My groomer recommended getting my dog’s anal glands expressed. What did she mean by that?
Dogs and cats have scent glands known as anal sacs or anal glands just inside the anus. These glands normally empty when the pet has a bowel movement but may also be emptied or expressed when a cat or dog is nervous or frightened.
In some animals, these glands can become impacted or infected. Impaction means the glands fail to empty in a normal fashion. The exact cause of impaction is unknown, but may be caused by loose stools or a low fiber diet. Obstruction of the duct due to excessive weight or having a small/narrow duct may all be possible reason for an anal sac to become impacted.
In some cases, retained secretions cause local inflammation, and bacteria trapped in the gland can lead to infection and abscess formation.
Pets may have pain when they defecate, may lick at the area or bite at their tails, and may rub or “scoot” their bottoms across the ground. One may also notice a red or swollen area next to the anus or even an open wound or draining pus or blood if the abscess ruptures.
If your pet does not show any of these symptoms, please ask your groomer not to express anal glands when in for grooming.
Treatment of an abscessed anal gland involves having your veterinarian or veterinary nurse express the anal glands if possible to remove impacted material, oral antibiotics for two to four weeks to control infection, and, in many cases, flushing or irrigation of the glands. Warm compresses to encourage drainage and repeated anal gland expression and flushing may be necessary to heal the abscess.
Some pets have recurrent problems with impacted or infected glands. In these cases, expressing the glands every 4-6 weeks to keep them empty and changing to a high fiber diet or adding a fiber supplement may help to keep the glands from becoming impacted. In some cases, if recurrence is frequent or an abscess does not heal, surgical removal of the anal sacs may be necessary.
Thomas Schaeberle, VMD