All Things Dog Blog
Getting To The Bottom Of Anal Gland Issues

Ok… not the most appetizing topic. I hear you! But I have to admit  I’d like to know more about it – without having to ask. And you clicked on the link too! So let’s get educated about how these anal glands are impacting our dogs. Better to know what’s going on down there than not. Canine Naturopath Lyndall Pinchen gets to the bottom of it.

If you have ever had to take your dog to the vet to have their anal glands expressed, you will most likely not forget the very distinctive odour that accompanies a blocked gland! I am finding that anal gland problems are becoming increasingly more common and I believe this comes in part to poor or inappropriate diet along with increasing obesity levels. Other factors such as general toxicity, lack of exercise etc also come into play.

The anal glands, or sacs, are small and oval-shaped, and sit just inside your dog’s rectum on either side of the anus. The glands produce a smelly, oily substance that collects in tiny ducts. This fluid probably serves as a territorial marker, sending out information to other dogs. If your dog’s stools are a normal healthy and firm stool, this will automatically ‘squeeze’ the glands as it is being passed but for many dogs, particularly those on a processed diet, the stools are loose and soft and therefore unable to do this. Often times it is also these dogs that tend to be overweight and this causes a loss of muscle tone as well as excess fat around the area, making it difficult for the glands to be properly expressed.

Another big issue that can lead to a chronic anal gland problem is over expressing the gland. Certainly if the gland is full and causing distress it needs to be expressed (usually by your vet) as a build up can lead to inflammation and infection. However, I believe that often this gland is routinely expressed ‘just in case’. It is not necessary to express the gland unless these is a definite problem and continual squeezing etc can cause the area to be traumatised, leading to inflammation, swelling and poor functioning of the gland over time. It is far better to leave things alone and allow the gland to be naturally expressed as it was intended. And if there is a chronic issue, look to identify the underlying causes instead.

Anal glands that are blocked contain a build up of the natural oily secretions found within the gland and this can lead to impaction, creating inflammation and possible bacterial infection. An abscess can develop if left untreated and this can be a very painful and distressing problem for your dog. One of the most common signs is “scooting”. Scooting is the term used to describe a dog when it drags its bottom along the ground. Licking around the area is also another possible sign although both these can be indicative of other problems including flea and worm infestation or allergies. Anal gland tumours are also possible in some dogs and this of course requires immediate veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

Here are some tips to help keep your dog’s anal glands emptying properly as nature intended:

  • Avoid all processed foods and grains as these increase inflammation in the body and lead to a soft or loose stool. Instead, switch your dog to a raw and grain free diet including raw bones. This is the diet that Mother Nature would have them consume and it helps keep the stools firm so that the glands can be completely expressed upon defecation.
  • Add both probiotics and digestive enzymes into your dogs food daily at least for the first few months as this will help to rebalance the digestive system and ensure proper digestion.
  • Eliminate as many chemicals from your dogs environment as possible and consider giving them a liver ‘detox’ every six months. I like to use herbs for this as well as supplements such as chlorophyll. The herb MILK THISTLE is an excellent herb that can be given for the purposes of cleansing and strengthening the liver. I prescribe it as tincture form but capsules and tablets can also be given for 2-4 weeks for a general cleanse.
  • Make sure your dog is getting plenty of regular exercise in a variety of forms- playing, walks, games etc and monitor their weight to keep them in a healthy weight range. The majority of dogs on a raw diet tend to maintain their weight more easily than those on processed diets as the high level of protein builds lean muscle mass and aids weight loss.
  • Don’t express the glands ‘just in case’!
  • For dogs that tend to have issues with blocked glands, try homoeopathic Silica 6c or  30c. Give one dose 3x daily for a few days when blocked. If infection is present, try Hepar sulph 6c or 30c at the same dose for 3-5 days and then go to Silica for a few days.

NB- please seek veterinary advice for a proper diagnosis.

This article was contributed by Lyndall Pinchen of Canine Vitality a naturopathic health clinic for our furry mates in Cedar Grove QLD. If you’re out of the local area no worries! Canine Vitality offers online and phone consultations to help sort out your canine health issues. T: 0417 710 882   M: 0417 710 882 E: lyndall  Facebook: Website

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