Oz: Dealing with anal gland disease in dogs

One of the most unpleasant behaviours dog owners have to tolerate is their dog dragging their bum — scooting — across the carpet.

  • Nov. 4, 2016 1:00 p.m.

Moshe Oz

Most people really enjoy the company of dogs in their life.

But finding the balance between enjoying a pet and keeping a clean and tidy house can be challenge.

Dogs are limited in their ability to deal with pain or physical inconvenience, so they can get quite creative when that occurs.

One of the most unpleasant behaviours dog owners have to tolerate is their dog dragging their bum on the carpet.

This behaviour is called scooting. While common, it represents abnormal irritation in the animal’s anal area that requires attention and treatment. Scooting has two main causes— the presence of intestinal worms or, more commonly, anal sacs disease. Dogs and cats have a pair of glands, or sacs, that are scent glands.

They are located in the 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 that is used to mark territory. When dogs greet each other and sniff each other’s rear ends, that is what they are smelling.

The glands put off a foul smell even when the dog is healthy.

Their purpose is to release the foul smelling secretion in cases of danger, stress or fear in order to scare away the menace, similar to skunks.

Normally the anal glands empty through an opening in each gland with stool passage in the rectum.

Anal gland disease is a condition in which the glands are not getting drained, the content accumulates and thickens, which prevents further drainage. The gland gets infected and may eventually form an abscess.

If left untreated it could rupture. When one or both of the glands are impacted, it causes discomfort to the animal.

The most common symptoms of anal gland disease is scooting, licking and biting the area and chasing its tail. The condition is much more common in dogs than in cats.

If it does occur in cats, it could result in the cat defecating outside the litter box.

If you notice one or more of these symptoms, take your pet to your veterinarian. who will examine the secretion.

It is normally a yellow to tan liquid (similar to the colour of apple juice). Impacted glands usually secret a brown or grey liquid that is thicker.

The presence of blood or pus indicates infection. If that’s the case, the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics.

Flushing the glands and administrating antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs is an effective way of treating anal gland disease.

But the 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 or rupture of a gland.

Occasionally, the problem can be chronic. In severe chronic cases, removal of the glands might be recommended. The procedure is not risk free, and only recommended when routine medical treatment has failed.

However, the glands are not essential for the animal.

In order to reduce the chance of permanent side-effects of the surgery, a two-step process to remove each gland separately is used.

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