For years my rescue dog Dorian, a Pomeranian mix, would suffer from skin inflammation, rashes and infections around his anus and stomach. He was diagnosed with Pyoderma and put on a course of antibiotics, assisted by topical applications of antibiotic and anti-fungal ointments. Regular baths with medicinal pet shampoos containing Chlorhexidine Gluconate kept these outbreaks of anal skin infections under control.
When Dorian turned five, however, his Pyoderma outbreaks become more frequent. A foul scent would ooze from the area of his anal glands and he would lick himself incessantly. Seeking a second opinion from another veterinarian, I discovered the underlying cause behind Dorian’s skin disease. In addition to the usual diagnosis of Pyoderma, Dorian was diagnosed with an anal gland impaction.
In dogs and cats the anal glands which are located a little below and to the side of the anus are sacs that fill with pungent secretions. Skunks spray these secretions as a defense mechanism. Dogs and cats exude a small amount of anal fluid upon defecation so as to mark their droppings. When the anal glands are blocked by infections, impactions or abscesses, the anal fluid remains trapped within the anus, creating pressure, discomfort and even pain.
With anal gland impactions, dogs and cats will typically sit and drag their backsides on the ground. Such behavior is termed “scooting” by veterinarians and is identified as an attempt to apply pressure to the anal glands and force out the trapped anal fluids. When a dog or cat succeeds in extracting fluids from his anal glands, the scent is fowl and alarming to humans. Dogs and cats suffering from anal gland impactions will typically lick their anus incessantly in an attempt to sooth away the swelling and discomfort. This as well as anal secretions may introduce bacteria into the area and lead to skin infections, as happened with Dorian.
When bacteria is driven up the ducts into the anal glands themselves a painful infection will ensue.
Impacted anal glands must be expressed (emptied) by a vet, a groomer or the pet owner. Some small dog breeds suffer from chronic anal impactions and dog owners are encouraged to learn the simple process of emptying the anal glands. Start by pressing your forefinger below the gland and push upward. The two anal glands are located below the anus at positions 4 and 8 O’clock.
Infections and abscesses in the anal glands must be treated by a vet. A high fiber diet may be recommended after treatment is complete to produce more regular bowl movements and help squeeze fluids from the anal ducts.
Though common in dogs and cats, anal glands are often ignored by veterinarians. When I asked my vet why this was the case, she assumed that the stench involved in expressing anal glands makes the job unappealing. Often more serious complaints receive notice from veterinarians at the expense of disregarding slightly impacted anal glands. Indeed, this was my experience with Dorian, whose Pyoderma required immediate treatment. And yet, once his impacted anal glands were expressed, his Pyoderma outbreaks stopped altogether.
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Pet Education: Anal Glands (Sacs): Impactions, Infections & Abscesses in Dogs