Anal Gland Problems in Dogs: Avoiding A Bum Steer

20 MAY 2019

This article is written by one of Pet Circle's in house veterinarians, Dr Elise Barry BVSc.

What are anal glands?

Ever wondered why your dog loves to sniff another dog’s back end? Well the answer is because of the anal sacs. Dogs have two special sacs found inside their bottom called the anal glands. These sacs contain a thick, oily and fishy-scented substance that is completely unique to your dog.

Why does the dog have anal glands?

The glands are emptied and that wonderful fishy-scented substance is released when your dog is scared, similar to the defence mechanism utilised by the skunk. The contents are also regularly expulsed when your dog defecates. The contents produced by these glands are specific to each individual dog and are influenced by their diet and hormone levels. This substance is a wealth of knowledge, whereby a dog can determine if they’ve met before, identify the other dog’s sex, mood and even any illnesses they may be suffering from. So much information from one smelly substance.

Common anal gland problems:

  • Impaction
  • Obstruction
  • Infection
  • Tumours

Tips for managing anal gland problems in dogs

Anal glands can cause problems for your dog and the most common sign is bum scooting. Everyone’s seen a dog sliding happily along on their backend. A dog’s anal glands should empty when they defecate however in some cases they will become full (which is called impaction). Irritation follows which is when we observe the scooting behaviour. The glands can also lead to anal obstruction, infection and even tumours may occur.

Impaction Prevention:

  • Regular gland emptying
  • Well balanced diet
  • Extra fibre
  • No improvement seek veterinary advice

To alleviate the irritation from impaction the glands need to be manually expressed or emptied. Your vet clinic will be able to help with this, or even your groomer. Some dogs simply need to be put on a well balanced diet to prevent the problem. The addition of extra fibre either using supplements like psyllium husk or high fibre therapeutic diets may help to prevent impaction. In cases of anal gland infection or tumours further treatment will be needed.

Recommended products for dogs with anal gland problems

*Please note these are specialised therapeutic veterinary diets and must be used only under your veterinarians recommendation and supervision.