Imagine the worst smell you have ever experienced. Now imagine that it is coming from your best canine friend. Welcome to the world of anal glands! Anal glands are these little sacs that hang out right next to your dogs rectum, on the inside. The material they contain varies in consistency widely from liquid to thick, cake-y material. We think evolutionarily, they were used for marking and for self-defense. Now they are used for stinking up your house. Anal glands can cause all sorts of problems in dogs, and even cats. Some pets have glands that need regular care and maintenance in the form of expression. (Squeezing the glands until they empty.) Expressing anal glands can be a little uncomfortable for your pet, but they often feel much better afterwards.
Usually, these glands are expressed when they are compressed as stool passes by. The material just helps make your pet’s poop a little extra stinky. Sometimes, dogs have a problem with being unable to express their glands normally. Occasionally, there is an good explanation for why: If their stool has been looser than usual, or their anatomy is a little different or they have a mild allergy, but often I am unable to identify a good reason for why those anal glands are stubborn. These dogs and cats with obstinate anal glands might try to lick their hind end, chase their tail, or even scoot their butt on the ground. If not expressed in a timely manner, sometimes they can get so full the sacs can form an abscess, an extremely painful condition that requires antibiotics and occasionally surgery to open the gland up and allow the infection to drain.
Some pets need these glands expressed quite frequently. Funyon needs his expressed every couple of weeks. If we are tardy, he just accidently expresses them himself. (Usually onto my husband’s lap, and then I send them both to the bath.) When I was learning to perform anal sac expression, I squeezed one that was very liquidly and had a remarkable trajectory. It sprayed right into the face of my teacher! She was not pleased at all. Now I have learned to make sure that no one is standing behind me when I perform this procedure.
If a pet has particular troubles with their anal glands, there is a surgical procedure that exists called an anal sacculectomy, which is an operation to remove these anal glands. This is a procedure that should be performed only by an experienced surgeon.
Oh, what we put up with in our pets. It is a good thing they are so cute!