Some dog owners don’t know anything about their dog’s anal glands. Other owners, who have had to have their dog’s anal glands expressed, are more than familiar with the topic. Anal glands are unique to canines, and they sometimes cause smelly situations for dog owners. Why do dogs even have these glands? The Union Lake Pet Services team is here to dive into the topic to help you better understand your dog’s anatomy.

What Are Anal Glands?

First things first, what are anal glands? Dogs have small sacs that bookend the anus. Only about the size of small grapes, these sacs, or anal glands, sit underneath the tail. They are filled with a type of oily substance that has a very distinctive odor. Many people describe it as “fishy” or redolent of skunks. Dogs, however, love the smell (at least we think they do). When the glands function properly, you will never have to think about them.

What Is the Purpose of These Glands?

While there is still speculation about the exact purpose of these pungent glands, there are a few strong hypotheses. These include:

  • Providing some lubrication to make defecation easier
  • Leaving a scent so dogs can mark their territory to other dogs who can pick up the smell
  • Diffusing specific pheromones to enable dogs to introduce themselves through scent

You might be in the majority if you’ve never had to think about these glands and their function. If you do, it probably means there is an issue at play.

Anal Gland Issues

Sometimes fluid builds up inside the anal glands and leads to problems for your pup. If you notice any of the following, it could mean there is a blockage in an anal gland:

  • Repeated scooting of the bum across the floor
  • Excessive licking of the backside
  • An unpleasant odor that doesn’t go away
  • Swelling or redness under the tail

If you see any of this behavior, you should schedule a vet visit to see if there is a fluid buildup in the anal glands. The backup is uncomfortable and can become dangerous without veterinary intervention.

Anal Gland Expression

If the anal glands are backed up with fluid, they might have to be expressed. This procedure lets the vet manually empty the glands so they can continue serving their purpose. The veterinarian can also perform an exam to see what might be causing the buildup and prevent another one from happening in the future. Sometimes, glands will get infected, in which case your dog might need antibiotics. Changes in diet, adding more fiber, and providing plenty of water can help prevent these issues. If your dog’s anal glands keep getting backed up, your veterinarian might suggest surgical removal.

Professional groomers like the staff at Union Lake Pet Services can express anal glands in your pups. We offer a full range of grooming services for dogs and cats to ensure your furry friend always looks and feels their best. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call (248) 363-6262.