French Bulldog Anal Glands | Great Tips for Dog Anal Gland Health

By: Danielle Harris

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What are anal glands? – French Bulldog Anal Glands

The anal glands, or anal sacs, are two small glands ranging from about the size of a pea to the size of a grape. Their openings are located just inside the anus and are positioned at about 4:00 and 8:00. They create a smelly secretion that can range from being a thin liquid to a thick paste.

Dogs who are healthy can usually have a wide variety in the appearance of their anal sacs content. Anal sac fluid varies from yellow to tan or brown in color.

The consistency of the fluid ranges from thin, watery secretions to thick, gritty paste. There can also be a range in the malodorousness, or how strong the contents smell. These factors can all be different from animal to animal.

The bacteria found in anal glands of dogs are also found in their mouths due to the consistent exposure to their backsides (licking and chewing). In a healthy dog or cat the bacteria normally found in dog’s poop are Streptococci and Enterococci.

There are many glands in dogs that secrete into the anal glands, filling them with fluid. The anal gland material is usually made up of about 88% water, 11.5% organic and 0.5% inorganic material. The secretion of anal gland content contains mucin, that is rich in sialic acid and other anti-microbial proteins. There is also an abundance of gram-positive cocci since they are part of the anal glands normal flora. The organic components mainly consist of short-chain fatty acids and trimethylamine.

Anal gland chart
French bulldog anal glands
Anal Gland Anatomy – google images

The Purpose of Dog’s Anal Glands

It is believed there are multiple purposes for dog’s anal glands.

Dogs have two small oval-shaped sacs on either side of the anus called anal glands.

The purpose of the dog’s anal glands is to produce a fluid with a strong odor (very strong and fishy smell) unique to each dog. It’s believed that the expression of a small amount of this fluid marks territory.

Most dogs can also involuntarily express their anal glands when they are fearful or become stressed.

The dog’s anal glands may also serve as a lubricant to help pass hard stools.

Anal Gland Problems

infected anal gland

Anal gland issues arise when the anal glands of dogs becoming over-filled, blocked, or irritated.

Dog anal gland problems affect millions of pets and are a very common and frustrating problem.

The inability to effectively express this fluid can lead to anal sacculitis. This is characterized by a build-up of fluid in the anal glands, an uncomfortable condition that can lead to pain and itching.

Discomfort may also be evident with impaction or infection of the anal glands.

Impacted anal glands results from blockage of the duct leading from the gland to the opening.

Blocked anal glands or Impacted anal glands are usually swollen and hard, leading to anal gland infection. Infected anal glands result in pain, swelling, and sometimes abscessation and fever.

Ruputred/Abscessed  Anal Gland
Ruputred/Abscessed Anal Gland

Symptoms

If your dog’s anal glands fill up excessively it can create pressure which can be very uncomfortable for your dog.

When this happens your dog might show symptoms. The most common of which is scooting their rear end across the floor.

Besides scooting, other symptoms of full or infected dog’s anal glands include a fishy or foul odor from your pet, excessive licking of the rear end, discomfort while walking or sitting, straining to poop, or redness/swelling near the rear end.

dog scooting on floor
Google images

Causes of Anal Glands Problems

There can be many underlying causes, and in many cases, it is because of a combination of reasons. The most common underlying cause of anal glands problems is poor gastrointestinal health.

In order for anal glands to empty, they need firm and healthy stools to create pressure on the glands as they pass over them. If your pet has small, soft, or loose stool it will be very difficult for the glands to empty properly.

A common cause of anal glands issues is underlying allergies.

Allergies in pets manifest as red and inflamed skin. This can affect different areas of your pet (ears, paws, belly, etc) including the area around the anal glands.

Another major cause of anal gland issues could be due to your pet’s anatomy.

If your pet’s anal glands are positioned abnormally (typically too low or too far internally) it can become difficult for the glands to empty on their own.

Anal Sac Disease

Anal Sac Disease is a broad term that includes a few specific conditions, like anal sac impaction, anal sac abscess, anal sacculitis, or apocrine anal gland adenocarcinoma, a type of anal gland cancer.

Dog Anal Gland Location

The anal glands (anal sacs) are located near the opening between two layers of muscle.

Normal emptying of the glands occurs as the stool passes over and exerts outward pressure. Anal gland abscesses form when the anal glands become infected & impacted. As pus forms within the anal sacs, it can eventually rupture causing pain & swelling. Anal gland abscesses can be prevented with healthy functioning anal glands.

anal gland diagram
google images

How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

If your vet has agreed that your dog requires their anal glands to be expressed routinely, they might instruct you to do so at home if you are comfortable. Make sure that you are confident that your dog will not react aggressively.

If you see blood or pus around your dog’s anus, or if your dog seems very uncomfortable, do not attempt to express their anal glands at home. Instead, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away to have them express the anal glands.

I must warn you that this is not for the weak! It can be smelly and messy. If you decide to learn how to internally express your pet’s glands, BE CAREFUL not to repeatedly or aggressively express them (squeeze too hard) because there is a risk of some degree of inflammation and tissue damage.

External Anal Gland Expression

I do not recommend you express your dog’s anal glands using the external method. It pushes the secretions deeper into the gland, creating inflammation in the gland as well as the surrounding tissue. This inflammation causes the small duct opening to be further blocked off. Therefore, making it hard, if not impossible, for your pet to express the glands themselves.

Internal Anal Gland Expression

Two notes to add about the video though: I recommend using a bit of lube (Surgilube, Vaseline, or KY) on your finger when doing this method, and I recommend having a wipe or paper towel in your hand, covering the rectum, whenever expressing the anal glands — regardless of whether you’re doing the “external” or “internal” method, success can be VERY messy!!

anal gland expression
google images

To express your dog’s anal glands at home, you need:

Nitrile gloves

Petroleum or a water-based lubricant

Another person to help restrain your dog (if needed)

Wipes/Papertowels

The Steps to Expressing Your Dog’s Anal Glands:

If your dog is small, place them on a table or counter in front of you. If you have a large dog, you can kneel behind them.

  • Put on a pair of nitrile gloves and lubricate your index finger with lubricant.
  • Lift up your dog’s tail and gently insert your index finger into the rectum approximately 1 inch.
  • Feel with your index finger and thumb for a firm pea- or marble-sized object at the 5 or 7 o’clock positions. These are the anal glands.
  • When you have found one gland, place a paper towel between the dog’s anus and your hand and gently express the gland’s contents outward by applying pressure on the farthest side of the gland and squeezing toward you. Do not use more pressure than you would feel comfortable applying if you were pressing on your eyes, for example.
  • You should barely be able to feel the anal glands when it’s empty.
  • Wipe the area clean.
  • Repeat on the other side for the other anal gland.

Other factors that may increase the chances of anal gland issues include:

  • Chronic skin conditions (seborrhea, skin infections, or itchy skin)
  • Obesity
  • Inadequate dietary fiber 
  • Change in stool consistency: soft stool, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Parasites (both internal and external)
  • Food and/or environmental allergies
  • Genetics (more common in small breeds)

Are Certain Dogs Prone to Anal Gland Problems?

Anal gland problems are predominantly a small dog breed issue, but they can affect larger breed dogs as well.

What can you do to prevent problems?

To prevent anal gland problems, discuss a diet plan for your dog with your veterinarian.

They may recommend that you include fish oil and increased dietary fiber in your dog’s diet.

Canned pure pumpkin, cooked fresh pumpkin, and unsalted pumpkin seeds are a common diet addition. Adding more fiber can also help.

Supplements such as glandex may be of help as well.

Make sure your dog is of healthy weight. Extra weight in dogs will cause their anal glands to be surrounded with more fatty tissue, which means it’s harder to empty the dog’s anal sacs.

More exercise will also open up the tubes that connect the dog anal glands.

What are the Risks of Anal Gland Removal?

In severe cases, your vet may suggest an anal capsulectomy or removing the anal glands.

This procedure does not negatively affect domestic dogs, as it simply means they can’t mark their territory. However, that surgery is delicate as well as specialized.

Anal gland removal is procedure that will provide the pet with permanent relief of anal gland impaction, infection, and abscesses.

Anal Gland Removal
Anal Gland Removal

The procedure includes making an incision near the anus over the anal gland. The anal gland is gently removed from external and internal anal sphincters.

Care is taken to minimize disruption of the anal sphincter, as this could result in permanent fecal incontinence.

Some surgeons prefer to remove only the affected anal gland and leave the normal anal gland intact, as unilateral anal sacculectomy is not associated with fecal incontinence.

The owner may find poop nuggets around the home or in the pet’s (or owner’s) bed if a pet develops fecal incontinence.

If fecal incontinence is very mild, the owner may notice that the dog passes more gas, yet the pet has full control of the stool.

If a piece of the anal sac is left in the patient, an abscess or chronic draining may develop.

If the surgeon accidentally cuts a hole in the side of the rectum during removal of the gland, a nonhealing fistula (channel) may develop from the skin along side of the anus to the rectum. In the hands of an experienced surgeon, these complications are uncommon.

Short-term complications after anal sac removal include infection, scooting, inflammation of the skin, drainage from the surgery site, and swelling.

Long-term complications may include fecal incontinence, fistula formation, and stricture formation (abnormal narrowing.)

information credit: https://dvsc.com/medical_library/anal-sac-removal-elective/

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