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Something Fishy Going On: Problems with Anal Glands

May 17, 2022

UA- Something Fishy Going On- Anal Glands

What’s that smell?!

We all have experience with a range of dog-related odours - passing gas that clears the room, those in desperate need of a bath - but have you ever encountered a pungent fish-like smell?

If you answered yes, you have likely experienced the whiff of anal gland secretion. When your dog passes faeces, it’s squeezed out by the faeces pushing on the two glands located on either side of the anus. This excretion gives the faeces its odour and is used to communicate with other dogs (similar to urine marking). These glands can also be expressed in moments of fear or excitement.

A healthy stool will allow the glands to empty at the time of passing, but loose stools or constipation can result in the glands not emptying properly, so they will fill up and leak or ooze out at inopportune moments. There can also be cases where the glands don’t function properly or have been damaged, and as a result, must be manually emptied at regular intervals.

Signs your dog may have an anal gland problem

  • The smell – If you are smelling that distinctive fishy smell frequently
  • Scooting – Often your dog will scoot their bottom along the ground to attempt to empty the full or irritated glands
  • Excessive licking – You may notice your dog licking their anus excessively. Constant licking can also cause the anus to look red and irritated
  • Stains/Marks – The actual anal gland secretion is a dark, thick, pungent substance and small amounts can be left behind or seen on surfaces where your dog sits or lies.

This sounds familiar - what should I do?

If any of the above symptoms are present, it’s important to visit your vet. Your dog may simply need some help with emptying their glands, but there could be an infection present or another reason as to why your dog is having trouble emptying them naturally. It’s imperative that you seek a professional to have this done as it’s very easy to damage the glands by squeezing too hard or incorrectly, which can lead to further problems with emptying these glands in the future. Some groomers also offer anal gland expression; however, it is important to ensure that they have been adequately trained to provide this service.

Is there anything I can do at home?

Making sure that your dog eats an appropriate fibre-rich diet will help to keep stools of a consistency that will encourage anal gland emptying when they defecate. If your dog tends to have slightly looser stools normally, adding psyllium husk or pumpkin can up their fibre intake.

If you know your dog is prone to having issues with their anal glands, keep an eye out for any of the above signs if they experience diarrhoea or constipation as these conditions may disrupt the normal and regular emptying of the glands.

Some dogs may have to have their glands emptied on a regular basis, whereas other dogs may never have a single problem in their lifetime, but it is always better to be seen sooner rather than later if any of the above symptoms are noticed.  

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