Few topics raise dog owners' eyebrows faster than the subject of anal glands, especially if they are causing problems. Interestingly these glands are serving an important role in the communication between dogs. AniForte’s naturopathic vet, Ana, has some tips on how to prevent and treat problems with anal glands.
How do the glands function?
To understand how anal glands can cause problems, you first need to comprehend their structure and function. The anal glands are located on both sides of the dog’s rectum within the sphincter muscle. They have small openings into the colon and produce secretion, which a healthy dog will excrete with the feces by applying sphincter pressure onto the anal gland. During situations of extreme stress, when the dog is terrified for instance, the glands are emptied reflexively all at once.
The purpose of the anal glands
Dogs use their anal glands to communicate with other dogs who will notice the individual scent during their typical greeting phase. The secretions function mostly to mark territory and signal mating readiness by releasing pheromones. We humans perceive the secretion as repulsively smelly.
If your dog is having problems with anal glands
Your dog’s anal glands are being influenced mainly by two factors: the nature of the dog’s feces and the state of the intestines.
Cause for trouble: the feces are too loose
If your dog’s stool is too loose over a longer period of time, the anal glands are not being emptied enough as the necessary pressure is missing. The secretion will stay inside the glands, but new secretion is continually being produced as well. This causes the dog uncomfortable pressure. Furthermore, the secretion will solidify and clog up the anal glands, which can lead to an unfortunate cycle: the clogged secretion will lead to constipation, the openings are being clamped shut, preventing the glands from emptying, while still more secretion is being produced.
A difficult solution: expression of the glands
To break this cycle, the anal glands can be expressed forcefully. However, this isn’t beneficial for the sensitive glands, which will be prompted to produce more secretion by this stimulation. This treatment shouldn’t be repeated often as not to trigger a chronic condition.
Cause for trouble: acidosis of the colon
Often the anal glands are an indicator for the intestine’s condition. Most of the time the glands remain unnoticed as they just do their work. However, if the intestinal flora is too acidic, the anal glands are being flooded with acid and toxins. This can go two ways: either the intestines normalize by excreting, or the anal glands get clogged.
Looking for causes if the dog is constipated
If the anal glands are clogged regularly, it’s advisable to look for additional causes. A check of the intestinal flora can help find the possible cause to the problem. This can be remedied with medication. Other causes could be food intolerance or allergies.
Symptoms of problems with anal glands
There are several signs of problems with anal glands, and they are different depending on the dog. One typical sign is if the dog is rubbing his rear end on the floor while “sledding” forward. The cause for this strange way of locomotion is the dog trying to get relief from the intense itching sensation. That same itching causes some dogs to bite, lick and gnaw on his buttocks. If you’re observing these symptoms in your dog, you should consider care of the anal glands.
Care of the anal glands
The first step is to observe the animal closely and to pay attention to his food makeup. This way you create certainty whether the symptoms are caused by diet or by something else. Try to eliminate intolerance: grains, rice, rumen and omasum can cause loose stool in your dog.
As a second step it may suffice to support your dog’s digestion with fibers, especially flea seed (also known as Psyllium Husks), which stimulates digestion and cause the stool to firm up. If your dog tolerates flax seed, that’s also a good option to mix into the feed. It can also be helpful to increase intake of coconut shreds or shredded carrots for fiber content.
As a final step you should consider rehabilitation of the dog’s intestines. Sometimes adjustments in the diet will be necessary if the tips above won’t yield any results.
Best wishes to you and your dogs!