Your dog has two anal glands. Positioned to either side of the anus, these glands release a stinky substance whenever your dog defecates, marking his or her territory. Sometimes, however, the anal glands become clogged. This is a rather common problem, and in many cases, it is one that you can deal with on your own rather than rushing to the vet right away. Read on to learn how to tell if your dog's anal glands are clogged and what you can do about it.
What are the signs of clogged anal glands?
The first thing that alerts many owners to clogged anal glands is a change in the dog's defecation behavior. Since clogged glands make it painful for a dog to defecate, your dog may begin refusing to "go," yowling in pain when he does defecate, or only passing a small amount of stool at a time. Many dogs also drag their bottoms across the ground before or after defecating. You may notice a foul odor emanating from your dog's rear end.
What can you do about clogged anal glands?
Expressing the anal glands is actually quite simple – though it is gross. Grab a thick towel or a stack of paper towels (make sure it's something you're willing to throw away). Hold the towel over the dog's anus, and place your fingers to either side of the anus. Then, squeeze gently. A brown, smelly fluid should come out. Keep squeezing until no more is released. You may have to have a friend hold your dog still as you do this, as it can be uncomfortable for some dogs.
You should also take measures to help prevent future clogging of your dog's anal glands. Often, this problem arises because the dog is not eating enough fiber. A low-fiber diet leads to small stools which don't put enough pressure on the anal glands during defecation. As a result, the fluid backs up in the glands and thickens, blocking the openings. You can increase your dog's fiber intake by switching to a dog food that's higher in fiber, or by feeding your dog some cooked vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, and carrots.
When should you call the vet?
If you are unable to express your dog's anal glands, or if you express them but he or she is still showing signs of distress, it's time to call the vet. There could be a bigger issue, such as colon cancer, that is causing the changes in defecation behavior. You should also call the vet if you see any yellow or green discharge coming out of your dog's anus, or if such fluid emerges when you try to express the glands. These are signs of an infected anal gland, which will require treatment with antibiotics.