by Preventative Care

There are a few things that really fire me up…including this topic…ANAL GLAND EXPRESSION.  I bet I’m about to contradict everything you’ve ever heard about anal glands.  Here goes…JUST SAY NO!  DON’T DO IT!  And, certainly don’t leave this to your groomer…only a licensed veterinarian or technician is qualified (but your pet probably doesn’t even need it!).

I like to leave anal glands alone, unless the pet seems to be bothered by them.  Breeders and groomers are advocates of frequent expression of anal glands, but that this can lead to inflammation of the ducts and possible gland impaction.

Anal glands are two small, grape-shaped sacs located just outside the anus with ducts exiting at four o’clock and eight o’clock.  They produce an odoriferous exudate which scents the dog’s stool, identifying it as their own.  There is no “normal” discharge; anything from clear and watery to thick and pasty can be seen.  Abnormal is when blood is noted.

Anal glands are supposed to be full, and it’s normal for dogs to accidently squeak out a bit of malodorous (fishy?) liquid when they get excited.  The real problem comes when the area around the glands (perineum or anus) becomes inflamed.  The opening of the gland may swell shut, trapping the stinky juices, and eventually creating pressure and discomfort for your dog or cat.  Small breeds and overweight cats appear to be predisposed.

A house call is in order if your pet is spending too much time “back there.”  Treatment often includes anti-inflammatory pain medication, allergy medications, and possibly antibiotics.  A few cases may require sedation and surgical expression and lavage.

Why does this happen?  THE MOST COMMON CAUSE OF ANAL GLAND ISSUES IS UNDERLYING ALLERGIES.  Fleas, the environment, and/or food allergies can trigger intense itching, etc.  So, if your pet has a history of anal gland problems, please consider consulting your veterinarian (or a boarded dermatologist) regarding an allergy diagnosis and treatment.  The first thing I always tell clients is to use ORAL FLEA CONTROL year-round, e.g., Comfortis and Nexgard.  Other causes of itchy anuses include chronic diarrhea and endocrine imbalances.

In short, please leave routine anal gland expression for those pets who have a history of anal gland infection.  Again, only a licensed veterinarian or technician is qualified to perform this medical procedure on your pet.