The bane of pet owners and veterinary staff everywhere. Anal glands are vestigial, grape-shaped glands located just inside the anus at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock. They contain a fluidish material so stanky it has been known to take down Leviathan. These glands can be found in dogs, cats and other small mammals. Used for scent marking territory back in the, Once Upon A Time, these glands “perfumed” an animals’ stool with a unique smell used for identification. Hence, all the butt and tree sniffing. These days our Fifi’s and Fido’s are more sophisticated and have humans to mark their territory for them with privacy fencing. Now, these useless, offending glands just hang around waiting to cause a little chaos……or not.
THE PROBLEM WITH ANAL GLANDS
Anal glands become a problem when the animal isn’t expressing the contents of these glands with normal bowel movements. Natural expression happens when the stool passes over these glands applying the pressure to express them on the way out (natural expression is also how you explain why you let your 8 year old go to school today in orange pants, legwarmers and a tiara, but who’s paying attention anyway?). This can be inhibited by a variety of things. Most commonly from inflammation from allergies or regularly having very soft stool or diarrhea, if the glands become obstructed and left untreated the material can collect, become denser (think ribbons of toothpaste), become impacted, abscess and rupture. OUCH! to your best fur-friend and your wallet.
HOW ABOUT THAT OUNCE OF PREVENTATION THING?
So how can we stack the odds in our favor? Follow these guidelines and you’re on the way:
1. Keep your pet at a healthy weight. The extra weight can impede proper stance during defecation. Being active can help keep the muscles in the anal gland area toned.
2. Feed a higher quality diet free of excessive fillers. Fiber content is important. Fiber helps bulk up the stools so they have a better chance at natural expression. Ask your vet what the appropriate diet is for your pet's health and life stage.
3. Have the glands expressed regularly. How often? It’s different for each pet. Every 2 weeks, once a month, every 6 weeks? Work with your veterinarian to determine what schedule works for your pet.
4. Treat any underlying allergies. Whether they be food or seasonal, your pet can have them. Working with your vet on a protocol to manage these allergies will go a long way to helping the anal gland issue.
5. We recommend leaving the job to a professional. Expressing anal glands can be downright nasty and horrifying. Well, not really “horrifying” but, yeah, kind of. On top of the general unpleasantness, if done incorrectly glands can become ruptured and/or scarred.
Your vet will have additional tips based on your pet’s individual needs. So the next time Fido asks if butt-skiing is an Olympic sport, just head to the vet!