A Pain in the Rear: Anal Gland Problems in Pets

A Pain in the Rear: Anal Gland Problems in Pets

Veterinary consultationMany of us can identify the familiar stench of a skunk, but did you know your pet has anal gland sacs that can produce an equally strong aroma?

Anal sacs are found in the rectum and contain a liquid that’s secreted during bowel movements or when a pet is scared. This substance defines the animal’s presence and territory, acting as a type of stinky calling card for other animals.

While some creatures, like skunks, can intentionally spray or emit this fluid, our pets cannot. That’s why anal gland expression and health is so important.

Understanding Anal Gland Issues

One of the tell-tale signs your pet might be experiencing problems is butt-scooting. This behavior is a way to relieve the sensation of pressure and irritation when anal sac disease is present.

Although the causes of anal sac complications are uncertain, issues tend to arise more for smaller breed canines. This is especially true for pets who are overweight and suffer from diarrhea and an overproduction of anal gland fluid.

Problems associated with the anal sacs include:

Anal sac impaction This is one of the most common conditions associated with anal glands. Impaction occurs when there’s a buildup of fluid and the glands are not properly expressed, leading to enlargement and discomfort.

Infection Infection of the anal sac glands typically occurs from bacteria, which is often a result of untreated impaction. Signs of infection include fever and swelling of the rectal area.

Abscess Abscess can also be a result of impaction and infection. Treatment often entails lancing the abscess(es) and using antibiotics to fight infection.

Tumor Anal sac adenocarcinoma is a rare type of malignant tumor found on the anal glands. Symptoms often mirror those of an impaction.

The following can be signs of anal sac disease or other conditions:

  • Scooting the posterior on the floor or ground
  • Licking and biting at the area
  • Discharge, often foul-smelling (could indicate abscess rupture)
  • Straining to defecate
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling

The first step in treating these conditions is manual expression of the anal glands. An antibiotic-steroid ointment and oral antibiotics may also be needed.

Preventing Future Problems

If your pet is prone to anal gland impaction, it’s important to make sure his or her glands are expressed every few weeks. This can be done at home (for instruction, ask us during your pet’s wellness exam) or during a professional bathing or grooming session.

The process of expression involves using a finger to apply pressure to palpate the glands and release the fluids. Understandably, this doesn’t sound like a great way to spend time with your fur friend, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Schertz Animal Hospital. We’re happy to provide this service along with many others.

While anal gland expression isn’t anyone’s favorite topic, it is critical to overall well being and to keep that tail wagging.