Elmhurst dog with anal glands

The pet experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center love almost everything about your pets. Yes, we said almost. 

While there is a lot to adore about our furry patients, anal glands are the one part that we could do without. The Elmhurst veterinary care team wants to share the “joy” of pet anal glands and why they are such a pain in the rear. 

Anal Glands and Your Pet

As appealing as they sound, anal glands really are more trouble than they are worth. 

Your pet has two anal glands, also called anal sacs, that have openings just inside the rectum at around the five and seven o’clock positions. These sacs are lined with glands related to oil and sweat glands, and often contain secretions that range from fluidy to paste-like.

The smell of anal gland secretions is a hard one to miss. Dogs and cats both have them, and while they are unable to voluntarily release the secretions, they often are released with a bowel movement or when the pet is startled or scared.

Interestingly enough, most mammals have anal glands. Here are some more anal gland facts:

  • In dogs and cats, the scent is thought to provide some level of communication through marking
  • Humans have rudimentary anal glands in the rectal canal that may contribute to perineal fistula and abscess formation
  • Opossums express their glands when playing dead to mimic the scent of rotting
  • Skunks utilize the voluntary emission of their anal gland secretions as a defense mechanism (and their aim is incredible)
  • Beaver anal gland secretions are a common ingredient in perfumes

While oddly interesting, anal glands have their fair share of problems. Besides a memorable odor at sometimes less-than-ideal moment, anal glands can become impacted (clogged), inflammend, or infected. They can also develop cancer within them. 

Elmhurst Veterinary Care for Anal Glands

Elmhurst Animal Care Center offers our pet lovers support for all types of problems, anal glands included. 

For the most part, leaving your pet’s anal glands alone is the best course of action. Unless your pet has had problems, it is unlikely that the glands will need to be expressed manually.  

Some pets are prone to trouble, though. Those who are obese, have soft stools or diarrhea, or suffer from inflammatory conditions like skin allergies may be more likely to have issues with their anal glands. 

When there is a problem with the anal glands, your pet may:

  • Show signs of pain when the area near the anus is touched or the tail lifted
  • Have a swelling near the anus
  • Lick or bite at their rear
  • Scoot or drag their rear
  • Have an unpleasant odor
  • Be lethargic or act sick otherwise
  • Be reluctant to have a bowel movement
  • Have bloody discharge from the rectum or on the stool

Cats have trouble less often than dogs, but they are often not as demonstrative about their problem. This can mean things are much more serious by the time anyone realizes there is anything wrong. 

If you think that your pet may have a problem with their anal glands, be sure to contact us right away. Anal gland problems can be, quite literally, a pain in the rear, and the Elmurst veterinary team is standing by to help.