What are anal glands?
Anal glands are two small glands just inside your pet’s anus. They sit at about 4 and 8 o’clock on either side of your pet’s anus. The material secreted into these glands is thick, oily, stinky, and is commonly described as smelling fishy. Normally, every time your pet has a bowel movement there is pressure placed on these glands and some of the secretion is placed on the fecal material. Other dogs and cats are then able to tell who has been in the neighborhood, back yard, litter box etc, just by sniffing the stools they find.
What is a ruptured anal gland/ anal gland abscess?
Sometimes animals become unable to empty their glands on their own. The anal gland material will begin to build up in the glands, (the material is continually produced even if the glands are not emptying properly). If your pet has a history of being unable to empty their glands, you may notice the tell tale signs of them scooting across the floor or licking at their anus excessively. If dealt with sooner rather than later, the glands can be emptied manually by a veterinarian or technician. If they are not emptied and left to keep filling, they can become impacted, which is quite uncomfortable for your pet. This can lead to abscess formation and anal gland rupture. The rupture occurs when the abscess ruptures through the skin, causing a messy and smelly situation. There will be a hole at the anal gland site where anal gland material, abscess material and blood have come though. Anal gland ruptures are sometimes mistaken for rectal bleeding.
Treatment of an anal gland rupture
Depending on the tolerance of your pet, treatment may require some sedation (or possibly a full anesthetic) to clean up the site. The open gland will need to be thoroughly flushed and rinsed to remove any left over infected material that hasn’t drained yet. Your pet will then go home with oral antibiotics for a week or two and an Elizabethan collar (cone of shame!). Your pet should be rechecked in about 1 week to ensure proper healing is occurring. You may also be instructed to warm compress the area twice daily for 5-7 days to promote tissue healing and help drain out any more infected material.
Long term management
Monitoring the anal glands
Keep an eye on your pet, watch for scooting on the floor and excessive licking of their the anal area. This may indicate that the anal glands are full again and need to be emptied before they rupture. Most dogs and cats with anal gland issues will need their glands emptied every 4-8 weeks.
Fibre supplement or fibre diet
Adding a fibre supplement such as Glandex® or canned pumpkin to your pet’s food or feeding a veterinary diet formulated with added fibre can help bulk up the stool and help with stool quality. This can help the stool put more pressure on the glands during a bowel movement so they empty like they are supposed to.
Supplementing your pet’s diet with veterinary probiotics can also help with stool quality and overall gastrointestinal health.
Pets with chronic recurrent anal gland abscessed may benefit from surgical removal of the glands. This surgery has the benefit of curing your pet’s anal gland issues. Although rare, temporary or permanent nerve damage can happen, resulting in lack of bowel control.