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Freedom of Expression

How to address aching anal glands


You’ve seen it, your otherwise well-behaved pooch doing the booty scoot along the floor. Now you’re wondering why they do it—and how you can get it to stop. It’s easy to assume that bouts of scooting are simply your dog’s way of scratching their tush, but be advised: If you’ve noticed this peculiar behavior, or excessive licking of the hindquarters, it’s likely that your dog’s anal glands need attention.

It’s a common complaint. Dogs have two anal glands (one on each side of the anus) that produce a stinky, oily substance. The only real function they serve is in doggy communication: They’re what dogs sniff when they say hello to
each other.

Yes, dogs chat with their fannies. That aroma emanating from the anal region is a unique form of canine identification. It may seem like a gross, inappropriate behavior to humans, but to dogs, it’s a natural way of greeting that provides some key insights. The glands also excrete scent whenever your dog goes number two. They make it easier for your pet to pass stools—and mark territory. When they’re working properly, these glands are emptied every time your dog does their business.

Unfortunately, things don’t always function properly. If your dog’s poo is too soft or small, it won’t provide enough pressure to empty the sacs. If the glands fill until they become uncomfortable, your pup might drag their bottom across the floor to get relief. Other signs of anal sac irritation include licking and biting their backside as well as general preoccupation with their heinie.

Not only are impacted anal glands painful, but if ignored, they might become infected and abscessed. Treatment for this condition requires antibiotics. If the abscessed glands rupture, they might need surgery to repair.

Human intervention can prevent impacted glands from infection (and provide sweet relief). The procedure is called manual expression, and it’s a task that can be performed by a veterinarian. It entails gently squeezing the sac to empty its contents. You could do this for your dog at home, but given the ick factor involved, it’s best left to the pros.

Scooting is one possible sign of anal gland problems, but the behavior could also be caused by parasites or allergies. Or, it could simply be an itchy butt. Typically, a dog with impacted anal glands will scoot more than once or twice, and will lick or bite their
backend as well.

Cats have anal glands as well, and although they tend to develop issues less often than dogs, be sure to keep an eye on your feline friends.

While it’s not pleasant to think about, anal gland problems are common enough that it pays to be aware. The next time you see your pet scooting or chewing their rear, take note. Your pet will appreciate the relief you can provide.

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