Lately, I’ve encountered many dog owners complaining that their dogs are scooting their rear end across the floor or, even more annoyingly, the carpets.
Scooting has two main reasons. It can be caused by the presence of intestinal worms. But more commonly, it’s due to anal sacs disease.
Dogs and cats have a pair of glands that are called anal glands or sacs.
These are scent glands in nature. The glands are located in their anal sphincter muscle, at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions.
A tiny duct or tube leads under the skin to an opening directly beside the anus.
These glands produce and store an oily liquid material that is used to mark territories.
When dogs greet each other and sniff each other’s rear ends, that is what they are smelling.
The anal glands content has a very foul smell even when the glands are healthy.
The anal glands empty through an opening in each gland with stool passage in the rectum.
Spontaneous release of the anal glands content is also associated with fear and in stressful events.
Anal glands disease is a condition in which the glands are not getting drained, the content accumulates and thickens which further prevents the drainage of the gland.
The gland gets infected and may eventually form into an abscess. If left untreated, it may rupture.
The most common symptoms of anal glands disease are signs of discomfort—scooting, licking and biting the anus, and chasing the tail.
This condition is much more common in dogs than in cats.
When it does occur in cats, it might be manifested by defecation outside of the litter box.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, take your pet to see your veterinarian.
The veterinarian will attempt to empty the glands manually and will evaluate the nature of content acquired.
The anal glands content is normally a yellow to tan coloured liquid.
Impacted anal gland material is usually brown or grey and thick. The presence of blood or pus indicates infection.
If the content suggests presence of infection the veterinarian will prescribe systemic antibiotics.
Flushing the glands and administrating local antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs is very effective for treating anal glands disease, but this procedure requires sedation or anaesthesia.
The main goal of the treatment is to clear the infection as early as possible and prevent formation of an abscess and rupture of the gland.
Occasionally the problem can be chronic and very disturbing to both the dog and the owners.
In severe chronic cases, a permanent surgical excision of the glands might be recommended.
This procedure is not risk free, hence it’s recommended only when a routine medical treatment has failed.
Prevention of anal glands impaction and infection can be made by periodic check ups by your veterinarian.
Frequent emptying of the glands may assist in preventing impaction and infection.
Emptying the sacs when not impacted is a very easy and quick procedure, but it needs to be done by a professional veterinary caregiver.
Feeding the pet a high fibre diet may be beneficial in prevention of the condition by producing a bulkier stool that presses against the glands in the process of defecation, and helps their normal drainage.
Please consult your veterinarian about more information to ensure a good condition of your pet’s anal glands.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.