Ever wonder why dogs sniff each other's butts? Dogs have two small pouches located on the lower sides of their anus called anal glands–or anal sacs. They make a smelly, oily, brown fluid that dogs use to identify each other–by telling the other dog's sex, health, and approximate age–and to mark their territory.
Normally, when a dog poops, the fluid in their anal sacs is also squeezed out. However, problems develop when the glands aren’t completely emptied. Anal sac disease begins as an uncomfortable impaction–the secretions stored within the glands aren't able to be expressed–and can progress to an infection or abscess.
Dogs with anal gland problems will often show symptoms like:
- "Scooting" or dragging their butt along the ground
- Excessive licking of their rectum
- A swelling or “bump” under the skin next to their rectum
- A bad smell
- Constipation or pain when pooping/sitting
- Blood and/or pus on their stools or any surface after laying there.
Impacted sacs are easy to treat, by manually expressing the glands and gently emptying them. It is a smelly process that can be performed by your vet, groomer or even you. Most owners prefer to pay to have it done, but if you feel comfortable doing it, ask a vet or groomer to show you how.
If the impaction is not treated, it can turn into an infection. Look for yellow or bloody pus oozing from your dog’s sacs. This painful condition can cause your dog to act fearful or angry. Your vet will probably wash out the sacs and give antibiotics to your dog.
An infected anal gland can develop into an abscess–a swollen, tender mass of puss–and could break open. Your vet will drain the abscess and most likely prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
If your dog continues to have problems, your vet may suggest removing the anal sacs with surgery. It is a simple procedure but it can have consequences like fecal incontinence–when the stool leaks uncontrollably.
There are also natural ways to prevent or ease your dog's anal sac distress:
- Increase fiber. This will increase the size of the stool, putting more pressure on the sacs to empty naturally. It is important to do it very gradually and see how your dog responds.
- Make sure they’re hydrated. If your dog doesn’t drink a lot of water, a solution is to add more liquid directly to their food.
- Monitor their weight. Small, obese dogs are at the highest risk of anal sac disease.
- Boost beneficial bacteria. Re-fortifying with canine-formulated probiotics can also help encourage your dog’s anal glands to empty on their own
- Apply a warm compress. Holding a warm washcloth against the under-tail region can sometimes encourage natural drainage.
- Exercise. Regular exercise encourages consistent elimination and elimination encourages anal sac emptying.