Dog with anal gland issue.

There are few things that are quite as inconvenient and downright disgusting as the two small sacs of stinky fluid near the rectum that our beloved dogs and cats possess. Godspeed Animal Care knows that you love your pet, though, smelly parts and all. That is why we thought that we would educate you about anal glands and everything you never really wanted to know about them. 

Why Anal Glands

While they are seemingly just an annoyance, anal glands do serve and evolutionary and contemporary purpose for pets.

These small sacs, which range from the size of a pea to the size of a grape, live just inside of the rectum at the five and seven o’clock positions so to speak. They are really just extensions of the skin and collect oily secretions, which possess an unforgettable scent.

Some animals with anal glands, such as skunks, have evolved to use them as a defense mechansim. While dogs and cats cannot voluntarily release their anal gland secretions, much less aim them, the glands are not without some purpose.

When a bowel movement is passed, the anal glands are normally milked out and the stinky secretions coat the stool. This distinct scent is thought to help communicate to other animals of the same species with pheromones. They may also provide some lubrication for healthy bowel movements.

How to Care for Your Pet’s Glands

Thankfully, for most pets, the anal glands do their thing and we don’t really have to worry too much about them. Sometimes, though, good glands go bad and problems can arise.

Some pets may have trouble expressing their glands normally and they may even become clogged or impacted. This can be uncomfortable and may even lead to infection in the gland itself or rupture (ouch!).

Anal glands can also be affected by cancer, called anal gland adenocarcinoma.

As a pet owner, there are definitely some things that you can do to promote healthy anal glands.  Be sure to:

  • Feed your pet a quality, consistent diet to promote healthy bowel movements
  • Help your pet to maintain a healthy body weight (this decreases the likelihood of problems)
  • Avoid trying to externally express anal glands unless otherwise instructed by one of our veterinarians
  • Bring your pet to see us for regular wellness exams so that we can stay on top of signs of trouble
  • Make an appointment right away if your pet is licking, scooting, or seems otherwise bothered by their backside
  • Do not delay in seeking help if your pet’s anal area appears red, swollen, painful, or if you see blood or other abnormal discharge
  • Consider adding fiber or omega-3 fatty acids to your pet’s diet under veterinary supervision

Some pets do have chronic issues with their anal glands and will require ongoing care. Those with weight issues, food allergies, and skin allergies tend to have more than their fair share of issues. Thankfully, though, many never experience a problem with these stinky little glands. 

While anal glands may not be the most pleasant part of your pet, they are important to care for. Luckily, we are happy to help shoulder some of that responsibility so that you don’t have to take on the entire smelly burden yourself!