I often find myself listing the services that are included in a “Bath & Brush” here at Woofers. The list goes something like this: Your bath and brush includes nails clipped and filed, ears cleaned and plucked and anal glands expressed.
It’s not unusual for a customer to look at me a bit quizzically when I tell them the part about anal glands. I often get a raised eyebrow and sometimes a customer is even bold enough to come right out and ask, “What the heck are anal glands, anyway?”
Well, I thought you’d never ask! Before you get the idea that I have loads of experience and first hand knowledge about this particular piece of dog anatomy, I should confess that my experience is limited to my own dogs. Most of the information you’ll read here was either gleaned from reading or questioning the real experts right here at Woofers.
Dogs have 2 small glands located on either side of their rectum at about 5 and 7 o’ clock. The secretions from these glands have an odor that is unique to each dog. As humans, we don’t actually experience the smell as being unique to each dog. To our olfactory sense, this stuff just flat out stinks! A tiny amount of this fluid is expressed each time the dog urinates or defecates. This odor is one of the ways that a dog marks its territory. When two dogs meet and they raise their tails and sniff each other they are identifying this odor and cataloging it in their memory as a way to identify a dog or its territory in the future. The act of raising the tail exerts pressure on the glands and a tiny amount of the fluid is excreted.
Most large breed dogs have sufficient muscle mass in their rear ends to express the glandular fluid at regular intervals when defecating or urinating. Some of the smaller breeds have difficulty expressing the fluid and this is what leads to a number of problems that range from a persistent and noxious odor to infections and abscessed glands that require medical attention or even surgery.
When the fluid is allowed to build up over time it thickens and this makes it very difficult for the dog to express the congealed fluid without help. If the problem goes on too long, the gland can become infected and rupture, causing great discomfort and pain for the dog and severe pain to your wallet in the form of vet bills.
One of the ways to avoid problems is to feed your dog a good quality food that does not contain excessive amounts of cereals. Cereals such as corn can cause the dog’s stools to be soft and reduce the interior pressure on the glands from the rectum. There seems to be a clear consensus that firm stools are of great benefit to canines for this reason.
Scooting or “butt-surfing” is almost always a sign that your dog is experiencing discomfort from his/her anal glands. This behavior has also been associated with worms, but scooting is nearly always caused by rectal discomfort stemming from full anal glands. Scooting also means the glandular fluid is being deposited on your flooring or carpet, resulting in persistent pet odors that are very difficult to remove.
Another indicator that your dog’s anal glands need attention is a foul odor coming from the dog’s rear end. I know that sounds too obvious to mention, but I’ve had customers tell me that their dog had rolled in something stinky, only to find that the actual source of the odor was full anal glands. Once you’ve identified the smell you aren’t likely to forget it.
Expressing canine anal glands isn’t exactly rocket science. If you want to learn how to express your dog’s anal glands you can ask us here at Woofers and we’ll be happy to show you how it’s done. On the other hand, it’s a nasty, stinky job and it’s best to take care of it while the dog is already in the bathtub, so it’s nice to know that expressing the glands can be included in your dog’s grooming for no extra cost here at Woofers.