The care and keeping of anal glands.
January 29, 2013 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Please explain to me how my dog's butt works. Thank you.

My dog, Truman, is a 9.5 month old border terrier. He's been neutered, he's healthy, and he's freaking adorable.

Lately, he's been chasing his tail a bit and sniffing at his butt, and apparently this can be a sign of anal gland issues. He doesn't seem to be terribly displeased with the state of his butt, but better safe than sorry, right?

Problem is, this is my first dog, and I don't know anything about anal glands other than that dogs have them and sometimes they have problems. When he got neutered at 6 months, the vet tech told me she expressed his anal glands while he was still sedated, and that there was poop in there so he might need a poop later, not indicating that there was anything wrong with said anal glands in any way. (Speaking of poop, Truman's poops tend to be a bit on the soft side of normal, which might not be enough to naturally take care of the anal glands? I don't know.)

Anyway, I've read around the internet a bit on this, but I'd like some practical advice:

1) Is this something I need to concern myself with? If so, how often? He's not due back at the vet for several months still, unless he gets sick. He's not would I know if he has issues? When I look at his bum, everything looks hunky dory.

2) How would I go about doing this? Most things I've read say leave it to the vet or the groomer (simply because it's gross), but I'm reasonably competent, have a full arsenal of gloves and cleaning supplies, and Truman takes very well to all other sorts of grooming when I'm there doing it.

3) Anything else I should know?

Thank you!
posted by phunniemee to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Previously on Ask MetaFilter!
posted by misteraitch at 7:35 AM on January 29, 2013

Response by poster: Ack, how did I miss that!? Thanks!
posted by phunniemee at 7:36 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: I found this video helpful. No, it's not difficult, and not the grossest thing I've done for my dog. However, I think it helped that I'd watched the vet do it in person first.
posted by Kriesa at 7:37 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: My dog (7-yr-old Chihuahua mix) suffers from itchy butt occasionally too - sniffing, licking, no scooting. But, his is allergies, according to vet. I don't do any expressing, and his anal glands are never an issue.

For allergy treatment, I plop 1/2 a Benadryl into his food, and it helps a lot.
posted by Fig at 7:51 AM on January 29, 2013

Response by poster: But, his is allergies, according to vet.

This is a good dog is itchy in general (he just rarely focuses on his butt), and my vet said it was probably just an allergy or dry skin. I have noticed that he ceases to be itchy when I benadryl him for travel...maybe I should do that more often. Hmm.
posted by phunniemee at 7:54 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: First and most importantly, Truman is a dapper little gentleman and I want to nom on his tiny little ears. Love that stinkeye in the blue jacket photo.

Is this something I need to concern myself with?
Whether or not you need to concern yourself with this totally depends on your dog's diet and poo quality. In my experience, the majority of dogs do not require regular anal gland intervention (if any). If Truman's poos are regularly quite soft, you may want to try changing up his food and/or including more fiber in his diet (green beans and carrots are good for this). What brand are you feeding him now? Does he have any food allergies -- corn, soy, wheat, chicken, and beef are some common ones?
Once you find a food that 'firms it up,' so to speak, you may find that the sniffing/scooting problems will decrease or even disappear entirely. When I found out that my little dude was allergic to beef, I switched him from Orijen Regional Red to Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain Canine, and his glandular problems straight-up disappeared. He still sniffs and licks on occasion, but such is the way of the canine.
If food brand changes don't work, plain canned pumpkin or steamed sweet potato are very helpful, and these little packets work wonders.

If so, how often?
I have heard anecdotally that if you make a regular occurrence of expressing the glands manually, they will need to have them "done" more and more often, so I would avoid doing it altogether unless there is a clear danger or obvious evidence of leakage.

He's not would I know if he has issues? When I look at his bum, everything looks hunky dory.
Well, you'll certainly know it when you smell it. Sort of a horrifying metallic fish-like odor? Leakage can definitely still happen even if his bum looks hunky dory. I can speak from experience that sometimes when your dog is all perfectly snuggly and warm and sitting on your lap, the glands will occasionally, uh, express themselves, like, onto your pant leg(s). It hasn't necessarily meant that something is wrong, per se, just that the particular position (and perhaps the relaxation) managed to unleash a small torrent of doom that would have otherwise been loosed out of doors during his regular elimination routine.
If there are time-for-vet-visit issues, the glands will be swollen and look red and inflamed. Be aware that sometimes "looks kinda weird" can turn into "medical emergency" fairly quickly. If the problems become constant, you can get his anal glands surgically removed.

If you want to DIY a round of gland expression, definitely head to the vet or groomer, drop a tenner, and closely watch the masters do their work. Then go home with a pair of elbow-length cleaning gloves, drop your boy in the tub, get down to it, give him a nice warm bath afterward, and follow it all up with a ton of his favorite treats for having to endure the indignity of it all.
posted by divined by radio at 8:09 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

What kind of food are you using? Any additional treats with wheat (i.e. milk bones, etc.)? That can really contribute to itchy dogs. I've helped a number of dogs with "mystery" problems by giving them better (or different) food.
posted by barnone at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2013

Response by poster: He eats this dog food. We've tried a few kinds, resulting in various levels of interest and poo runniness (he got off of puppy food pretty fast). This one seems to be a winner. He loves it. (I mix it with warm water because he only likes crunchy food if it belongs to someone else's dog.)

His treats are mostly no or low wheat, and the wheat-containing treats are very occasional.

When I say his poops are soft, really only his nighttime poops are. They are log shaped and maintain their log shape, but fall apart when I pick them up. His morning poops have more, erm, structure.
posted by phunniemee at 8:36 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: My dog has had on and off anal gland issues the whole time we've had him. One of the main signs we've noticed is the smell. If he's having troubles he'll get little drops of very smelly liquid out of his butt and that's how we know it's time add some bulk to his diet. Also he will lick at his bottom and if any liquid has come out he will frantically try to lick it up and seems almost embarrassed by it.

When we first got him he had to go every 3 months to have them done but as we've improved his diet and his poops have become firmer and he's having less tummy issues (he suffers from HGE which gave him diarrhea a lot). Firmer poops can help the squeezing the fluid out, though sometimes the glands are just shaped funny and so don't get emptied as well.

If his poops are a little soft maybe add a little rice to his diet to bulk up and firm up the poops as you want nice big firm poo to squeeze those glands as they come out, if you do that he might just express the glands naturally. If you notice a yucky smell or swelling or he appears to be in pain get to the vets as the glands can get infected. If the liquid that comes out becomes yellow or puss looking the gland is most likely infected and your dog might need antibiotics.

You can learn to squeeze the glands yourself, it's not the grossest thing I've done, but I'd much rather pay someone else $10 bucks to do it at the groomers.
posted by wwax at 8:39 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: Our puggle had plugged anal glande only once, and oh my the smell gave it away. it smelled like strong, damp mold- and Did for an exstended time (She will occasionally "express" and make that smell randomly Or when She's startled- but that dissapates like a fart.)

She has allergies like crazy, and gets particularly itchy if She eats something off the street Or it's really pollen-e outside- and a little hypo-allergenic bath and a benedril stops the itching.

I wouldnt try to manually express your dogs glands until after you have confermed it with a vet- not because it's gross but because it's just so unpleasant for the dog. No one likes a finger up the butt if you can help it.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2013

A reputable groomer can also do this for you. I just have it done when I take them in for a grooming.

One dog always makes direct eye contact when he does the pooch scooch! Even though it is gross, it makes me crack up.

It's like he's telling me it is time to go in. :)

I supplement my dog's diets with doggy treats that are basically dried sweet potato. They love them and I do notice a difference in how firm their poops are when they eat them.
posted by dottiechang at 9:15 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

A stool-firmer-upper recommended by our vet is canned pumpkin. We add a hearty scoop it to our dog's food once a day. He loves it, and it really does work to firm up his poops. No additives - just pumpkin (don't buy the spiced kind!).
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:51 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My veterinarian told me that soft poop can be an indication that you are overfeeding. Try feeding him a tiny bit less in the morning, you should know within a couple of days whether it makes a difference.
posted by halogen at 10:02 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: Canned pumpkin or carrots don't seem to do a lot to firm up our persnickety dog's poo. The thing that helps the most is a teaspoon of Perfect Form fiber supplement mixed into his dinner. But on top of that, he occasionally gets fish-butt, and we express at home.

I hold the tail up and drape lots of tissue over the area with one hand, and with the other I just apply pressure from the outside (place thumb and first finger at around 4 and 8 o'clock, in the circles in this photo, then press in and up). I've never used the method where I insert a finger in the rectum - seems much less comfortable for a small dog. As soon as I get an unproductive squeeze, I stop. Then it's definitely bath time.
posted by twoporedomain at 10:12 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: Canned pumpkin solved the problem for us: firmer poo, and no more anal gland issues. We just give our dogs a nice dollop of canned pumpkin on top of each meal. (Make sure you use pure pumpkin, and NOT pumpkin pie filling.)

If your pup needs his anal glands expressed from time to time, and you decide that this is something you will do for him, please ask your vet to show you how to do it properly. If you don't do it right, you could hurt your dog.
posted by Boogiechild at 10:24 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: Yes... +1 on the pumpkin, which we started doing after my dog had a problem with his glands. No recurrence since. We give him (a 70 lb. dog) about 2 TBSP at each feeding (morning and night). Our smaller beagle (about 40 lb.) gets 1 TBSP.
posted by Doohickie at 11:34 AM on January 29, 2013

Anal sac issues are now thought to be almost always related to dietary allergies/intolerances. Manual expression is at best a band-aid, and at worst making the problem worse. It's generally advised to change diets to a limited ingredient diet with a novel protein source (Natural Balance makes several reasonably-priced ones), and you may need to try several months on several proteins before you find the right one. Many vets still aren't up to speed with this, but the veterinary dermatologists have been saying this for years. You don't need to express the sacs, you need to address the cause of the problem, my sister's dog had chronic infections in his anal sacs until she cut chicken out of his diet, and hasn't had a problem in years at this point.
posted by biscotti at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2013

I expressed the anal glands of my friend's dog once. It became The Event We Will Never Speak Of Again. I would totally pay someone to do the deed if it is necessary. I'm not easily grossed out at all, but that was, well, unspeakable.
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:17 PM on January 29, 2013

Just in case your dog's situation isn't due to anal glands that need expressing - and related instead to itching due to skin issues ... the fur coats for our two terrier mixes when from flaky and dull to shiny and flake-free after we changed their dog foods. Their fur wasn't bad before ... but their coats simply glow now.

Two good sources of reliable dog food reviews: Dog Food Advisor and Whole Dog Journal (subscription required). Their research seems to indicate that a primary ingredient of "salmon meal" indicates a lower quality protein source than other sources (for instance, Orijen's first ingredient is fresh boneless salmon.)

BTW ... you may want to double check to see if your dog's food has been recalled. Diamond Pet Foods, which owns & manufactures Nature's Domain, has been beset by dog food recalls due to salmonella contamination over the past year. Because so many different dog food labels are manufactured at the contaminated facility, it might be hard to trace all the recalls, but there are a huge number of them.
posted by apennington at 8:34 PM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: Upon further, more educated examination of the butt issue, I'm pretty confident there's nothing unsavory going on with my pup's anal glands. But now I know what to look for, so we're on the right track. His coat is pretty shiny, but he does get a LOT of baths (I'm technically allergic to dogs), so I imagine that contributes to some itchiness. My vet has given me the all clear every time I've asked about it, though, so I'm not overly concerned. Little fuzz dude seems pretty happy, all things considered.

BTW ... you may want to double check to see if your dog's food has been recalled.

Yup, thanks. The recalls are scary. First time I got it I checked the bag over like crazy to make sure, but it looks like we're good. It may not be the superbest food, but it's better than a lot of them, and my dog loves it (as opposed to most other foods that he's just sort of poked at) for now so I'm gonna stick with it. Top it off with some pumpkin every now and again, apparently.

posted by phunniemee at 12:51 PM on January 31, 2013

In terms of the frequent baths - make sure you're using a dog shampoo without a lot of detergents. Most shampoos are way too drying for dog skin, especially if you're giving frequent baths. I've used this Oatmeal and Aloe soap-free shampoo for my dog and it's worked well. There's also a dog shampoo made with Emu Oil, which sounds a bit strange, but is known to be very calming for their skin.

If the itching gets worse, this shampoo (and their conditioner) can be a miracle-worker for a variety of problems.

Hugs to Truman :-)
posted by barnone at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2013

« Older Martial Arts for Weight Loss   |   Help me think through Lead in drinking water--... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.