Not many new dog owners are aware of the fact that their dog has anal glands... until that typical fishy smell pops out of nowhere leaving the owners baffled about where it is coming from. Indeed, the dog's anal glands are technically ''scent glands',' their primary function is to mark territory and to give each dog a particular smell unique to each dog. When your dog meets another dog in fact the first thing they will both do is smell each other's anal glands. This is the equivalent of humans shaking hands even though quite unorthodox. This simple smelling will tell each dog a lot about each other.
The anal glands are found at the 5 o' clock and 7 o'clock position of the rectal area. Both glands contain a fluid that is normally secreted when the dog has a bowel movement. However, in some cases a dog may develop problems in successfully emptying them. It could be that the dog's feces are too soft and therefore, their passage is unable to adequately empty them.
When this happens, the glands get over full and the dog will feel uncomfortable. Many times, dogs may be ''scooting'', in other words, dragging their rectal area against the carpet in an effort to empty the glands themselves. This may be effective and owners will know the dog was successful once they get a whiff of that strong and foul fishy odor.
The glands can be emptied by a groomer, a veterinarian or the owner may learn how to empty them themselves. In normal circumstances, the glands are easy to empty, they will secrete a liquid yellow fluid and the dog will feel finally relieved. However, there are cases where the anal glands may become impacted or even infected.
Symptoms of Anal Gland Impaction in Dogs
In this case, the dog's anal glands are very full, the secretion is thick and the dog may have difficulty expressing them completely. Following are some symptoms of anal gland impaction:
-Crying during bowel movements
-Licking anal gland area
-Sores and rashes in the dog's rear area
Anal gland impactions are treated by expressing the anal glands. This can be done routinely by a veterinarian or groomer. Owners may express their dog's anal glands as well, but they should first see how to do it correctly by having their vet perform a demonstration. The presence of blood or pus in the anal gland secretions is often indicative of an infection. Dogs with recurrent anal gland problems should be put on a high fiber diet so to allow the feces to increase in volume and express the glands as they pass through. Dogs with anal gland issues should also be put on an exercise regimen and diet if obese and underlying chronic diarrhea or constipation should be treated. In some cases, the removal of the anal glands in procedure known as ''anal sacculectomy'' is performed by experienced surgeons. This resolves the anal gland issues once and for all, however come with a risk for complications.
Jay on January 09, 2011:
When I give my Tiny a bath, he always poops out mucus. They say when the dogs are scared this is when the fluid is release, Tiny HATES baths and is very afraid. This may be why I find a big pile of mucus in the yard afterwards and I usually smell something fishy on him. I thought he just ate something disgusting. lol - Great info to know.
Katie on October 15, 2010:
I had noooo idea this even exsisted! My poor dog..he started scooting..then 2 days later I took him to the vet and found that he had a ruptured anal gland. I wish I had known about this before that happened. It's good you guys have this to educate pet owners.