Wheaton dog with anal glands.

Caring four our four-legged friends can be a lot of fun, but there are some not-so-pleasant aspects as well. Anal glands tend to top the list of things that we would all rather avoid, but caring for them is an important part of pet ownership. The pet experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital understand this, though, and when it comes to Wheaton veterinary services, caring for your pet’s anal glands is something we are equipped for and ready to help you with. 

Why Anal Glands

Anal glands in pets are not incredibly useful. They are mostly a vestigial organ, kind of like our appendix. They likely played a big role in communication amongst others of the same species, and while they still pack an odiferous punch, our domestic critters don’t rely on them quite like their ancestors may have.

The anal glands are a pair of sacs located just inside the rectum (at about the five and seven o’clock positions for those of you that are curious). They are lined by glands that produce sweat as well as modified sebaceous glands that secrete an oily substance. Together, these types of glands create a unique, oily fluid of varying thickness that has a smell not to be forgotten.

Most of the time, the anal glands are expressed when the pet has a bowel movement. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t occur. The anal glands may not properly express if:

  • The bowel movements are not bulky enough to cause expression (diarrhea, low fiber diet, etc.)
  • The fluid itself is too thick to express
  • The opening of the anal gland is clogged
  • There is swelling or inflammation of the gland such as in allergic skin disease
  • The pet is overweight and additional fat pushes the glands out of normal position 

Anal glands that won’t express are called impacted and may need to be manually expressed by one of our expert staff members

Anal glands may also become infected or abscessed. More rarely they can develop a serious cancer called an anal gland adenocarcinoma

When Wheaton Veterinary Services Can Help

Most pets need little or no help with their anal glands. Routine wellness examinations, a good diet, and appropriate weight management may be all your pet needs to maintain happy anal glands. 

Keeping an eye out for trouble is important, though, as well. Wheaton veterinary services are needed if you notice your pet:

  • Has redness or a swelling near the rectum
  • Seems painful when you touch near the rectum
  • Seems distressed when going to have a bowel movement
  • Has a bad odor
  • Is dragging or scooting
  • Wants to lick or chew a lot at their rear

If you notice any of the above, make an appointment to come see us, as these are signs of a potential anal gland issue that can be uncomfortable, to say the least. 

Some pets may need regular anal gland expressions, and might need to come and see us periodically for an internal expression. The time between these can vary from pet to pet, and our staff will discuss intervals and any other recommendations based on your individual pet’s unique needs.

Anal glands are one of the less fun aspects of your pet, but worth it to be able to enjoy all the other wonderful things about pet ownership. We are happy to partner with you and other Glen Ellyn area pet owners to make this happen. Anal glands or not, our pet patients are the best.