Pong! What is that smell?! All about anal glands

Pong! What is that smell?! All about anal glands

by Sophie Baldwin, Vet Nurse & We Love Pets Franchisee 

Why do pets have anal glands? 

Both dogs and cats have anal glands that sit either side of the opening of the anus at a position of roughly four o’clock and eight o’clock. These glands are used to scent mark and their brown liquid contents have a very unpleasant fishy smell.

Normally when a dog poops, when it passes through the anus it squeezes the glands coating the faeces. It is this scent that dogs can identify each other with and why when a dog meets another dog they will often raise their tail so they can be sniffed.

How do they become blocked? 

The glands however can become blocked or impacted if the dog does not completely empty them when they poop. The glands have small ducts that lead to the positions either side of the anus. If these ducts are also blocked the glands just get larger and can become very uncomfortable for the dog as the sacs aren’t able to empty. The fluid in the sacs may also start to thicken if the dog is unable to empty the glands completely. YUK!!!

The blockage problem can happen in any dog breed or age. If the dog has episodes of not forming normal shaped stools and they are very soft this may cause the glands not to be expressed when they poop. Sometimes a higher fibre diet may help to bulk out the faeces however this does not always solve the problem as it may just be the dog’s genetics and anatomy.

Should I empty my pet’s anal glands? 

Some unlucky dogs may need their glands emptying twice a month. Others may never have a problem their whole life. If your dog is a regular offender your vet can always show you how to empty the glands so you can do the procedure at home yourself.

Signs of blocked anal glands

  • Scooting their bottom along the carpet trying to empty full glands.
  • Licking and nibbling around the back end trying to relieve the discomfort.
  • Foul fishy smell – may be on the breath as well if doing lots of licking around the bottom.
  • Pain on defecation as this straining causes pressure on over full blocked glands.

Please note however a dog can also empty its anal glands in times of stress and anxiety.

If your dog is showing any of these classic signs it is time to take it to the vet so they can express them manually. The vet will also be able to see if the contents are ‘normal’ or if bacteria has built up and an infection has now set in and the dog is at risk of developing an abscess. If this is the case antibiotics, and possible pain relief, would be prescribed by the vet. An anal gland abscess is very painful and if this has formed your dog will likely need an anaesthetic to have it lanced.

If your dog is lucky enough to never suffer from anal gland issues the general advise is to  not interfere with them – leave well alone!

We hope we haven’t put your off your lunch!!! As always, ask your vet for advice. 

This entry was posted on 29th June 2017.