Anal gland issues in dogs and cats can happen out of nowhere so knowing the symptoms to look for are essential so you know when to bring your cat or dog to the veterinarian to have them checked out.
Anal Gland or Sac Issues
Does your dog or cat scoot their butt on the ground, have a bad odor come from their rear end, do they chew and/or lick at their rear end, and/or have sores around their anus? If your cat or dog has any of these symptoms, they may have pain or discomfort in their anal glands or sacs. Most dogs and cats do not ever have problems with their anal glands and others have issues all the time.
What Causes Anal Gland Problems
Many things can cause the anal glands to not empty properly including loose stool, genetics, stress, diet, cancer, chronic skin problems, and/or obesity. If the stool is soft, it cannot push out the contents of the anal sacs which causes it to build up which can become painful or uncomfortable for the dog or cat. As the sacs build up more with substance it can become thick which becomes more uncomfortable. If the dog or cat cannot get the contents of the anal glands emptied, they can get so large that they break open. This is called an anal gland abscess. Normally there is a hole near the anus with an anal gland abscess. The anal sacs are located approximately at 8 and 4 if you look at the anus like a clock. If you ever see an open area of skin near these spots your pet needs to see a vet to get the glands completely expressed, cleaned up, antibiotics, pain medications, and an e-collar so they do not lick at the area and make it worse.
Adding fiber to your pet’s diet can help to bulk up their feces which helps the anal glands to express themselves as your dog or cat has a bowel movement. Canned pumpkin is one of the easiest things to add to your pet’s diet which adds fiber to their diet without adding a lot of calories. Make sure it is just canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix as the pie mix has a lot of sugar in it which your cat or dog does not need. Check out this dog fiber supplement or this one for cats and dogs. You can also add vegetables to the food to increase the fiber in their diet. Check out my article on Healthy Dog Food and Healthy Cat Food to see the best vegetables to add to their diet and how to do it. Also, check out my article on Toxic Foods to Dogs to make sure you do not feed them anything that can make them sick. Adding vegetables to their diet can also help your dog and cat lose weight if you remove some of the other food you are feeding as fiber helps keep them full longer.
What Do Anal Gland Issues Look Like
If you do notice your cat or dog starts to pay more attention to its rear end, make sure to get its anal glands expressed by your veterinary team. Some clinics have anal glands expressed by technicians, if there is an abscess it does need to be seen by the veterinarian to get prescribed medications, and sometimes there are technicians that will come to your house to do nail trims, give SQ fluids, express anal glands, among other tasks. Ask your veterinary team what works best for you, your pet, and what is offered at your clinic. You can also learn how to express the anal glands at home if it is something that needs to be done often. If they will not express easily do not keep trying and have them done at the veterinary hospital if expressing them at home. Most veterinary clinics will show and explain how you can do this.
Groomers and Anal Glands
Do not allow the groomers to express the anal glands if they only do them from the outside. Expressing the anal glands from the outside does not express them fully which makes them fill up faster and then they can become thick, irritated, and need to be expressed again sooner than if they were left alone. If your pet has never had a problem with their anal glands, then do not have their anal sacs expressed since the dog or cat is probably expressing them on their own while they have a bowel movement.
Obesity and Anal Glands
If your dog or cat is overweight when they have a bowel movement, they cannot fully express the anal glands which can then cause them irritation and possibly form an abscess. Having a pet that is not overweight or obese can help prevent gland issues.
Genetics, Skin Issues, and Anal Glands
If your pet has skin issues or is a certain breed, they may be at a higher risk of developing anal gland issues. Breeds that are more prone to anal gland issues are normally small breed dogs. The breeds known to have more issues with their anal glands include Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, toy and miniature Poodle, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Beagle, Papillon, Pug, Jack Russell Terrier, French Bulldog, Miniature Pinscher, Basenji, and Pomeranian. Any breed can develop anal gland issues so being aware of the symptoms is important so you can prevent a major problem. If your dog has skin issues like allergies, or chronic bacterial or yeast skin infections, this can cause the anal glands to not be able to express their anal glands as easily. The medications used to help treat these problems can cause loose stool and/or diarrhea.
If There is a Problem Go to the Veterinarian
If you think there is a problem with your dog or cat’s anal glands have them seen at the veterinary clinic to make sure it does not turn into a big problem and to help to reduce the discomfort that comes with the anal glands being full, impacted, or abscessed.