July 28, 2014 3:27 PM   Subscribe

My dog has fantastically, horribly, monstrously overactive anal glands. The vet believes it may be due to allergies, but so far no treatments have been successful. I am reaching the end of my rope.

My beloved little gooberface dog unfortunately has wildly overactive anal glands. She doesn't seem to be able to express them on her own while pooping, as is the norm. Instead, they either fill to the point of painful swelling, where she scoots with an unholy vigor on everything from the sidewalk to the bath mat, often leaving her poor little butt super sore, or they leak horrible noxious ass juice, sometimes explosively expressing themselves all over me, my house, and and my sanity.


01) Leaving them to sort themselves out on their own. This was a terrible failure, the details of which can be left to your imagination, Dear Readers, but know that I am now on couch #3 since April.

02) Having them expressed weekly at the vet's office. This is the current state of affairs, however she still expresses them at least once on her own in between vet squeezings. This is always in the house and never on a walk. This leaves me in a constant state of anxiety over when it might happen next. I dread coming home from work to find that she's done it on her bed, on the couch, on the wall. I am aware of the existence of Nature's Miracle, yes.

03) Bulking up her stools to the point of comic enormity. She gets canned pumpkin on her food, plus psyllium husks and flax seeds. Her poops are very large, very firm, very solid, perfectly regular, the Platonic ideal of dog poops. Thus far it has had no effect on the natural expression of her glands.

04) Putting her on a strict hypoallergenic diet. She's on a rare protein Royal Canin prescription diet, which has completely cured all her other allergy symptoms: no more flaky skin, no more dandruff, no more licking of paws due to foot fungus, no more chronic ear infections. It's all gone, except for this One Terrible Thing.

05) Warm compresses. I've been putting warm wet paper towel compresses on her butt for about 10 minutes before every walk, in the hopes of stimulating her glands to let go of their terrible bounty while she poops. This does not appear to have had any effect but she seems to find it soothing, especially on days when she's been scooting badly.

06) Tiny diapers. I got her a pair of doggy continence bloomers with a bunch of diaper inserts. Unfortunately, the only size that fits her also has an overlarge tail hole, which exposes her entire butthole, rendering them useless for butt juice protection.


01) The vet has offered to teach me how to do the expression myself. I'm a little hesitant to try, not because it's revolting, although that is an unavoidable fact, but because I have a neck injury that causes problems with loss of feeling in my hands, and my grip is uncertain. I'm afraid I might oversqueeze and hurt her poor little butt.


01) I'm aware that there is surgery to remove the glands, but the fact that it can result in permanent fecal incontinence makes it a no-go. I can barely deal with the butt gland issue, and I know for a fact that I would not be able to deal with a poop-filled house for the next 10 years of our lives. I would also feel like the world's hugest asshole if I asked the breeder to take her back once I basically broke her butt.

The vet did recommend it as an option but admitted that there wasn't (yet) an actual medical necessity for doing it. Her glands aren't infected or impacted, they're just supercharged.

The breeder has offered to take her back and give me a full refund. This is my last-ditch option, I love this silly little meatloaf and don't want to give her up.

At this point I am open to pretty much any suggestions on how to defeat these monstrous fucking ass glands, up to and including actual prayer to the pantheon of deities of your choice. At her most horribly prolific they expressed startlingly copious amounts of fluid 4 times over 6 days. There were 2 full veterinary expressions during that time in addition to her explosions. I spent most of that week fantasizing about being crushed by a falling chunk of frozen space pee.

I would also be glad to hear anyone's personal stories of success or failure with the ass gland surgery for their pets.

Please help me keep my dog without losing my mind.
posted by elizardbits to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Dude, you're going to have to glove up, and go in.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 4:00 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

(It's not as bad as it seems. Really.)
posted by ereshkigal45 at 4:01 PM on July 28, 2014

2nding to just learn how to do it yourself. Some gloves, a bit of lube, you're done in 2 minutes.

Plus, you get some special bonding time with your critter.
posted by gnutron at 4:07 PM on July 28, 2014

Learn how to express the glands yourself. Your vet can show you how to be gentle. And maybe if you do it every day, the amount of fluid will be less each time and you'll minimize your dog's discomfort between "treatments." All will be well.
posted by Boogiechild at 4:09 PM on July 28, 2014

What about walking her more often during the day-maybe a dogwalker or doggie daycare? If she pooped more often maybe it would keep the glands cleaned out better on their own? I had tried pumpkin and also had some success with California Naturals foods- I think herring and sweet potato for my collie mix with this issue.
posted by bookrach at 4:17 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: Right, yes, the doctor suggested showing me how to do it. But as I mentioned, I have nerve damage which results in numbness, weakness, and tremors in both hands (a lot worse in the left); there are days when it's bad enough that I can't reliably do stuff like write legibly, hold hot beverages, put in my contacts, etc. Hurting my dog is a serious concern, as hand sensation comes and goes unpredictably.

behold the accursed butt

posted by elizardbits at 4:21 PM on July 28, 2014

You can totally do this yourself. I've done it for my pooch for almost 10 years and it's really not a huge deal. You don't need a lot of force or dexterity.

With your vet's guidance, I think you could pretty quickly determine if it's something that you can do with practice. Then once you get in the habit, you'll be totally fine.

I do my pup's during pre-bathtime when it's easy to just wash the fluid down the drain. My husband is a little horrified by the process, but I guarantee it's got to be ten times better than the grossness and anxiety you've been dealing with.
posted by annaramma at 4:22 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, your vet should show you how to do this and there a number of youtube videos as well. Youtube is how I learned how to take my dog's temperature. It'll be fine. You might try twice daily for a bit, then daily, then every other day, etc., until you figure out the best frequency.
posted by shoesietart at 4:27 PM on July 28, 2014

I'm not sure how the nerve damage affects your grip from what you describe, but could you use something to squeeze the dog's tush for you? Like using a pair of tongs or something instead of your fingers? If that's too big, tweezers? Would that help any if it's just a matter of clamping down? I'd definitely run that by your doctor, of course.

If hurting your dog is still a concern, can you apply a numbing cream or something to to the butt area until you are good at squeezing, or on day's where your nerve damage is acting up?

(People, OP already said the doctor would do a demonstrate about how to do it. OP was concerned about nerve damage affecting OP's ability to do it.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:29 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's a pretty darn cute butt :)

Would a friend or family member be available to learn how to do it with you? They wouldn't need to do it all the time, but maybe just when you have an off day and aren't up for the task yourself? If nothing else, it might just ease up some of the stress of "OMG, if I don't squeeze the poop out of you it's going to explode all over the couch! AAAAAAAAAAH!"
posted by annaramma at 4:33 PM on July 28, 2014

annaramma beat me to it -- if I were your friend I would absolutely do this for you. New York is a big city and it's probably unlikely that you have friends living on your block/in your building, but don't discount this possibility.

(Also -- you SAID overactive anal glands, but when I read that the vet is already doing them once a week AND she's still self-expressing at least once a week I was like, oh. OH. You mean OVERACTIVE ANAL GLANDS. Wow. One hundred hugs of sympathy for you, that sounds just awful.)
posted by kate blank at 4:40 PM on July 28, 2014

Not ideal for your finances, but could you add a weekly grooming appointment for gland business? The couple times I've taken a dog to get her hair did, that's been part of the whole deal.

My other thought I just had is that I bet there's a vet technician somewhere near you willing to stop by your house two nights a week to do the dirty for, say, $25 a, uh, "pop." You could ask Craigslist, maybe?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:44 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

If asking a friend is too much (and I think it might be), perhaps you could find a vet student eager for the practice and pay him/her to come over and do it? It might be less expensive/traumatic than weekly trips to the vet and save your upholstery.
posted by coppermoss at 4:45 PM on July 28, 2014

Could you find someone on TaskRabbit or a similar network, maybe a petsitter website, that could come and do this for you cheaply once or twice a week? It really takes only a couple minutes.

Do NOT use tongs or tweezers. Ouch.

My deepest sympathies. I had a cat like that once. Well, not that bad, but still. Ugh.
posted by ananci at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: She actually doesn't seem to mind having it done. She's always happy to go to the vet's office, and the expense is negligible, really. The main problem aside from the superpowered ass juice dispensing is the unpredictability of it all. Short of doing it or having it done every single day for the next 10 years I'm kind of at a loss how to make this not take over our lives.
posted by elizardbits at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: Oh. I guess I could put human baby diapers on her underneath the little bloomers.

posted by elizardbits at 4:51 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: This is a side issue, but have you considered crating her while you're gone during the day? That would at least confine any expression to her crate (just put a rotation of old towels on the bottom of the crate instead of a proper mat, and throw them in the wash once a week or so). There are lots of articles about crate training and a lot of AskMes where people advocate it, but TLDR most dogs like it and it's pretty easy to get them used to it.
posted by radioamy at 4:56 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, one thing about the diapers is I've dogwatched some dogs that needed diapers and they didn't cover well or would slide off unless they were strapped in with a velcro diaper holder. If you're trying just diapers but no holder, that may be the problem. There are lots of little harnesses and straps that will keep the diaper where you need it to go. And there are definitely diapers and diaper holders with tiny dog tail holes out there so I think maybe the diaper "bloomers" or whatever you got are just no good.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:58 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: This is a side issue, but have you considered crating her while you're gone during the day?

I DID, yes, but it seems suboptimal; her crate is pretty small, but it was the one she preferred over the larger ones we tried out. This is the only one she would go into voluntarily to nap, and she loves it for sleeping, or hiding from the hair dryer, but I'm gone from 10-5 and that seems a bit much. She's able to go without a walk during that time, although she's happy to have one if I can do it.

In the winter I could potentially close her up in the bathroom with some chewies and her food/water bowls, but right now it's too hot for her to be in a room without a/c.
posted by elizardbits at 5:03 PM on July 28, 2014

Excitement, parasites, fear etc can make a dog express their glands and some small dog breeds just can't control them very well, it's a problem with bully type breeds like yous. I'd crate her when I was gone for sure and work on all the possibilities but it might not be something you can "fix" without surgery unfortunately. I would definitely find a specialist surgeon if you go that route.

One thing you might try is running with her before she poops, this seems to get everything moving a little better down there.
posted by fshgrl at 5:11 PM on July 28, 2014

In regards to your last reply, would it be possible to add air-conditioning to the bathroom? I realize in an apartment this might mean some rewiring or other minor remodeling, but with all the expense you've already devoted to this problem, it seems like it might be worth it.
posted by marsha56 at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: There are all kinds of human-intended diaper options that I'd be willing to help you with. I have some old small diapers you can borrow* the next time I'm down there.

*please don't give them back
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:18 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

My great dane had the same type of problem. Can you imagine how much more of a problem that was???
Allergies were due to grains in food. I found this out after many kibble changes. I ended up feeding him Limited Diet (Nature's something or other) of chicken, sweet potato plus whatever else is in there-no grains. I also started giving him raw chicken breast with the backbones still there. (cut up into large cubes). The anal gland problem went away almost immediately. Admittedly, it took a bit for him to get used to eating raw chicken and I had to nuke it for about 15 seconds so it wasn't cold, but he likes it now.
And, Yes, to all the naysayers, you can give dogs raw bones. NEVER cooked ones-they are the ones that splinter. Preferred breeders have been feeding raw bones (chicken+others) for many years.
posted by donaken at 5:28 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: YES GIVE ME YOUR DIAPERS when are you coming, are you coming to brunch, we will have a diaper party
posted by elizardbits at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: that was for email, sry im very excited
posted by elizardbits at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the diaper front, you might consider custom diapers. Lots of people on Etsy make them, and you could specify how large the tail hole needs to be.
posted by MeghanC at 5:54 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Is she on the Royal Canin Anallergenic diet? You don't specify which diet. The Anallergenic diet is so anallergenic that if she's been on that for a couple of months with no effect, then it's not diet. It is anallergenic enough that they use it as the control when testing other diets. There is nothing commercially available which is a better choice than that diet to rule out food allergies.

I came in here to say "it's diet" (since it almost always is an allergy to something in the diet according to the veterinary dermatologists, and so many vets haven't really understood that in their practice yet), but I see you're doing that, however, if you're not using the Royal Canin Anallergenic diet, you should give that a try first. Hypoallergenic is not enough.

If she IS on the Anallergenic diet, I would suggest a second opinion from a veterinary dermatologist.

Finally, I would definitely consider learning to express them yourself, you can learn to do it externally if you are worried about feeling properly, but that is less thorough. The problem with expressing is that expressing makes the dog less likely to express on their own, but at this point, perhaps she can't express them on her own anymore anyway.

Surgery performed by someone who has done a LOT of these surgeries should at least be a consideration if all else fails.

I am so sorry you are going through this, and your dog too!
posted by biscotti at 5:56 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Anecdotally--or maybe analdotally?!--a few friends have cured errant anal gland issues via a raw diet for their dogs. As in, grinding up livers and turkey necks and what-have-you and feeding that to the dog. You can also get pre-made raw food though it's more expensive and I don't have any anal-dotal evidence towards its efficacy for this problem. The good news is your dog looks very small so you wouldn't have to process a cow every two weeks. Perhaps try that?
posted by schroedinger at 6:05 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: It's the RC Hypoallergenic Selected Protein dry food. It's been about 2 months and the vet said to try for at least 3 before giving up on that one. I guess she has gotten somewhat better on this diet, down to 1-2x a week instead of the 3-4 it was previously.
posted by elizardbits at 6:05 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: So I don't know if this makes a difference, and it's been a long, long time since I was a vet assistant and therefore fully qualified to lube up a glove and put my finger where fingers shouldn't go, but there wasn't much hand strength or grip required. As I remember it (and if I'm wrong I'm sure someone will be along to say so), you sort of gently crooked your finger like you were beckoning, and made a gentle scooping motion at about 4-5:00 and 6-7:00. You'd sort of stash a fluffy wad of kleenex in your palm in order to catch the gushings. Or, if you were unlucky, it squirted out at you like a Fruit Gusher. But you didn't actually have to close your hands or squeeze anything.

If not, I wonder if you could find someone in your area - dogwalker, groomer - who could come by and do another expression for you, so it would be happening twice a week. Or possibly investigating other crating options. She's got an adorable little face.
posted by PussKillian at 7:13 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wait, really? I thought it was more like popping cystic acne, the ones that are hard and deep under the skin. THIS IS (gross but) EXCELLENT NEWS.
posted by elizardbits at 7:56 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, expressing the glands doesn't particularly require hand strength or precision. It's gross but you should definitely be able to do it on good days and probably on mediocre days. If you can do that, it might be enough that you could skip totally on the bad-hand days. So while it might be possible on the bad-hand-days, you might not have to.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:24 PM on July 28, 2014

Some family friends had a partially paralyzed Yorkie that required diapers, and they just bought human preemie diapers and cut a hole for his tail. So that's an option.
posted by nonasuch at 9:20 PM on July 28, 2014

I've had to do this on a dachshund, it's not too terrible. Also, I have extra diapers and such from when our dachshund was sick at the end (with cancer). They were stupid expensive but she would NOT keep them on, so you're welcome to them if they'll fit on the wigglebutt.
posted by at 9:36 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've heard many a tale of a dog with anal gland problems that cleared right up when its diet was switched to include a healthy dose of raw chicken necks, turkey necks, etc. It's one of the most common reasons people switch to raw.
posted by HotToddy at 10:53 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: A rogue blade assaulted my entirely right-handed self a while back and I don't have much feeling in those fingers. I can totally express the anal glands of several species. You can too. This is hard to explain, but I picture the whole procedure and somehow, my hand works without the conscious parts of my brain being too involved.

On the allergy front: Is there a way to switch the dog's living situation for a week right after the gland express so that you might be able to determine if the problem is something in your residence?

And instead of compresses, try a very warm ass bath. The dog will sit in it if it feels good.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:56 AM on July 29, 2014

As an alternative to the crate or bathroom, can you shut her in the kitchen? They tend to be much easier to clean and as long as she's not projectile butt exploding high enough to reach surfaces that you eat off of, you should be good. I locked my leaky butt dog in there with a baby gate last night and she didn't poo on the living room carpet! she just pooped in the adjacent carpeted store room that my roommate left open
posted by deus ex machina at 7:45 AM on July 29, 2014

Response by poster: various other stuff:

- there is no way to a/c the bathroom
- i don't have a kitchen that is close-off-able
- she has been isolated from my house for 2 weeks (boarded while i was having surgery) and the problem persisted, although obviously i couldn't say if the boarding place would be 100% free of allergens
- breeder did suggest switching to a raw diet but this was like 2 days ago and i haven't had time to look into it, but the raw food someone linked above looks very interesting as it also has rabbit
- chicken/poultry necks, she has a poultry sensitivity apparently, it does bad things to her tummy (squirty poops sneaking out when she farts, and she farts always)

I could conceivably get a larger playpen area and seal her in that in the center of the living room every time iI leave her a lone in the house, but that is way more work than just baby diapering her, really. Also my next door neioghbor (who is very lovely and forgiving of loud dog snores at night) works from home so I want to minimize the chances that the dog will be barking for a prolonged amount of time every day when I leave.
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on July 29, 2014

Another crate idea (and I'm not a dog owner so this might be totally bogus) but what about a crate within a crate? Her little crate that she likes to sleep in and feels comfy in, inside a larger crate that would provide some room to roam?
posted by purple_bird at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2014

I have to N'th the raw food with bones (you can get raw food with ground bone in it). Seriously, the difference between "firm" dog stool via dog kibble+pumpkin, and the "oh-my-god, that's rock hard" firm dog stool from eating food with lots of ground bone in it is not even the same ball park.

In my experience, beef/pork meat itself leads to some runniness that the bones don't necessarily counteract. Go for ground chicken+bone, or get a lot of chicken necks and feet.
posted by nobeagle at 11:24 AM on July 29, 2014

I'm sorry to say this, but there really is nothing magical about raw, and there are significant risks to feeding it. Most dogs who do better on raw do better because of the higher protein, single protein, higher fat and/or higher moisture content. All of which can be obtained easily and more safely with a high end commercial diet. I have fed raw, I have no real objections to it other than the food borne pathogen concern (which is real, and a risk to both dog and owner, despite what raw feeders claim), but it's not a panacea, and there is far too much mumbo jumbo and muddled thinking out there about it.

Your vet is right about giving a given diet a few months to work, but I really do think you should consider the Anallergenic diet if there's no significant improvement on the Hypoallergenic one.
posted by biscotti at 2:58 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is she a Frenchie (judging from her fab little legs)? I ask because I have two, and one of mine also has major allergy issues (my God, the issues...). He's been on raw rabbit for over a year and a half now, and it's made a world of difference. My Frenchie girl is on raw beef because she needed the extra fat. I use Primal* frozen raw because it's all mixed and ground. No parts, no vitamins, etc. Yes, more expensive, but the trade off is significantly fewer vet visits.

Speaking of vets, there's an amazing group in Staten Island that specializes in bulldog breeds. I drive from New Jersey to see them (and they're way cheaper than most places). Memail me if you want their name.

Good luck with your adorable girl!

*Primal sources their rabbit from a farm in the the US. Nature's Variety rabbit is from China.

posted by dancinglamb at 8:17 PM on July 29, 2014

Response by poster: Go for ground chicken+bone, or get a lot of chicken necks and feet.

As I said, poultry seems to have been the cause behind multiple bouts of diarrhea.

At this point I think I'm unlikely to go with the raw diet because I simply don't have enough freezer space, nor is it in any way feasible to purchase a new standalone freezer or a larger fridge with more freezer space. She's also a very slow and fussy eater (she'd been hand-fed as a puppy and then free-fed her entire life) and I would basically worry nonstop about a raw food left out all day, no matter how cool via a/c my apartment is in the summer. It also, as per all NYC apartments, gets incredibly hot in the winter.

And thanks for the vet suggestion! But I really, really love her current vet group, and there is also absolutely no chance I would go to Staten Island to see a doctor for MYSELF, much less to take my dog to a vet.

I ordered diaper samples in sizes 3 & 4 and we'll see if she can go a whole day without escaping from them, that at least will make me less stressed about leaving her alone. And I will have a go at learning the butt squeeze, maybe this weekend.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on July 31, 2014

I'm hijacking my husband's MeFi account to make a couple of comments/ suggestions. I'm a newish vet (12 months out), but anal glands issues are something we see pretty frequently (no one told me exactly how frequently before I graduated!!).
In terms of managing the expression at home, in my experience, some dogs are more difficult to express than others. Anal glands are usually only painful/ sore to express when they are really full/ impacted or infected. If your vet has always found it fairly easy and non painful to express your fuzz face's glands thus far, chances are, you will too. It's usually the initial squeeze when they are most full that's uncomfortable, rather than the last bit, so over squeezing shouldn't be too much of a problem. Give it a shot, and you may find if you're doing it reasonably often at home that it's not too difficult as the glands won't get as full, and like someone suggested you could skip it on the bad hand days.
Regarding long term solutions, anal gland issues will very often (and it sounds like in this case too) go hand in hand with skin allergy issues (either food based or environmental/ atopy). You've had some success with diet, which is great. The other thing you could try along with diet is a short (2-3 week) tapering course of prednisolone. I've heard this can sometimes really help get things under control due to antiinflammatory effects (theory is that inflammation due to allergy may be causing thickening of the duct opening, preventing self expressing).
It may also be worth speaking to a good veterinary dermatologist. Either in person yourself if there is a good one within reach that your vet can refer you to, or you could get your vet to contact one and ask for some general advice on your behalf. A dermatologist could discuss specific diets or other meds for skin allergy problems to try.
I've also seen suggestions on the vet specific forums that probiotics, traditional Chinese medicine herbs, or digestive enzymes can help, or (ahem) homeopathy. Some vets also recommend flushing the glands and instilling an antibiotic/steroid product directly into the gland, though I haven't tried these options myself.
Lastly surgery may indeed be a viable option if it means keeping you and your furry friend together. Have a really good chat to your vet about their personal experiences with the surgery and their success vs failure rate. Yes fecal incontinence is possible, but I've never seen the risk stopping the senior vet at my clinic from recommending the surgery if it's warranted. I'll have to ask her tomorrow if she has ever experienced this complication herself. It may be you need a vet who's a bit more confident with the procedure?? Good luck- Would really love to hear if you do manage to find a successful solution!!
posted by jcm at 4:49 AM on August 13, 2014

« Older What kind of Fiber patch cable do I need   |   I need a job yesterday. I'm still stuck. Where do... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.