Anal glands, or sacs, are located under the skin at approximately 4’o clock and 8 ‘o clock positions in relation to the anus of cats and dogs. They normally excrete a putrid substance, as stool is passed, for marking and communication purposes. Sometimes animals will also inadvertently express them when they are stressed. The smell is often described as rancid, fishy, or metallic.
Anal gland impactions, infections, and abscesses can occur. Here is how: For various reasons, such as the conformation of the animals, the thickness of the gland's secretions, or the softness of the stool, these glands and their ducts often become clogged, or 'impacted.' When this occurs, the animal will sit down on its rear quarters and drag its anal area across the floor or ground. This is called 'scooting.' Both dogs and cats may do this or lick the anal area excessively which are classic indications that they need their anal glands expressed. Anal gland expression is a very, very common treatment for dogs, especially the smaller breeds.
Anal glands may also become infected and abscess if they do not express on their own or get manually expressed. This is a very painful condition that necessitates medical treatment, warm compresses, antibiotics, and pain medication.
When the glands become impacted or aren’t expressing on their own, a veterinarian, technician, or the pet's owner must clean them out, or 'express' them. There are different techniques for this, some should only be done by a veterinarian or veterinary professional. This empties the glands of all material. In some dogs, this needs to be done every week or two but need of frequency depends on the individual animal. Some dogs only need it done every few months or so. The key is to pay attention, watch for the classic scooting/licking indications and bring your pet in as soon as you notice them doing so. Cats generally need this procedure less often.
Impacted glands do not affect the overall health of the pet. The problem is that pets may injure or severely irritate the anal area when chewing / scooting across the ground, or discharge the secretion on the carpet, floor, or other unwanted place. Again, this material has a terrible odor.
For more information, please feel free to call Pet's Friend Animal Clinic about any questions or concerns you may have at 408-739-2688.