Help, my Dog... ...has a problem with his anal glands!?

The anal glands are two glands which are found either side of the dog’s anus. They are two small openings which open directly into the anus. The gland produces a strong smelling liquid which is secreted when the dog defecates. The scent in the anal gland secretion has a marking function, acting as a ‘scent flag’ to other dogs in the “pack” and is used for territory marking. Another function of the anal glands is that they serve as a collection vessel for waste products of the metabolic system.

Many dogs have problems with their anal glands because they are not emptied properly.

Help My DogThe contents accumulate leading to the anal glands becoming overfull. This causes irritation and itching. The dog will lick the area excessively or will rub its rear end on the floor, called ‘tobogganing’. Overfull anal glands are very susceptible to infection, which can lead to inflammation of the anal glands. Emptying the over full anal glands yourself or having this done by a vet or dog groomer can help the problem for a while. It relieves the pressure and the irritation disappears.

With recurring problems it is sometimes advised that anal glands be surgically removed. Never give in to this suggestion. Your dog will lose the “scent flag” for other dogs and his/her “identity”. This will result in considerable stress and can even lead to aggression. Above all removing the anal glands means that the metabolic system will be robbed of one of its collection vessels for its waste products, which puts an extra burden on the skin.

What can cause the anal glands to become overfull?

An important fact is that, when there are anal glands problems, in most cases both anal glands are full. Therefore a logical conclusion is that there is most probably a “technical” reason for the problem.

Normally the anal glands are emptied by the outward pressure exerted when the dog defecates, (just like with a can of fresh cream). Although there are known cases where abnormalities in the dog’s build make it impossible to empty the anal glands naturally, most problems occur because stools are either too soft or too hard.

If the stool is too soft it isn't able to press firmly enough against the dog's anal glands to provide the necessary pressure to express them. If the stools are too hard and dry then there is so much pressure that the anus clamps shut. The openings of the anal glands are also forced shut, (when you hold the spout (anus) of a can of cream closed, nothing comes out). In both cases this leads to overfull anal glands and the resulting problems. As well as the fact that many dogs suffer from stools which are too soft and loose, over the last few years we have increasingly been hearing about problems arising from stools which are too hard and dry. One of the reasons for this is that there is a “game” being played between various dog food producers. The “game” is to see whose food produces the least stools. This “game” is partly based on the consumer’s assumption that if there are fewer stools then the food has been better digested. Even though there is an ounce of truth in this premise, it really depends on the amount of fibre in the food and the moisture content that remains in the stools after the elimination of moisture in the colon. The latter is influenced by various supplements to the food which make sure that more moisture is removed from the “waste pulp”, in the colon. This makes the stools harder and dryer and gives the impression that the food has been better digested. A high bone content in the food also results in a dryer stool, this can usually be identified by a high mineral content as well as ash content of the food (more than 6%).

How to help anal glands problems.

First the anal glands (sacs) must be emptied. If you don’t want to do this yourself then ask your vet or visit a dog groomer. If there is an anal gland infection, then let the vet take care of it.

To avoid as many further problems as possible it is advisable to take more drastic measures. As you will have previously read, anal gland problems are often caused by stools which are either too soft or too hard. It is therefore wise to pay more attention to this matter.

If your dog’s stools are permanently too soft or for example reasonably ok in the morning and too loose in the afternoon, take a look at the information leaflet NO 1; “Help, my Dog ... has sensitive intestines!?” Follow the advice that it provides and you will see that over time it is not only your dog’s stools that are improved but the problems with the anal glands are gone or certainly significantly reduced, and that the general condition of your dog has been given a boost.

If on the other hand your dog’s stools are too hard and dry (the dog has to among other things, press long and hard to defecate), it is important that the stools become “smoother” and slide out better. This can only happen if less moisture is eliminated from the “waste pulp” in the colon, giving the stool a more natural form once again. You can achieve this by, among other things, changing your dog’s food to Farm Food HE.

At Farm Food we have made a conscious decision not to take part in this “game”. This means that “Farm Food stools” even though they are compact, are not too dry. The stools have a normal amount of moisture which allows them to slide out better, and the dog doesn’t have to exert too much pressure so that the contents of the anal glands can be excreted.

Farm Food HE is a food with a very high digestibility. Despite this, if you change to Farm you will notice that especially in the beginning, your dog will defecate once more often than before and that there are more stools than before.

Very often dogs with stools which are too hard and dry also have an imbalanced “weak” intestinal flora. If your dog also suffers from this then it is possible that after changing to Farm Food HE there may be some diarrhoea. In that case we advise you to follow the same advice as for “a sensitive bowel”. Information and advice regarding this matter can be found in the information leaflet “Help, my Dog ... has sensitive intestines!?”


© Farm Food Dog Food, Gerrit de Weerd. - FARM FOOD HE, The natural alternative.
Leaflet from the series “Help my Dog”: the holistic approach to fighting health problems in dogs.
Download this brochure as PDF, click this link.