If you have ever smelled the stink that is anal gland secretions, you can’t deny that there is no other odor quite like it. That intense metallic smell is likely ingrained in your memory!
So what is the deal with anal glands and why do pets have them? Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital has all the answers to your burning questions about your pet’s back door!
The Mighty Anal Glands
Anal glands, sometimes referred to as anal sacs, are two small pouches just inside the rectum. They live at about five and seven o’clock (if you care to imagine the area below the tail as a clock face).
These sacs contain a potent and smelly fluid that can range from watery to a toothpaste-like consistency and everything in between. Under normal circumstances the fluid is milked out when the pet has a bowel movement, which has the effect of scenting the stool. This unique scent is way to aid in communication amongst members of the same species.
Most pets don’t have any issue with this happening. Some dogs, and less frequently cats, may need help expressing them, though. These pets often have recurrent issues, and sometimes surgical removal of the anal sac is necessary.
Trouble in Paradise
When the anal glands are not expressing normally, either due to an impaction or another issue like a tumor, pets often will let us know something is not right. Signs of trouble may include:
- Scooting or dragging the rear end
- Licking at the rectum
- Abnormal tail position
- Turning to look at the rear frequently
- Crying out or jumping suddenly
- Reluctance or painful bowel movements
- Swelling near the rectum
Anal gland issues can be quite painful, so don’t wait to call us right away if you think your pet may be having problems. Routine wellness visits, a high quality nutrition program, and maintaining a healthy body weight can also help to head off trouble.
Addressing other problems like food allergies, atopic dermatitis, and hypothyroidism can also decrease the chance that your pet might have trouble.
Anal glands are not much fun for us humans, but they have an important function in the animal world. At times, though, they can be uncomfortable and downright painful for our pets. Don’t delay to seek help if there is trouble with your pet’s behind – we are happy to help, no matter how stinky the problem.