of the dog’s annus. If you do not flush it, the abscess is eventually going to burst.
This is going to release a foul-smelling liquid that is usually yellow with a tinge of green to it. In most cases, however, the pus is all bloodied. If you do not treat this problem, the infection is going to spread rapidly from your abscess and can lead to major damage to your dog’s rectum or its anus.
The Stages of Anal Sac Disease
There are multiple stages of the anal sac disease that you should know about. Normally when the dog has a bowel movement, the fluid is automatically squeezed out, as mentioned above. But, if it’s not emptied properly, the fluid becomes thick and plugs the openings, which leads to impaction.
Using your fingers, you can gently release the fluid from the dog’s impacted anal sacs. Anal gland expression doesn’t require a lot of effort, and if you want, you can go to your local vet, and they will teach you how to express dog’s anal glands. This way, you can save a trip to the vet in the future whenever your dog is in discomfort.
If your dog is consistently suffering from impactions in their anal sacs, your vet might recommend that you add a bit more fiber to their overall diet. By adding more fiber, the overall size of the dog’s poop increases, which ultimately puts greater pressure on the sacs and helps relieve the fluid from the sacs.
But, if left untreated, it will turn into a serious infection, and your vet will have to drain the abscess, and they might prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
What Are the Signs of an Anal Gland Problem?
Understanding the signs is very important, because if you are able to catch this issue in time, you won’t have to rush to the vet. Usually, when the dog is facing such a problem, their behavior changes considerably. The first and obvious sign that the dog is in discomfort caused by their anal sac is when it starts dragging or scooting its rear on the ground.
There’s also a chance that your dog will become quite excessive with its licking habits and may start biting too. If you see the dog licking its behind quite often, you might want to take a closer look and find out exactly what’s wrong. In most cases, the dog might even start biting the base of its tail.
You need to understand that the anal sac disease is incredibly painful for the dog. Dogs that are usually docile and quite gentle will become aggressive and might even start biting if you touch their tail or their anal region while they are suffering from the disease. It’s definitely something that you need to take seriously.
How to Treat the Problem?
Thankfully, treatment is easy; you can express or empty the sacs using your fingers. However, if the impaction is serious and you notice an infection developing in the dog’s anal gland, you might want to take them to a vet right away. It might be a problem with the dog’s diet, or it might be an issue with their anal glands.
You need to understand that many overweight dogs usually suffer from chronic anal sac issues. You need to make sure that you take your dog for the treatment. In some cases, the removal of their anal sacs might be needed, which is a pretty intricate surgery.
These are just a few things that you should know about treating the anal gland problems of a dog. As long as you take quick action, you won’t have much to worry about.