Blocked anal glands in dogs
The anal glands are two small sacs that sit just inside your dog’s anus (bottom). They contain a strong-smelling liquid that’s emptied onto their stool when they go to the toilet. This smelly liquid helps your dog mark its territory.
Sometimes anal glands become blocked which causes irritation and pain. The most common sign of blocked anal glands is scooting (your dog rubbing their bottom on the ground).
Contact your vet if you think your dog has an anal gland problem. Blocked anal glands can usually be cured by careful emptying. Blocked anal glands left untreated can lead to infections and abscesses. If your dog suffers from blocked anal glands regularly, your vet may suggest a diet change and regular emptying.
Symptoms of blocked anal glands:
- Scooting (rubbing their anus (bottom) on the ground)
- Redness or swelling around the anus
- Excessive biting or licking the anus
- Excessive biting or licking the lower back
- Pain/crying when toileting
- Sitting down very suddenly
- A foul (usually fishy) smell around their bottom
- Discharge, blood or matting around their anus.
Why are my dog's anal glands blocked?
The following can increase the chance of anal glands becoming blocked:
- Overweight dogs generally have weaker muscles around their bottom which means they might not be able to empty their glands very well.
- If your dog has diarrhoea there might not be enough pressure to empty the glands when they go to the toilet.
Narrow gland openings
- Some dogs are born with narrow anal gland openings which means they can’t empty the contents as easily.
- The food your dog eats can affect whether their stools are firm enough to empty their anal glands.
When to contact your vet
Contact your vet if your dog has any of the symptoms above. Leaving anal gland issues untreated can lead to more serious problems such as anal gland infections and abscesses.
Treatment for blocked anal glands
In most cases your vet will be able empty your dog’s anal glands by gently squeezing. This should get rid of any irritation or pain. Unless you have been shown how by your vet, do not attempt to do this yourself. Anal glands can burst if they are squeezed too hard or in the wrong way.
If your dog’s anal glands are very difficult or painful to empty your vet may recommend admitting them to the veterinary hospital so that the can be emptied under anaesthetic.
Preventing blocked anal glands
Leave alone unless there is a problem
Healthy anal glands don’t need regular emptying, unless you notice a problem you shouldn’t have your dog’s anal glands examined or emptied (even at the groomers).
Have your dog’s anal glands emptied by a vet or nurse as regularly as your vet suggests and book your dog in for a visit with your vet if you notice any problems in between appointments.
Some dogs need their anal glands emptied every now and then and others may need appointments every 4-6 weeks.
Keep your dog slim
Keep your dog a healthy weight and feed them a good quality complete dog food.
Your vet may suggest adding extra fibre to your dog’s diet to help firm up and bulk out their poo. If a poo is firm and solid it presses on the glands and helps them empty easily. Your vet can advise you which type of fibre to add to your dog’s food (if it’s necessary).
Published: October 2018
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst