When dogs and cats sniff each other, it’s considered the canine and feline equivalent of social networking. Both species have anal sacs, or anal glands, as they are also often referred to, on either side of the anus, which emit an oily substance with an unpleasant smell. It’s this scent that gives information to the sniffer about the other dog or cat’s hormonal status. Further, it also allows the dog or cat to leave a scent trail to stake claim to territory whether in your home or in the yard.
A normal bowel movement is usually sufficient to express these sacs. This is nature’s way of maintaining them so that the scent is not too noticeable. But if they do not empty properly on their own, they can become impacted. Impacted anal glands can cause itching, a bad odor and also can be very painful.
The first sign that your pet may have impacted anal glands is when they start scooting across your favorite rug in the living room, or on the grass. And while there are lots of videos on YouTube of skiing pets that look as if they are practicing for an Olympic down hill run or just being silly, they are in fact trying to release the build-up in these glands and stop the itch.
If left unattended, not only are impacted anal glands very uncomfortable for the animal, but in severe cases the anal glands can rupture. So it’s something that should never be ignored.
Expressing your pet’s anal glands is not something you should try and do yourself at home unless a veterinarian has offered you detailed instruction. Ultimately, it’s best left to a qualified veterinary technician at the vet’s office, or, a professional pet stylist who has been trained how to do the procedure.
Most grooming salons offer external anal gland expression as part of a standard grooming routine. But be sure to ask if it is included. For internal anal gland expression, consult your veterinarian.
Some breeds are predisposed to anal gland problems. Impacted anal glands are more common in smaller - to mid-sized dogs, and cats of all sizes and breeds. But larger dogs are not immune.
Diet can be the cause of the problem. If the food you are giving your pet produces a softer stool, this can result in there not being enough natural “friction” between the stool and the glandular tissue to allow the glands to empty themselves. It also can occur if your pet has been ill and had diarrhea. Selecting a food that is high in fiber, or simply adding additional fiber to your pet’s diet can help to bulk up their stools.
Obesity can be another factor, as overweight pets often have less muscle tone as well as additional fat tissue in the anal area, which prevents the glands from emptying properly on a regular basis.
An on-going situation should be discussed with your veterinarian. If your pet has been diagnosed by your veterinarian with a chronic problem, make sure you bring this to the attention of your pet stylist. In extreme circumstances, there is a surgery to remove the anal glands.