Browsing tag: anal glands

Is your dog a stinker? – why your dog might be smelly!

All dogs smell, anyone who owns one knows that but there is a difference between ‘Eau de wet dog’ and a proper SMELL.  Sometimes these can creep up on us unawares and it’s only after some time away from your pet or when visitors come and politely, but firmly, distance themselves from your pooch do you notice and other times they can appear overnight.  However, like any other change in your pets behaviour or health, they should always be taken seriously.

So, what could cause your dog to smell (worse than usual!) and when should you worry?  Lets look at our pets, if you will excuse the pun, nose to tail;

Ears

Ear infections are common in dogs, especially breeds with floppy, furry appendages, but any dog can develop odourous, painful problems.  They will often shake their heads, scratch at their ears and when you inspect under the ear flap you usually find a discharge, which can vary from a thick, black waxy to a creamy pus-like consistency, red, sore skin and quite a stink!  Any dog with these symptoms should be taken to a vet as soon as possible.  Ear infections left to fester can cause permanent damage and will be very sore for your pet.

Teeth

I have said it before and I will doubtless say it again; Doggy breath is NOT normal!  A dog with a healthy mouth should have little or no smell coming from it and if they have, there is a problem.  Smelly breath is usually due to bacteria colonising the plaque, tartar and gingivitis on the teeth and gums.  Between them these are literally rotting your pets teeth away, which is very painful and will eventually lead to teeth loss.  Not only this, these germs will escape into the blood stream, travel round the rest of the body and put the organs under serious strain.  The heart, kidneys & liver will all suffer, sometimes to the point where they are permanently damaged.

Regular check-ups with your vet will pick up any problems early and often simple chews or regular brushing will prevent further issues.  However, if your dog is particularly badly affected, your vet may suggest dental work under an anaesthetic to remove all the tartar and infection, extract any teeth which are beyond saving and restore the mouth to health.

Coat and Skin

We all know dogs love to get wet, dirty and roll in the most disgusting things (fox poo anyone?) but normally a good shampoo or just a bit of drying out will sort most problems. However, some pooches seem to carry a distinct ‘smell’ around with them wherever they go.  In some cases these can indicate significant health problems and in others just a few tweeks to their care can make the world of difference.

There are a significant minority of dogs who suffer from skin allergies, which not only make them itchy but also can make them very smelly.  The odour arises from an abnormal amount of bacteria and yeasts living on the skin and until the disease is under control, it can be very difficult to get rid of.  Medicated shampoos available from your vet can be very helpful but some pets will need oral treatments to bring the problem under control, especially in the early stages.  It also helps to keep the skin and coat in the very best condition possible.  There are several dietary supplements available for dogs which are brilliant for keeping coats and skin in tip top condition, ask your vet what they would recommend.

For dogs that just have a bit of ‘BO’ again regular baths, with a proper doggy shampoo, can be very helpful, as can dietary supplements.  In many cases it is worth investing in a regular trip to the groomers as they will be able to bathe them fully, strip and clip the coat, if it is appropriate to the breed, and dry them properly afterwards.

The bottom end!

Flatulence

‘Silent but deadly’ is the best description for many of man’s best friend’s emanations!  Usually it is just an occasional thing or can be related to a bin raid or unsuitable treats (!) but in some pets it can be a constant (and very unsociable!) problem.

Excessive gas production is caused by poor digestion, which can be related either to a problem with the guts not functioning properly or an unsuitable diet.  In most cases it is the latter and a change of food (or several until you find one that suits them) is all that is needed to settle the digestion.  The best diets to pick in these circumstances are the ‘hypoallergenic’ kind which tend to contain fewer additives and are usually wheat & gluten free, which makes them much gentler on dog’s stomachs.  Have a chat to your vet about what they would recommend you try.

However, some individuals have actual gastrointestinal disease and for them flatulence is usually just one of several symptoms relating to poor gut function.  These pets often need testing (which can include blood samples, faecal samples, xrays and biopsies) to make a specific diagnosis and treatments include medications, dietary supplements and, again, hypoallergenic diets.

Anal Glands

For many dogs, especially the smaller breeds, these little bottom glands can be the bane of their (and their owner’s) lives!  The anal sacs are two small, thin walled glands situated on either side of the anus (people don’t have them, thank goodness!) which produce a smelly, watery scent.  They are why dogs sniff each others bottoms and their mechanism of emptying is very simple; As the solid faeces slides past them, it squeezes the gland and forces out the liquid.  However, if the dog doesn’t poo for a while or has diarrhoea, the gland won’t be emptied and can become blocked.  This is painful, feeling a bit like a zit that needs to be popped, and will cause many dogs to display signs including chewing at their tails, licking at their bottoms or, the classic, scooting along on their bottoms.  Sometimes they will succeed in expressing the glands, which causes a truly remarkable smell (once smelt, never forgotten!) that is often described as ‘fishy’.

Most dogs with these symptoms will need their glands expressing by a vet,and trust me, this is a job best left to the professionals!  In some cases it can become a recurring problem as the glands are left thickened and scarred by repeated blocking.  For those individuals a proper flushing out of the glands under a sedation can be helpful and for particularly badly affected pets, your vet may advice removal of the sacs completely.

So hopefully now you know a few of the things that can turn your beloved family pet into a truly malodorous mutt!  Why not try our Symptom Checker for further information and if you are concerned, do contact your vet.

Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS – Read more of her blogs at www.catthevet.com

Ask a vet online – Why is my staffy rubbing his bum on carpet after his glands were done? – Anal gland problems in dogs.

Question from Jo Padfield

Why is my staffy rubbing his bum on carpet after his glands were done. Pls

Answer from Shanika Winters (online vet)

Hi Jo and thank you for your question about your dog’s anal glands. I will explain a little about what anal glands are, where they are and why dogs have them followed by a discussion of what can go wrong with them and how these conditions are treated.

What are anal glands?

The anal sacs (commonly called the anal glands) are a pair of sacs found either side of the anus (bottom); they are around 1cm across and open via a duct (tube) in the anus. As with your dog the anal sacs often become blocked and or infected and this is called anal sacculitis. The substance inside the anal sacs is produced by glands that line the inside of the sacs, this smelly substance should be passed each time your dog does a poo, and leaves a scent marker to other dogs.

What goes wrong with the anal sacs?

Diseases of the anal sacs include anal sacculitis as mentioned and less often tumours. Other conditions around the bottom include anal adenoma (small non-cancerous lumps around the anus), anal furunculosis (cracked infected skin around the anus usually found in German Shepherd Dogs) and perianal hernia (where muscles weaken and separate either side of the anus allowing pelvic and abdominal contents to push through, seen in older uncastrated male dogs).
It is really important to have your dog thoroughly examined by your vet to make sure that the condition has been diagnosed correctly so that the correct treatment can be given.

How are blocked anal sacs treated?

We usually treat blocked anal sacs by manually emptying them out, this can be done by inserting a gloved finger into the anus and gently squeezing on the sac to empty the contents into a piece of tissue paper. The anal sacs can be emptied from the outside but this does not allow the anatomy of the sacs to be examined as thoroughly. Some owners feel confident that they can learn to empty their dog’s anal sacs, this is something to discuss with your vet who can show you how to do this.
If there is infection in the anal sacs then your vet might give your dog antibiotics, this can be given orally or put directly into the anal sacs after they have been flushed out. If the anal sacs are going to be flushed out, most dogs will need sedation or general anaesthesia to allow this to be performed, a small cannula (plastic tube) is passed into the anal sac via the opening of the duct on the anus and saline is then flushed in and the glands then emptied, the process is repeated until the glands appear clean. Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory preparations can then be put into the anal sac. Sometimes steroids may also be given to ease the irritation caused by anal sacculitis.

Anal sacs sometimes are not properly emptied if your dog has soft poo or diarrhoea; this usually improves once your dog’s poo is firm again and can be helped by a change in diet.

When is surgical removal of the anal sacs an option?

If there are severe repeated anal gland infections and the dog does not tolerate medical treatment and manual emptying of the anal sacs then surgical removal is considered. The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia and does carry a small risk of disturbance to the dog’s ability to control passing poo. In most cases the lack of control when pooing is temporary but due the closeness of the nerves controlling continence to the anal sacs themselves there is this risk of them being damaged. Remember that your vet will discuss the pros and cons of a procedure with you so that a joint and informed decision can be made by you with the help of your vet.

I hope that this answer has been helpful for you and that your dog starts to feel more comfortable soon.

Shanika Winter MRCVS (Online Vet)

If your dog has a problem with its anal glands please book an appointment to see your vet, or use our online symptom checker

The Trouble with Anal Glands

One of the most common problems small animal vets see in dogs, almost daily, is anal gland trouble. Although cats have anal glands too, they rarely cause trouble.

All dogs have two anal glands (or anal sacs) situated just inside the rectum, one on each side. The cells which line the glands produce a foul-smelling substance which dogs use as a territory- marking device. When the dog passes faeces, the anal glands get squeezed and the scent is deposited as well. The normal anal gland is about the size of a pea in a small dog or a grape in a larger dog, depending how full it is. The anal gland secretion travels down a short tube or duct to enter the rectum. It can be liquid or more like a paste in texture.

The arrows show the position of the anal glands

The arrows show the position of the anal glands

When everything is working properly, the anal glands empty naturally and cause no trouble. Unfortunately it is quite common for the glands to become over-full or for the duct to become blocked, and then they cause discomfort. When they do not empty naturally, they are described as impacted and the condition is called anal gland saculitis. The dog will then try to lick at the area or will “scoot” their bottom along the ground in an attempt to relieve the irritation. This may well make things worse and allow infection to enter, leading to an abscess. If things get this bad, the main sign will be pain, or a blood-stained discharge if it bursts.

Dogs who suffer from this problem regularly will tend to show similar symptoms each time. As well as scooting or licking under their tail, dogs which cannot easily reach the area may chew themselves on their back or their feet instead. Sometimes the first sign of trouble is a distinctive and very unpleasant fishy smell. Owners will usually recognise the signs in their own dog and have the glands emptied promptly by their groomer or vet.

Luckily the anal glands can be emptied fairly easily once the knack has been acquired, and as long as there is no infection present, this will be all that’s necessary. If an owner feels confident to do this job themselves, they could ask the vet to show them how to do it. It is not the nicest job in the world, because of the smell and because of the uncanny ability of the contents to squirt in unexpected directions! On the other hand, it is quite rewarding to bring almost instant relief to the dog in most cases.

If an abscess forms, it may have to be lanced and flushed out, and antibiotics will be needed. Pain-killers may also be advised as an abscess is very painful.

When anal glands cause repeated problems it is sometimes advisable to have them surgically removed under anaesthetic by your vet. Like any other operation, the advantages of this type of surgery need to be weighed up against the possible risks. It would not be recommended in cases where symptoms are mild and easily sorted out by manual emptying.

Prevention may be possible by changing the diet or increasing the amount of fibre to make the dog’s stool firmer, for example by adding bran to the diet. Anything which causes a soft or runny stool can cause anal gland problems.

Further advice can be obtained from your own veterinary surgery.

Jenny Sheriff BVM&S MRCVS

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