What are they?
All dogs have anal glands situated at 5 and 7 O'Clock around the outside of their anus. They are squeezed whenever your dog defecates and emit a small amount of a very smelly discharge. This is used to identify dogs to one another in a social context. In many cases a dog's anal glands will function normally throughout their life with no need for intervention. Avoid routinely expressing these glands in a healthy dog as you could create problems where there are none.
If the glands are not expressed normally they can become impacted and infected. Infection can lead to a painful abcess. Infected anal glands can be notoriously difficult to clear up.
- Scooting or dragging their rear across the floor
- Licking or chewing near their rectum, often accompanied by an unpleasant fishy odour on their breath
- Soft, floppy stools
- Strong "fishy" odor coming from their rear
- In severe cases, fresh blood on their stools
Make an appointment with your vet to have them examined and emptied if necessary. If they have become infected they will need to be treated with antibiotics. If oral antibiotics don't clear the infection they can have their anal glands 'packed' topically to increase the chances of success. In very severe cases there may be no other option but to surgically remove them.
If your dog has soft stools it could be time to change their diet. A lot of kibbles have high cereal content that causes stools which are too soft to exert the pressure required when defecating to express their glands. Higher protein, grain free kibble or a natural raw diet can firm up their stools such that the expression of their glands becomes self-regulatory. If your dog usually passes small stools there could be a problem of not being big enough to express the glands, in this case give your dog half a lightly roasted butternut squash once a fortnight so that they can have a natural clear out.
Only ever have them emptied by a vet or nurse. A lot of groomers will offer this service but they don't have the diagnostic skills to spot problems and there could also be hygiene issues.