A dog's anal glands secrete a fluid that helps the animal's rectal muscles push faeces out of its anal opening. Canines use this same smelly fluid to mark their territory and to identify each other. Located at the 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock positions slightly below and on each side of the anal sphincter, the anal sacs can become full and blocked, or "impacted." Knowing what symptoms your pet may display when its anal glands need to be expressed can help you prevent impaction and save the expense of emergency veterinary care.
Watch for scooting behaviour. A dog will typically raise its tail, drop to the floor in a sitting position and pull itself along by its front legs to ease pressure in the anal sacs.
Note any new, pungent odour emanating from your dog's rear end. The fluid in anal glands smells particularly sharp with a dark, musky scent.
Observe your pet for excessive licking of the anal area. Often, when the glands become full, dogs will lick the area in an effort to cause the glands to release fluid.
Notice if your dog has trouble defecating. Impacted anal sacs stop producing the necessary fluid that aids your pet in relieving itself, and constipation or pain upon defecation often results.
Look for inflammation in the area around the anus. Visually check for ruptures or abscesses and, while wearing a pair of disposable latex gloves, feel for any swelling or heat.
Because obese dogs are prone to anal sac problems, maintain your dog's optimum weight with regular exercise, the veterinarians at the VetInfo website recommend. Feed the dog high-quality meat-based food and supplement its diet with treats high in added fibre, such as carrots, bananas, pears and peas to provide added bulk and to stimulate the intestinal tract. Have your dog's anal glands expressed by your groomer or vet with every bath or clinic visit. Regular cleaning prevents fluid build-up and possible impaction.
Have your veterinarian recheck your pet's anal sacs if symptoms persist after emptying. Some dogs take several visits to get completely clean. If your dog's anal glands become impacted, and abscess or rupture, veterinary treatment with antibiotics is necessary to prevent further pain and infection.