A dog has two anal glands, one on each side of the anus. The glands discharge a strong-smelling substance with urine and faeces that marks a dog's territory. The glands also gather and expel waste products from a dog's system. Because the canine anal glands deal with potentially harmful bacteria they are prone to problems. In some instances, an abscess may form on a gland and fill with pus. Treatment usually follows a set pattern.
A dog with an anal gland abscess is noticeably ill. It shows discomfort when trying to defecate and urinate, and bites and nibbles the area around its anus. It behaves out of character by suddenly jumping from a sitting position and whining, and dragging its bottom along the ground. Traces of blood and pus could appear in the dog's faeces and on the fur around the anus. The anus could also be swollen.
Lance and drain
A vet's first course of action is to lance the abscess by squeezing the anal glands or by using a scalpel or needle to pierce the affected tissue. The pus should then drain out.
After lancing and draining a dog's anal gland abscess, a vet arranges for a course of antibiotics to kill any bacteria. An injection provides the initial antibiotic dose. Following this, a dog has tablets each day for a given period.
A vet could supplement the antibiotics with anti-inflammatory painkillers. The first dose is an injection after which a dog has a course of tablets. The aim is to ease a dog's discomfort and enable it to defecate and urinate without pain.
Iodine and ointment
An abscess on a canine anal gland may persist despite the above treatment. If so, a vet could decide to put an affected dog under anaesthetic, flush the glands with an iodine solution and cover them with ointment.
A vet could recommend surgery if all of the foregoing treatment fails or when an abscess frequently reappears on one or both of a dog's anal glands. The surgery involves removal of the anal glands under anaesthetic. The vet applies sutures to the wounds and prescribes antibiotics and painkillers.
Experts generally agree that one way to help prevent an abscess forming on an anal gland is to ensure that a dog has a good quality diet with plenty of fibre. However, some dogs seem susceptible to anal gland abscesses regardless of what they eat.