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By Dr. Amy Lightstone
Okay pet parents, we hate to break it to you, but your pup is not just doing the scooty booty dance for your entertainment. Dogs and cats (less frequently an issue) have two small blind sacs that sit inside of their anus. They secrete a material that is normally expressed in small amounts when they defecate.
The openings to the anal glands are very small and because of that there can be issues with clogging. Some dogs that have had previous anal gland infections may have some scarring to the opening that make them more prone to getting blocked. The sacs get fuller and fuller over time and if not emptied, they can become infected in some animals, creating an abscess. If you notice a swelling under you dogs tail, hair loss, or sensitivity, these may be signs of an anal gland infection. A vet should evaluate your pup to empty out the glands and determine if antibiotics are required.
Tell tail signs of a dog needing anal gland expressions are excessive licking of their hind end, a “fishy” smell, scooting, or their tail held in lower position. Cats can sometimes have anal gland issues and show it with inappropriate defecation outside of their litter box and scooting, although this is a much less common problem than with dogs.
Every dog has different needs and will require different schedules for anal gland expression if they are having difficulty emptying themselves. This can range from every couple of weeks to once or twice a year. When you first notice the scooting or licking, schedule a vet visit immediately to have them expressed internally. Some groomers may express them from the outside, but for a lot of dogs this doesn’t completely empty them.
Increasing your pup’s fiber can increase the time in between needing anal gland expressions. Pureed pumpkin is a great palatable option that many dogs find quite tasty. If your pup needs regular anal gland “maintenance,” continuing the pumpkin on a long term basis may be necessary.