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Capeside Animal Hospital

Answers about your pet's anal glands

My male dog Mikey is a 6-year-old mixed breed who suffers from recurrent infections in one anal gland.  It's been 4 months since the problem first began and he has been given antibiotics which clear it up, only for the infection to return after the course has finished. He has also had antibiotics injected directly into the gland and the infection returned within days. Mikey is completely stressed over this, having to visit the vets every 2 weeks for the gland to be checked. Every time he sees the vet put the rubber gloves on he starts shaking. Are there any other options for treatment? 

Sarah – Charlotte

The anal glands are 2 small structures located on each side of the base of the anus.  They consist of a sac (anal sac) and a small tube (duct) that empties out onto the edge of the anus.  The sac contains glandular tissue (sebaceous and apocrine) that produces a clear, thin, brown, odiferous fluid.  Normally, when your pet defecates, the feces passing through the rectum cause the sacs to express themselves, and the fluid is deposited on the feces.  The exact purpose of these glands is not known.  However, the odor produced may function in territory marking or social recognition among animals.

The most common disorders of the anal glands are impaction and infection or abscesses.

Factors that may contribute to anal gland disorders are soft feces or diarrhea, excess secretions from the glandular tissue, and decreased muscle tone around the anus.  Certain tumors (apocrine gland adenocarcinomas) can also affect these glands, so a proper diagnosis is important.

Symptoms of anal gland disorders include excessive licking of the anal area, “scooting” the anal area along the floor, straining to defecate, or any discharge from the anal area.

The treatment for anal gland disorders depends of the severity of the disease.  Impactions may be relieved by manually expressing the glands on a routine basis.  Infected glands may require oral (by mouth) antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication.  Some infections and abscesses may require the animal be sedated and the anal sacs flushed and packed with an antibiotic medication.  Changing the diet to a high fiber diet may also firm up the stools and help your pet express the glands during defecation.  As a last resort, the anal glands can be surgically removed.  This procedure should be performed by an experienced surgeon because a potential side effect is fecal incontinence.

*Article courtesy of Pawprints Magazine*