Anal Glands FAQ: Everything Canine Parents Should Know About Anal Glands

Anal sac disease is widespread in dogs, eventually manifesting in upwards of 12% of all canines. The sacs frequently become impacted (plugged), usually due to inflammation of the anal ducts. As a result, the secretion within the impacted sacs will thicken, and the sacs will become swollen and distended. It is then painful for your dog to pass feces, which can cause a significant level of discomfort if left irritated and untreated.

Do images of your dog scooting on the floor or attempting to lick its anus come to mind? Yes, it is possible that the anal sacs are the main cause of your dog's discomfort. Once you’ve noticed these behaviors, it is time for you to take action in order to prevent complications which could lead to further infection, a canine anal abscess, or even an anal tumor.

Thankfully, you can treat your dog's anal glands without resorting to expensive medicines or prolonged medical treatment. Frequently, canine anal sac issues begin in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, pointing to something in the dog's diet requiring either immediate improvement or change. Today, we will teach you how to identify and prevent dog anal sac issues naturally and holistically.We will primarily focus on how a diet rich in fiber can enhance your dog's GI tract and anal sac health, therefore eliminating the discomfort.

What Are Canine Anal Sacs?

The anal sacs are two specialized apocrine glands located between the internal and external anal sphincter muscles. When a dog poops, these glands secrete a smelly, brown fluid, which is released together with the feces. Dogs both mark their territory and communicate essential chemical information with other dogs through this fluid, hence, the canine preoccupation with feces and the classic neighborly tail sniffing.

Believe it or not, for proper anal sac health, dogs have to pass stool with a specific texture and dimensions. If the stool is too firm or voluminous, it will lead to constipation and the dog will struggle to excrete it. On the other hand, if the stool is not as firm or voluminous as needed, it will not pressure the anal sac to empty appropriately, allowing secretions to build up inside the glands over time.

Although not alarming at first, this process will eventually cause moderate to severe discomfort in your dog. Its behavior may change as it tries to manually relieve the anal sac by pressing the glands open against the floor or various hard surfaces. If left untreated, the discomfort can gradually lead to anal sac disease.

Symptoms of Anal Sac Disease

Dogs may signal their anal distress through a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Scooting along the ground – the most frequent canine anal sac infection behavior
  • Perineal licking or biting
  • Seeming pain when passing their stool
  • Blood or pus in the dog’s stool once it has been passed
  • The appearance of a hard lump near the rectum
  • Anal discoloration
  • A strong, unpleasant smell which resembles fish
  • Perineal pyotraumatic dermatitis (skin problem induced by self-inflicted trauma caused by attempts by the dog to alleviate pain or pruritus)

Certain conditions can increase a canine’s chances of developing an anal sac infection or disease:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Breed predisposition: more common in small breeds, especially the poodle and Chihuahua
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Skin mites
  • Skin infections

Stages of Anal Sac Disease

Anal sac diseases manifest themselves in different forms, divided into two primary conditions: non-neoplastic (i.e., that do not cause tumor growth, such as impactions or abscesses) and neoplastic conditions (i.e., that cause tumor growth, both benign and malignant).

Non-neoplastic Conditions

#1: Impactions

Impactions occur when secretions are retained in the anal glands as a thick, pasty, brown secretion. If left untreated, impacted anal glands can facilitate bacterium growth and lead to abscesses.

#2: Abscesses

Abscesses accumulate white blood cells in the shape of pus to fight off infections. In the case of anal gland abscess, the pus is retained within the anal glands. Failure to relieve the anal glands can cause swelling, redness, and pain in the anal region. In addition, unless treated immediately, abscesses can rupture and cause substantial damage to the anus and rectum.

Neoplastic Conditions

#3: Anal sac tumors

Although uncommon, tumors most commonly appear as deep, firm, nodular masses near the anal sac; with growth, they can compress the rectum and cause constipation. In general, tumors reside on one side of the anus. Specific anal sac tumors, such as anal sac apocrine gland adenocarcinoma, can put your dog's life in danger. Anal sac tumors can cause paraneoplastic hypercalcemia (elevated calcium levels in the blood) and lead to anorexia, weight loss, polyuria and polydipsia, and kidney failure. Furthermore, these tumors are highly infiltrative into the pelvic canal and can metastasize to the sublumbar lymph nodes or distant internal organs.

Preventing Anal Sac Disease with a Proper Diet: Fiber Is Key

A proper diet will keep your dog’s GI tract healthy and cause it to pass stool which is firm and voluminous enough to activate the anal sacs. A smaller stool will not press on the anal sacs firmly enough to release the necessary secretions.

The key to ensuring that your dog is passing healthy stools is that he must have enough fiber in his diet. Proper fiber levels have a normalizing effect on bowel movements (both in terms of frequency of bowel movements and by increasing the feces' weight and size). We recommend two fiber-based products which may help your canine go when he needs to:

  • Psyllium husk powder can help to reduce canine anal gland inflammation through regulating bowel movements

Due to its healthy fiber concentration, Psyllium husk powder absorbs the water in your dog's intestines and regularizes bowel movements. Along with addressing anal sac issues, this product can help to relieve digestion issues such as constipation and diarrhea.

In addition to its fiber concentration, our Veggie Paks contain numerous vitamins and minerals which your dog will easily digest: a fresh, healthy, and undeniably delicious choice for your furry companion’s food bowl!

Wheat Bran Can Also Help Regulate Canine Stool

Wheat bran is a natural aid for proper stool formation. Its high fiber content facilitates eliminating waste materials and, therefore, makes the colon an inhospitable environment for worms. The most common ways of feeding wheat bran to dogs are either dog food with high wheat bran content or powder-like wheat bran from dietary specialists. Many of the Volhard foundations, such as Endurance © and the Natural Diet Foundation 2 ©, already contain a sufficient daily amount of wheat bran. Though this meets the ongoing, daily fiber needs of your canine, there may be seasons when your dog needs an additional boost of wheat bran. For a healthy, wheat-bran-rich snack, our top pick is the Volhard Punk-N-Pyes Treats ©.

Paying Attention to Your Dog’s Behavior Is Key

As you add fiber-rich products to the food bowl, keep an eye on your pet’s behavior; if the scooting or excessive licking persists, then the underlying problem might require a different solution. Frequently, sudden changes to your dog's diet lead to GI tract issues. It is possible that he may be experiencing a potential intolerance, either to an ingredient, an additional supplement, or that he switched between diets too rapidly, causing internal upset.

Be Wary of Over Supplementing Your Dog

Another cause of GI tract imbalance lies in over supplementation. Recent studies have shown that joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin cause hepatotoxicity. Instead of improving the dog’s health, these supplements occasionally lead to an onset of new medical conditions, including: coagulopathy, pancreatitis, peritonitis, and acute kidney injury. You may start your pet on additional medication or supplements, intending to benefit their health, and cause unintended side-effects down the line. As always, when adding any supplements to your dog’s diet, it is critical that you be well informed, pay careful attention to any changes in your canine’s body, behavior, or personality, and proceed with caution.

At the end of the day, the added pressure on the immune system from any additional supplements could cause the dog’s body to become unusually sensitive and experience irritation. In turn, the immune system will work overtime and throw the GI tract off-balance.

Homeopathic Options for Treating Canine Anal Gland Infections

Homeopathic treatments are another effective way to address anal gland infections; for this specific condition, the most suitable homeopathic option is Ruta Grav. Ruta Grav is an extract from the Rue plant which effectively addresses muscle inflammation, abscesses, rectal issues, and skin eruptions, along with ligament issues, eye strain, and a variety of other common concerns for active dogs. Ruta Grav can typically be found in tablet or droplet form - either of which is acceptable for pets. Frequently, Ruta Grav needs to be given to the animal 1-3 times per day, but because dosage varies by both individual pet and individual brand, follow the manufacturer's instructions from which you purchase. Once your canine shows signs of improvement and ceases his scooting and itching behaviors, administering the Ruta Grav daily will no longer be necessary. Ruta Grav is a helpful homeopathic preventative against anal sac infection and diseases.

Conclusion

By making use of these dietary and homeopathic tools once you’ve noticed suspicious behavior in your canine, you are equipped to help prevent anal sac infections and diseases.We hope that you can now enjoy your time together with your canine with a more peaceful mind. Do you have more questions surrounding dog anal glands and infection in your pet? Feel free to contact us or check out our blog for additional, related articles!