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dogs smell each others rear ends

This month we are going to talk about anal gland problems in dogs

The anal glands or sacs are pouches that sit on either side of your dog or cat’s anus at roughly 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock. In a normal situation the glands secrete a (foul smelling) liquid substance that is stored in the sac until the animal defecates, at which point the liquid is expressed from the glands by the force of the bowel movement, ‘scenting’ the faeces with the dog or cat’s personal smell. The anal glands can also be evacuated when an animal is stressed, frightened or excited. It is this ‘trademark’ smell that makes dogs instinctively sniff another dog’s rear end!

What happens when it all goes wrong?

If the sacs don’t empty properly they can become impacted. Excess anal gland secretions can leak out onto the anus and surrounding tissue which may cause burning and discomfort to your pet. The anal gland secretion can also begin to change consistency, becoming hardened and impossible to evacuate in the normal way. In either instance your dog will ‘scoot’ along the floor in an attempt to alleviate the problem, may lick excessively, sit awkwardly to avoid pain or strain to defecate. Loose, soft stools often cause this situation or it can be that your pet’s anal glands are producing an excessive amount of anal gland secretion. Although dogs are more likely to have problems with their anal glands, cats can also suffer from anal gland disease, so if your cat is licking excessively around the anus or tail region it could also have this problem.

What can you do?

 If your pet shows any of the above symptoms it is best to organize a visit to your vet. The anal glands can be expressed manually either by external expression I.e.: squeezing the area on either side of the anus in order to express the fluid from the glands. Or by internal manual expression, which involves inserting a finger inside of the dog’s rectum and expressing the fluid from the anal glands between two fingers, one inside the rectum and one outside. This can be an uncomfortable and painful experience for your dog but if left untreated the anal glands can become infected and may even abscess and rupture, leaving an open, painful wound near the anus. At this stage the glands will need flushing, antibiotic treatment and in severe cases even removal, although this should only be done by an experienced surgeon.

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