One of the most common habits of dogs is also often considered one of the most annoying or inappropriate habits–sniffing around the bottom of other dogs. While many dog owners may understand that this is a way for canines to learn more about one another, chances are that few individuals comprehend exactly how this works.
About Anal Glands
All predators, including dogs, have anal sacs and glands on both sides and just below their anus. These sacs and glands produce a thick, oily fluid that is useful in identification and territory marking. When one dog smells another dog’s bottom, the anal glands can communicate sex, age, health status and other important things. Unfortunately, and to many dog owners’ dismay, this fluid also comes with a very distinctive, strong and understandably unpleasant odor, which is only made worse when the glands fail to empty properly.
Nature designed dogs’ anal glands to empty whenever the dog has a bowel movement. However, impacted or unhealthy anal glands fail to express normally and regularly, as designed, which can lead to further health problems, not to mention extremely foul odors that cling to your dog despite any amount of external cleaning and grooming. If a dog’s stool is soft for several days in a row, as occurs after a bout of diarrhea, there is insufficient pressure exerted to empty their anal glands. This can lead to impacted anal glands, which results in swelling as well as painful infection. Unhealthy anal glands can be the result of inherited malformations, or because of a poor diet.
It is usually fairly easy to determine whether your dog has a problem with their anal glands–primarily because of the very strong and persistent odor coming from these glands, along with the brown or grey fluid released from them. Healthy anal gland secretions are normally quite minute, so you are not likely to either see or smell them, which makes unhealthy anal glands all the more recognizable. Furthermore, a dog who is experiencing anal gland problems will often take action to relieve his discomfort. This can include biting at his bottom or dragging it along the ground, sitting uncomfortably and apparently restlessly, chasing their tail, or even licking their paws out of frustration.
When your dog’s anal glands are impacted or unhealthy, they will need help in emptying them, often through an individual manually expressing the fluid they contain. Needless to say, this is a very smelly process, but it is important to your dog’s health and must therefore be done. Some groomers and most veterinarians can assist, as needed, in either instructing dog owners in how to properly express their dog’s anal glands or in expressing them for the owner.
Most dog experts agree that healthy anal glands should be left alone to do as nature intended, and should not be interfered with in any way. Applying pressure to anal glands can cause ruptures and infections if done incorrectly, so even where a dog owner is certain that there is a problem, they should check with their dog’s veterinarian prior to attempting to express them. But even where a dog owner chooses to pay someone else to express their dog’s anal glands, it is undoubtedly unpleasant to have to deal with this problem. Prevention is therefore key, and your dog’s veterinarian can help by recommending a high-fiber diet that will ensure bulkier stool and more natural and regular anal gland emptying. If this doesn’t work, you may need to check with your dog’s veterinarian to see about anal gland removal.