Anal Glands

Anal Glands

Anal glands are little sacs that sit inside dogs’ and cats’ rectums. They secrete really stinky pheromones to assist dogs and cats in identifying each other. For thousands of years, dogs and cats have existed without the need to have their anal glands expressed. So if your pet has anal gland problems, what’s going on?

Unnecessary Trauma

In grooming schools during the ‘40s and ‘50s, groomers were taught to express the anal glands. Emptying the anal sacs was considered to be a courtesy, but the downside is that pets were never meant to have them recurrently expressed. This unnecessary trauma is a major reason why animals have recurrent anal gland problems.

Loss of Muscle Tone

When your pet’s body becomes dependent on artificial anal gland expression, muscle tone is lost and the body is no longer able to do its job. If muscle tone is lost through recurrent expression, please do not have your veterinarian or groomer automatically express the glands. Instead, your vet can check the glands on a regular basis and determine whether the glands are normal-sized, not too full, and whether the duct is working properly.

GI Tract Inflammation

The rectum in the anus is the last part of the gastrointestinal tract and any underlying disease that can influence the gastrointestinal tract can also influence the anal glands. Inflammation of the colon, allergies, or anything that can cause soft stools (parasites, medications, poor diet) can cause the anal glands to become infected. It’s the pressure of the firm stool against the colon wall that effectively and naturally expresses the anal glands. Pet’s stools that are recurrently soft or if they’re having diarrhea often, recurrent anal gland issues can become a problem.

If you are already feeding a biologically appropriate food and your pet still has issues with their anal glands.  Digestive Enzymes (such as Nature’s Farmacy Digestive Enhancer or Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes and Probiotics) can help them process their food properly and canned pumpkin (such as Nummy Tum Tum Organic Pumpkin or Fruitables Digestive Supplement) can be a great supplement to help normalize the stool.

Glands in the Wrong Spot

Some animals have anal glands that are placed deep and low inside the rectum. In this case, even though there is healthy stool being passed out of the rectum, there’s not enough pressure to the wayward anal glands to effectively empty their contents during a bowel movement. Occasionally those animals must have anal gland expression performed because they’re not capable of doing it themselves.

Do I need to do anything if my pet doesn’t have a problem?

So remember: if your pets don’t have an underlying anal gland problem, leave them alone! Do not squeeze the anal glands. If your pets do have anal gland problems, identify it as an inflammatory response, an allergic response, a soft stool problem, or gland placement issue. Addressing the root cause of why your pets are dealing with recurrent anal gland irritation is always the best choice.

Often times, the diet can be the root cause of the anal gland problem.  Please see our pages on Substandard Ingredients in Commercial Pet Foods and Side Effects of Improper Nutrition to help with ensuring your pet’s food is appropriate for what their system was made for.

Additional Information: