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ANAL GLANDS

THE BOTTOM LINE

It's got to be the least glamorous part of our business but it's a fact that lots of people phone Canine Natural Cures with questions about their dog's bottom!  


We all know that dogs are obsessed with sniffing each other's bottoms and it would appear that  humans are also quite concerned about bottoms (yes, I'm referring to dog bottoms).


Cartoon of dog sniffing bottomEver wondered why dogs always sniff each others bottoms when they meet or why they like to sniff each others poo? Well its all down to anal glands.


In this article we explore what anal glands are, the important function they perform, what can go wrong and how to deal with the root cause of the problem.




So what are anal glands?

The anal glands are two small glands located around the opening of a dogs bottom and are partly responsible for the foul smell of dog poo!  For us humans, all poo smells the same – pretty gross. However for our four legged friends with their heightened sense of smell, every pile smells different.


Each dog has her own unique blend of pheromones which when secreted by the anal gland gives every poo its own unique smell. Thats why your dog will often sniff another dogs bottom or poo. She is getting unique information about the owner of that bottom.


Pretty gross right? Well in a healthy pet its not too much of an issue but for a dog that suffers with anal gland problems, its a very smelly and uncomfortable affair.



What can go wrong?


For some dogs, the anal glands can become compacted. This

means that the hole from which the mucus is secreted becomes

blocked by a thickening of the mucus and their signature scent

cannot be emitted. The afflicted dog will start to feel very                
uncomfortable and the area around the anus may become red

and sore.  If you notice your pet scooting across the floor on its            
bottom or constantly licking its rear end then it
s an indication
that she may be suffering from an anal gland issue.


Its obviously vital that you visit your vet in the first instance to rule out anything more serious; however if your vet thinks it is an anal gland issue then he will probably suggest expressing the anal glands. Lots of information on the web will tell you how to do this yourself however I really wouldnt advise it. Its a smelly job, with a brown foul smelling liquid being expressed, and if not done properly, could cause considerable discomfort to your pet. Leave it to the experts.

 

However, there is plenty that you can do yourself to alleviate this condition. Personally, I recommend that you try to identify the root cause of the problem first. Expressing the anal glands is a short term fix and will provide your pet with some temporary relief however if you dont address the underlying problem in the first place, you may well end up back at the vets within a couple of months with the same complaint on your hands.


Diet is the biggest culprit when it comes to compacted anal glands.   Many of us feed our dogs on commercial dog foods which contain a high cereal content. Whilst commercial, grain based dog foods are convenient they are generally not the best diet for our pets. If youre reading this article you may well have heard of the BARF diet. A diet composed of raw meaty bones and vegetables. This is the ideal diet for keeping our dogs healthy and for avoiding anal gland compaction. When you feed your dog bones, it helps to keep the stools firm. A firm stool is essential for expressing the anal glands. Too soft and the anal gland will not be expressed fully hence leading to a build-up of mucus and therefore compaction. Not rocket science right?

dog and bone

If you really cant completely give up the commercial pet foods then try to incorporate a few simple changes into your pets diet such as adding a bone to her dinner. Contrary to popular belief it shouldn’t be a hard bone such as a marrow bone. Instead choose a soft bone like a chicken wing or lamb shoulder that the dog can quickly crunch. This has the added advantage of meaning that your dog wont be chewing all afternoon on her bone and/or guarding it. Just remember to never feed cooked bones to your pet which they cannot digest properly.  Cooked bones are harder, more brittle and more likely to splinter than raw ones and may prove fatal to your pet.


Adding bran to the diet is often suggested; however, in my experience, this only makes the poo bulkier and softer. Ideally, your pet stools should be firm enough to encourage the anal gland to express itself naturally. The easiest way to achieve this is to feed raw bones.


If a change in diet fails to improve your pets anal gland issues then it might be time to visit the vet again.  On rare occasions it is possible that compaction may be cause by an underlying genetic issue. Sometimes, the anal glands are located too deep in the rectum. This means that there is not enough pressure on the glands to enable them to express themselves properly. In this case, medical intervention will be essential and as a last resort the glands may be surgically removed.



QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I notice that when my dog is out on a walk she does several poos. The first are generally hard stools but very often, she will pass a liquid mucus towards the end of her walk. Is this a sign of an anal gland issue? She isnt displaying any other signs.


If your dog isnt displaying any other signs of discomfort e.g. licking her bottom constantly and scooting across the floor on her hind legs then I wouldnt worry too much. It is important to monitor your dogs health on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to check their stools regularly so that you become accustomed to recognising their normal appearance. Any changes to the shape, smell or consistency of their poo will give you an indication of whether there is a problem or not.  Any lasting changes to appearance or consistency (more than a day or two, sooner for a puppy or elderly dog) may require a visit to the vet to be on the safe side.



I express my dogs anal glands every month or so. Ive just read your article and am now wondering if I have been doing the wrong thing?


Some people express their dogs anal glands themselves. In fact, if you regularly express their glands you may be doing them more harm than good. The muscle around the anal gland will naturally contract when the animal is passing faeces. If you regularly artificially express the gland then you risk interfering with its natural cycle and may end up causing a problem which did not exist in the first place. Anal glands should only be expressed when necessary and when advised by a vet.


My dog is constantly licking her bottom and I have seen her scootacross the floor.  Ive checked her bottom and it doesnt look sore but could it still be an anal gland infection?


There are many reasons why dogs lick their bottoms. Do remember that bottom licking is part of a natural self-cleaning process. However, if you feel that the licking is excessive or unusual for your dog then it would be worth taking her to the vet. If it is not an anal gland infection it could be worms causing her to lick. When did you last worm your dog? Check her stools to see if you can see any worms although remember that worms are not always visible in faeces.



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