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What is that smell?

What Is That Smell??!! 

By Rochelle Metzer, DVM

You may have noticed that sometimes your dog scoots around the carpet or licks his hind end A LOT.  You may also have noticed a foul odor from that area.  These are all signs that your dog may need his anal glands expressed.

Anal glands are two small glands located just on the inside of your dog's anus.  They secrete a thin, brown, smelly ("fish-like") fluid and are typically used in the wild for scent marking (or during times of stress/defense).  Most of the time, animals can naturally express them while defecating, but sometimes the glands become clogged and the material inside cannot come out.  In these cases, your dog will need to have his anal glands expressed by a veterinary professional.  The veterinarian or technician will placed a gloved finger just inside the anus and apply light pressure to both sides to express the contents of the sac.   

Sometimes, anal glands aren't able to be expressed and therefore become impacted.  If not noticed immediately, the anal gland can form an abscess and can rupture.  You may notice a hole next to your dog's anus, along with pus and blood.  The area is typically painful.  At this stage, your dog will need treatment from a veterinarian to clean/flush the area (sometimes with sedation since it's a sensitive area) and will go home with antibiotics, pain medication and an e-collar.  Most anal gland infections resolve with treatment.  If a dog has repeated anal gland issues/infections despite frequent expressions, then an anal gland sacculectomy may be recommended.  This is a surgery to remove to anal glands.  

If your dog is prone to frequent anal gland issues, coming in for routine anal gland expressions may help.   Every dog is different so there is no set rule of thumb regarding how often this needs to be done.  Also, feeding a high fiber diet will help.  If you have any other questions about your dog's anal gland health, your veterinary team will be always be there to help!