Anal Glands in Dogs: Problems and Treatment

Four Minutes
Sep 02, 2022

Have you ever noticed a smelly liquid that’s excreted from your dog’s bottom? It means they just expressed their anal glands.

Dogs can go their whole life without issues, but sometimes anal glands create painful issues for dogs and their owners. Here’s what you should know about anal glands in dogs.

What Are Anal Glands in Dogs?

A dog’s anal glands — or anal sacs — are two small pouches on each side of the anus. Each sac is lined by multiple sweat glands that produce anal gland fluid.

Anal gland fluid is a foul-smelling liquid that’s most often released during a bowel movement. Some dogs may express their anal glands when they’re scared or stressed.

What Is the Purpose of a Dog’s Anal Glands?

The American Kennel Club states that veterinarians have a few theories about what anal glands do for a dog.3 Most believe that the fluid is a way for dogs to mark their territory. Some believe that the secretions help dogs pass hard stools.

What Problems Can Come With a Dog’s Anal Glands?

There are a number of dog anal gland problems that are common. Most are categorized as anal sac disease. According to PetMD, problems can include:4

●      Swollen anal glands

●      Impacted anal glands

●      Ruptured anal glands

●      Anal gland infection

●      Anal gland abcess

●      Anal gland cancer (adenocarcinoma)

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, anal sac disease happens when anal glands fail to express or there is poor muscle tone around the anus.5 If the anal gland fluid is not released, the anal sacs can become inflammed and infected.

Signs of anal gland issues

Look for these signs of anal gland disease in dogs:6

●      Scooting or dragging their butt

●      Discomfort while sitting

●      Excessive licking, biting, or itching near the anus or base of the tail

●      Straining while pooping

●      Discolored anal tissue

●      Secretions with blood or pus

To properly diagnose anal sac disease, your dog will need a full examination from their veterinarian. Anal gland problems can be extremely painful for your dog, so prompt care is essential.

A vet preps a small dog for a rectal exam.

How Is Anal Sac Disease Treated?

The first step in treating anal sac disease is expressing the glands. Anal gland expression occurs during the vet’s digital rectal exam and flushes out any solidified fluid.5 If the sacs are infected, they’ll be cleaned with an antiseptic. If they are abscessed, your vet may need to cut, or lance, the sac to allow proper drainage.

Next, your vet will likely prescribe a local anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medication. They may suggest other preventative measures like supplemental fiber, hot compresses, and weekly rectal exams.5

If regular treatment is not successful, your dog’s anal sacs may need to be surgically removed. Removing anal glands is most often reserved for severe cases.

Treating anal sac disease can be costly. Frequent exams, prescriptions, and potential surgery can add up to hundreds of dollars. If your dog has problems with their anal glands, it may be worth investing in pet insurance. A dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance1 could help cover the cost of diagnosing anal gland issues.2

How Can You Keep Your Dog’s Bottom Healthy?

There are a few ways you can help keep your dog’s anal glands healthy.

A high quality diet with adequate fiber can ensure your dog has healthy bowel movements that will naturally express their anal glands. A good diet can also help your dog maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obese dogs are more likely to have anal gland issues.5

One of the best overall things you can do as a pet parent is following a routine care schedule. Regular checkups at the vet’s office will help identify early issues and specific needs. Some owners learn how to express anal glands in dogs, but your vet will always be your best resource. 

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1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3 “Anal Glands in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know,” American Kennel Club

4 “Anal Glands on Dogs: What You Need to Know,” PetMD

5 “Anal Sac Disease in Dogs and Cats,” Merck Veterinary Manual

6 “Anal Sac Disease in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospital

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