Updated: Feb 9
Anyone with a dog has probably at some point seen them do this peculiar move.... legs in the air and dragging their bum along the floor. Not at all dignified!
Now the most likely reason for this is their anal glands are irritating them. The anal glands are 2 small sacks placed either side of the anus. These glands produce a fishy smelling liquid which is released as they poo and thought to be used to mark territory. These glands are the reason our dogs like to embarrass us whenever they can by sniffing each others butts!!
(Cats also have these glands but it is much less common for them to have problems).
Many dogs go throughout life without any problems with their anal gland but for some they can prove quite troublesome. The problems generally start then the gland becomes full, infected or blocked. The following are signs to look out for that there may be a problem with the glands.
Scooting on the floor
Straining when passing poo
Licking and biting at their bottom
Recurrent foul fishy smell at back end
Swelling or redness to side of anus
Dog off colour and miserable.
If your four legged companion shows any of these symptoms you should seek the advise of your Vet.
Your visit to the practice will likely involve the glands being emptied by the Vet and the material expressed examined for pus and blood. Now going from a lot of past experience this procedure is not particularly enjoyable for anyone involved, despite that its usually over quickly and a diagnosis can be made. Often the glands are just emptied and you are off on you way after a few minutes, problem solved. Sometimes the gland can be emptied and the fluid discharged is pus- this signals there is an infection within the gland an you vet may want to prescribe your dog antibiotics.
Probably the most uncomfortable anal gland problem is an anal gland abscess. This can present as an angry swelling to the side of the bottom. you dog may be licking it and quite uncomfortable. These definitely warrant a visit to the vets. These abscesses often burst through the skin and while that can be a little bit messy with some pus and blood. Once it has burst the dog is generally a lot happier. These guys are usually prescribed antibiotics, pain relief and a 'cone of shame' . Often the gland cannot be emptied at the first visit and will require a check up a few days later. Occasionally the dog will need sedated to empty the abscess as they can be sore and some dogs will understandably not tolerate it awake.
Unfortunately some dogs are more prone to anal gland problems and can have frequent issues. My patients with ongoing problems come in regularly to get their glands emptied routinely to try and reduce chance of blockage. Doing it at this early stage is quick and easy.
I also recommend that the dogs fibre intake is increased, this helps firm the faeces and potentially increase the pressure on the glands as the faeces passes aiming to help empty the glands more effectively. There are a number of OTC veterinary products that help with this. Top of my list of recommendations is Pro-fibre (click for link).
It is uncommon but tumours can occur in the anal glands. When they do they can be quite aggressive and have the potential to spread. If a tumour is detected the anal gland can be removed but this surgery does carry some risks such as faecal incontinence. Chemo and radiotherapy may also be used. Please remember this cancer is rare and the other problems above are much more common and likely.
If you have any concerns about your dogs anal glands then speak to your vet.