Anal gland issues in dogs are nasty, not just due to the foul smell invading your nostrils.
It’s even more unpleasant for your dog, considering the most common way for (sometimes temporary) relief is expressing the anal sacs.
Estimates of affected dogs range from 4.9-15.7%.
Another study found that among nearly 4,000 dogs, anal sac impaction placed third of all health issues presented.
Luckily, you might be able to turn the odds in your furry friend’s favor.
But what if your dog is still experiencing issues such as scooting even after having the glands expressed? What about bleeding?
It might be time to address the underlying issues.
But first, a quick overview for those of you wondering about the ins and outs of anal glands and the issues your dog may experience.
What and where?
Anal glands are small, oval-shaped pouches positioned left and right of your dog’s anus.
Why do dogs have anal glands?
Anal glands are believed to help with marking territory as the unique odor is stronger than urine.
How does it work?
When pooping, the liquid contained in the sacs is released through the ducts. Anal glands can also empty involuntarily when a dog is fearful, anxious, or stressed.
When is it a problem?
If the anal sacs are full and can’t empty properly, the liquid (ideal bacteria breeding ground) thickens and the sacs swell.
This, in turn, may develop into an infection and in serious cases, anal sac abscesses are formed.
Anal sac abscesses can only be treated with prescription medicine and may require surgical intervention.
If the abscess ruptures, you may notice bloody fluid or pus around your dog’s rear end.
Did you know: The anal glands can be surgically removed. This should be the last resort if all else has failed and the sacs repeatedly get infected.
Dog Scooting Even After Anal Glands Expressed
Your dog may be scooting even after the anal glands are expressed due to inflammation, especially if it’s infected and an abscess has formed or ruptured. Check for any visible injuries and keep the rear end clean.
After your vet has expressed the glands manually and perhaps given your dog prescription meds or antibiotics, your dog’s bottom can still appear red and swollen.
However, the swelling should subside soon after. If not, it’s most likely due to an underlying medical issue.
If your dog scoots weeks after having their glands expressed, it’s likely that the underlying condition hasn’t been addressed.
Your dog may still experience anal gland issues due to a low-quality diet, lack of fiber, soft stool, allergies (food, skin, environmental), anatomical differences, or breed-related issues.
Most of these require a dietary change, whereas others may require the removal of irritating allergens or substances.
What if the scooting persists and having their anal glands expressed becomes second nature for your dog?
After you’ve eliminated all potential causes and your vet has determined it’s a breed-related or anatomical issue, they might recommend surgical removal.
Frequent recurrence is the most common reason for surgical removal.
Some holistic vets state that the anal glands should never be removed and I agree that ruling out underlying issues is absolutely crucial, but sometimes your vet may see removing them as the only option.
More on the causes and solutions below.
Don’t express the anal sacs too often.
If your vet has shown you how to do it, don’t be tempted to do it again just because your dog is still scooting after having them expressed.
Interfering too much, especially if an infection has developed, may lead to even more issues down the road.
If your dog is still scooting, observe it and consult your vet if it gets worse.
Instead of expressing the sacs again, change their diet to promote a healthy gut and proper defecating.
The anal glands should be emptied naturally and expressing them is only an option when that process fails and they become impacted.
Did you express your dog’s anal glands yourself?
If your dog is still scooting after you have expressed them, keep in mind that you need to follow what your vet has shown you.
Pet owners usually employ the external method to express the anal glands.
The external method is probably more pleasant for the dog owner but may lead to insufficient emptying of the anal glands.
On the other hand, not only can internally squeezing the glands make some owners gag, but it’s also dangerous to do at home.
If you damage the delicate tissue in your dog’s rear end, this might itch and cause them to scoot.
That’s the reason why vets often advise against having them expressed by your dog groomer.
Dog Bleeding After Glands Expressed
If your dog is bleeding after having their anal glands expressed, it’s most likely due to incorrectly expressing the glands, an infection or ruptured abscess, or due to an underlying condition.
Dog owners who have expressed the glands themselves and worry about potential damage to their dog’s delicate rear end should contact their vet.
Similarly, if your dog groomer has expressed them and you suspect an injury, consult your vet.
In some cases, an infection has developed and the resulting abscess might rupture and cause bleeding.
If that’s the case, your vet should be able to inform you and prescribe medication and address the underlying issues.
Scooting can actually cause bleeding if done repeatedly.
Simple cases of light bleeding after having the glands expressed can be explained by your dog repeatedly scooting which can worsen the swelling and redness.
6 Reasons Why Dog Anal Glands Fill Up
Anal glands usually fill up due to a poor diet, soft stool, allergies, obesity, anatomical differences, and breed predispositions.
A poor diet means that your dog’s gastrointestinal health is not up to par.
Poor diet usually refers to commercial, highly processed foods that lack fiber and other high-quality ingredients.
But every diet can cause soft stools, especially if fed incorrectly and unbalanced.
Personally, I’m feeding my dog a raw diet but there are other ways to eliminate diet as the source of plugged anal glands.
Freeze-dried, cold-pressed, homemade, or even high-quality canned food or kibble can do the trick as well.
However, the focus is on high-quality.
Supplementing with raw meaty bones can help. Your vet might also prescribe treats that promote healthy poops.
Diet can potentially trigger allergies or lead to soft poops, but it’s not always the culprit.
Skin or environmental allergies can cause your dog’s anal glands to fill up.
Every dog is different and your dog may just experience diarrhea or constipation quite often.
Anatomical differences matter, as does breed.
Small breeds are more prone to anal gland issues but it can affect dogs of all sizes and ages.
Lastly, keeping your dog at a healthy weight goes a long way.
What Dog Breeds Need Their Glands Expressed?
Small dogs are more likely to suffer from anal gland issues. Brachycephalic breeds and Spaniels seem to be a subgroup at increased risk.
No dog breed is destined to have their anal glands expressed at any point in their life, but it happens more often to some.
The following breeds are more likely to be in need of having their anal glands expressed by a vet:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Bichon Frise
- Cocker Spaniel
- French Bulldog
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature Poodle
The Royal Veterinary College’s study concluded that the (Cavalier) King Charles Spaniel’s risk to suffer from anal sac disease increased 3x.
However, the list above is not exhaustive and different studies reach other conclusions to breed predisposition.
Fact is, small dogs are more commonly affected. But dogs of all sizes and breeds can be affected.
If you’re sharing your home with one of these breeds, you may look out for signs of anal sac impaction.
At What Age Do Dogs Need Anal Glands Expressed?
There’s no specific age at which a dog needs to have their anal glands expressed, it’s only necessary if they become impacted, inflamed, or infected.
Routinely expressing the glands at home without a proper diagnosis can actually be harmful (i.e. infection, ruptured abscess, etc.).
Consult your vet if you observe scooting, excessive licking, swelling, and other common signs.
How To Tell If Dog Anal Glands Are Full
You can tell if your dog’s anal glands are full by symptoms such as scooting, discomfort sitting, excessive licking of the rear end, issues defecating, fishy smell, or even external rear end issues.
Scooting and biting at the rear end are perhaps the most common causes.
If your dog can’t poop despite trying hard, impacted anal glands might be the cause.
A fishy smell or worse, external symptoms such as leakage of fluid, swelling, redness, or even bleeding should be checked out by your vet.
How Often To Express Dog Anal Glands
Don’t express the anal glands too often and only do it after your vet has given their okay. It’s advised not to express them more often than every 4 weeks.
Give your pet the meds as prescribed, follow the vet’s guidelines on how to express or preferably visit your vet again.
Keeping the rear end clean with dog-safe wipes can also help.
Expressing the anal glands too often may end up causing more harm than good.
A quick recap:
Anal glands issues can have plenty of causes and it’s crucial to pin these down.
Whether your pet’s diet causes soft stool or allergies, or your pet suffers from environmental or skin allergies, start searching for the cause together with your vet.
Expressing the glands is best left to your vet and shouldn’t be done too often.
Symptoms should be taken seriously, especially if your pet is scooting or even bleeding after having their anal glands expressed.Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.