Canine anal glands are small, paired, scent-producing sacs located inside a dog's anus. They leave a distinct smell on dog feces, and the scent acts as a territorial marker or a way to communicate to other dogs. Male dogs and dogs of smaller breeds are especially susceptible to anal gland impaction. If left untreated, an impacted anal gland can develop an abscess, which can be extremely painful for dogs. There are a variety of treatment options for an anal abscessed anal gland.
Because an abscess is an infection, it gets worse over time. Knowing the symptoms of anal gland abscesses can help you get your dog prompt treatment. Dogs with anal gland abscesses frequently scoot their rears on the ground or repeatedly lick their anuses, according to Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education. Defecation can become painful, resulting in straining or whining. If the infection is severe, you may notice swelling, redness or oozing near the anus. Veterinarian Randy Pitcairn reports that the most common symptom of an anal gland abscess is a foul, fecal smell.
Anal Gland Drainage
Anal glands develop abscesses only when they have become clogged with too much fluid. "The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" points out that, much like a rotten tooth that has developed an abscess, the source of the infection needs to be removed before treatment will be effective. Ask your vet to drain your dog's anal glands. This simple procedure takes only a few moments. Your vet will firmly massage around your dog's anus to express the anal fluid. If the abscess is minor, simply draining the anal glands will be sufficient to treat it. If the abscess is severe, your veterinarian may forgo draining your dog's anal glands and instead lance the abscess.
If your dog has a serious abscess or abscess that has burst through the skin, your vet will prescribe a course of antibiotics. It is very important that you give the dog the entire course of antibiotics. Avoid missing pills, which can result in bacterial resistance. Infected anal glands can cause long-term bowel problems and serious discomfort. In rare cases, the infection can spread to other areas of the body.
Anal Gland Removal
Some dogs are more prone to anal gland abcesses than others. Most dogs never have problems with their anal glands, but some unlucky dogs have to have their anal glands emptied several times a year. In these cases, your veterinarian may recommend removing your dog's anal glands. This is a simple procedure that will prevent future problems with these glands. Dogs that have experienced the rupture of an anal gland abscess may not be good candidates for this surgery because gland removal is more difficult. Be sure to give your veterinarian a complete history of your dog's anal gland problems before proceeding with surgery.
- "Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats"; Richard Pitcairn, et. al; 2005
- "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"; Debra M. Eldredge, et. al; 2007
- Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education: Anal Glands (Sacs): Impactions, Infections & Abscesses in Dogs; Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.