We are being plagued with anal gland issues here at LWH. Currently, Holly and Kulow are being checked and rechecked every two weeks for chronic infection.
Holly’s anal glands are under such constant pressure and are filling up and getting infected so quickly that they are in danger of rupturing. She gives no signs whatsoever that she is uncomfortable or in pain, and I wouldn’t have even noticed except for the fact that she leaked anal gland fluid on me when I was holding her one day.
What is an anal gland you might ask, and why should I worry about them? Well, they are located basically at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock, relative to the dog’s anus as pictured below.
These glands (actually, they are technically “anal sacs” but that sounds too close to “anal sex” to the lay person, so I say “glands.”) fill with a thick, foul-smelling fluid. In healthy dogs, this fluid is excreted during the course of healthy bowel movements. If you ever see your dog sniffing another dog’s feces, he or she is smelling the fluid emitted by the anal glands onto the feces. The scent of the fluid holds information that your dog finds useful. Unhealthy anal glands, on the other hand, do not express on their own and the fluid becomes thick and infected. The glands become full and uncomfortable, and you may see your dog licking in that area, scooting, or straining to defecate because of the pain of the filled glands. A worse case scenario is that the gland(s) rupture.
Obviously, this is a very painful situation for the dog (or cat) and it requires surgical repair. The surgery can be risky because, if not done by a skilled surgeon, fecal incontinence can result if the nerves are damaged. Dabney, our Bassett Hound, had the surgery done successfully and is enjoying life so much better with out chronic infection, so we are big advocates of analsaculectomy. Now it appears that Holly is heading in that direction if her infections don’t clear up.
In addition to worrying about Holly, our concerns are compounded by Kulow, our ten-year-old German Shepherd, that is having the same issues. His problem is more serious in that when we express his glands, it is abnormally painful to him, and we are getting mostly blood. Along with this large amount of blood, one of the glands feels hard and large. We worry about a cancerous mass. We have had several rechecks and several rounds of antibiotics to no avail. We are going to let the glands rest per doctor’s advice, and hopefully heal, for a few weeks and check again. If they are not improved, surgery will be ordered. With Kulow being ten years old, it’s not unreasonable to imagine that the abnormality could be a mass.
So, in the meantime, we’ll keep feeding Kulow and Holly antibiotics and keep our fingers crossed. Many dogs and cats suffer silently from anal gland issues, so look for the signs in your own pets and avoid expressing them on your own unless you have been schooled in the proper technique by a veterinary nurse. The methods proposed online and by groomers is incorrect and can actually do more damage. The proper way is to insert your finger into the dog’s anus and gently express in a measured pace, feeling the give as you go. The way most persons do it is from simply squeezing the outside. The delicate neck of the anal gland becomes thickened and scarred with the outside method and can result in more problems. You are best to ask your groomer not to touch the anal glands and let the vet clinic do it. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to pay someone to manage that task. Inserting my fingers into my dog’s anus is a little too much for me, but it is a helpful skill to learn for some persons. We will post updates as they occur. Please send healing thoughts to Holly and Kulow’s butt. Although that area has a lot of blood supply and heals very quickly, two analsaculectomies in one month may be more than I’m up for…..