Don’t get behind on your pet’s health

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - DR ANEL LIGTHELM

FEW top­ics raise dog own­ers’ eye­brows (and lower dogs’ tails) faster than the sub­ject of anal sacs.

It’s not the most pleas­ant topic but un­der­stand­ing the prob­lems associated with anal glands can greatly in­crease your pet’s qual­ity of life.

Does your dog drag his bot­tom along the floor? Does she try to scratch or bite at her bot­tom?

Do you some­times no­tice a strong fishy smell on your soft fur­nish­ings or com­ing from your dog? Does he ob­ject to his tail being han­dled or lifted? If you an­swered yes to any of these ques­tions it could be that your dog’s anal glands are not emp­ty­ing on their own.

The anal glands – or anal sacs – are found in dogs and cats, as well as many other small mam­mals. They are just un­der the skin on each side of and slightly be­low the anal open­ing.

They are scent glands and, prior to do­mes­ti­ca­tion, were used for mark­ing ter­ri­tory. In dogs they pro­duce an odour that iden­ti­fies the in­di­vid­ual and marks his stool to es­tab­lish ter­ri­tory. This is why dogs greet each other by sniff­ing at the rear. In the do­mes­ti­cated species, they serve lit­tle to no prac­ti­cal pur­pose and are of­ten the cause of great dis­tress to many an­i­mals.

Af­fected pets may lick the anal area; show ex­ces­sive ex­cre­ment or have prob­lems with defe­ca­tion; scoot along the floor or have swelling, red­ness and pain around the anus. This be­hav­iour is most com­monly linked to anal glands, not worms, as is com­monly be­lieved.

Nor­mal an­i­mals will ex­press small amounts of the se­cre­tion in the anal glands with their bowel move­ments. They can also be emp­tied by force­ful con­trac­tions of the anal sphinc­ter when a dog is fright­ened or up­set. In some an­i­mals, this does not oc­cur and the anal gland will be­come full and cause dis­com­fort for the an­i­mal.

The anal sacs should be emp­tied by the pres­sure of stool pass­ing through the anus but im­pactions tend to oc­cur most of­ten in small­breed and over­weight dogs. For var­i­ous rea­sons, such as the con­for­ma­tion of the an­i­mals, the thick­ness of the gland’s se­cre­tions, or the soft­ness of the stool, these glands and their ducts of­ten be­come clogged or im­pacted.

Bac­te­ria make their way into the glands, which leads to ab­scess for­ma­tion in the gland(s). This is very painful.

The cause of tu­mour for­ma­tion is of­ten un­known but might be the re­sult of chronic ir­ri­ta­tion.

Dogs with small, early anal gland tu­mours may not show any signs of dis­com­fort. Dogs with larger, more ad­vanced tu­mours, may scoot or lick ex­ces­sively, have swelling in the area of the anal gland and/or have prob­lems defe­cat­ing.

Man­ual ex­pres­sion of the anal gland is rec­om­mended for an­i­mals that are scoot­ing. The fre­quency of ex­pres­sion will vary by an­i­mal. Some pets might need anal glands ex­pressed as of­ten as monthly and some once or twice a year.

In the case of bac­te­rial in­fec­tion and/or ab­scess for­ma­tion, treat­ment is of­ten done un­der anaes­the­sia, due to the sever­ity of the pain.

For pets with chronic prob­lems, sur­gi­cal re­moval of the glands is rec­om­mended.

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