Your Pet and Their Anal Glands

What are anal glands?
Anal glands, or anal sacs, are normal structures of the canine and feline anatomy. These two glands are located at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock position beneath your pet’s anus. They become expressed naturally as a scent marker during natural defecation. Also they can be expressed during times of extreme fear or danger as a self defense mechanism.

What are common anal gland problems?
In some individuals, anal glands fail to express naturally and tend to fill up with glandular material that may become thickened. These glands become impacted and can be bothersome to your pet. Clinical signs you may notice are a “scooting” of the bottom on the ground or more subtle symptoms such as licking of the hind end, pinning of the tail down, or any behavior that indicates discomfort. If anal glands are impacted for long periods of time they may become infected, which can lead to abscess formation. If your pet has an anal gland abscess you may see a hard, warm swelling in the area. Abscesses require medical attention; if you see any signs of anal gland disease please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so that your pet may receive proper care. Treatment may include sedation and placement of a temporary drain. Oral and/or injectable medications will likely be prescribed as well.

Manual expression
Anal glands can usually be expressed digitally. In some pets the glands may be expressed by applying external pressure. If an individual has thicker more pasty glandular material, he/she may require an internal expression technique. During this technique, a gloved (lubricated) finger is inserted just inside the rectum and the anal gland is expressed with more direct pressure.

If your pet has ongoing instances of anal gland impaction and/or abscessation, your veterinarian may recommend that your pet have his/her glands manually expressed on a regular basis.

If an animal suffers from severe chronic anal gland problems, he/she may need to have an anal sacculectomy. This means that the anal glands are removed surgically.

Management
Obese and overweight pets are predisposed to anal gland disease. Be sure to maintain your pet’s weight properly. Adding fiber to your pet’s diet will help to minimize this type of problem. Fiber helps to create well – formed stools and support weight control by making him/her feel full for a longer period of time. Please consult your veterinarian about the best diet for your pet.

Lacey LaVigna, DVM