Anal Glands in Cats and Dogs
What are Anal Glands?
Anal glands are pea sized sacs found on either side of your dog or cat's anal opening, at the 8 and 4 o’clock positions. They are paired glands located just below the surface of the skin and were designed by nature to produce a thick, foul-smelling, oily liquid secreted for identification and territory-marking.
For the wild animal these glands also act as a powerful deterrent when it is in danger. The animals will voluntarily exude the goo from the glands, which causes the predator to stop, smell and re evaluate its situation. Skunks hold the prize for having the most foul smelling anal glands when in fear.
For the domestic animal on the other hand, the glands serve less of a function and they have largely lost their ability to empty their glands voluntarily.
This scent from the anal glands is used as a place marker, a communication device, and a personal ID card. This is why dogs smell other dogs bottoms to see who's who, and, why cats pay special attention to poop in the same place.
How do they work?
Passing normal firm stools puts natural pressure on the rectum walls causing the glands to squeeze out their contents and coat the stool with its distinctive and unique smell. The glands will, to some degree, also help to lubricate the anal opening in the process, making it easier for your dog or cat to poo.
Dogs empty their anal sacs involuntarily and normally when under stress. You may have experienced this when visiting the vet with your dog. In its anxiety it has let rip (literally) the fluid from its anal sacs. Not a pleasant smell or situation for all involved in the scent shower.
What are the problems?
The anal glands are one of the anatomical areas where cats have it all over dogs. It’s unusual for a cat’s anal glands to become impacted, inflamed or infected.
Dogs on the other hand are more commonly unable to fully empty their glands on their own, causing the glands to become impacted and uncomfortable. Impaction results from a blockage of the duct leading from the gland to the opening. This can be non-painful but swollen causing irritation, or painful, if an infection is involved resulting from prolonged impaction, causing the glands to build-up nasty bacteria resulting in pain, increased swelling, and sometimes a fever. A very painful condition requiring urgent veterinary treatment.
Signs that your dog or cat may have a problem with their anal glands
Anal glands fill up for a number of reasons.
What is the treatment?
Treatment is usually by expression of the gland by your veterinarian, or involves antibiotics and pain relief. The glands may need repeated flushing.
Anal glands can be flushed at home, but this process can be extremely dangerous if done incorrectly. It is always recommended to get vet advice before emptying glands yourself.
Information taken from www.vetstreet.com, vetadvice, www.marcthevet.com and my own personal pet sitting experiences.