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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lying down

QUESTION:
My two-year-old dog “squirts” a foul-smelling fluid every time he’s startled by a knock at the door. I thought he had loose bowels, but my veterinarian says he’s expressing his anal glands. I’ve never had a dog that did this before. Can you please tell me more? Do you have any advice to offer?

ANSWER:
Dogs have two small oval-shaped sacs on either side of the anus. The purpose of the glands is to produce a fluid with a strong odor (very pungent 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 sacks when they are fearful or become stressed.

Many dogs will go through their lifetime without any issues with their anal glands. There are times, however, when these glands can become full, impacted or infected. When signs of anal gland issues occur, dog owners should contact from a veterinarian. 

Signs of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

  • Scooting the rear end along the floor or lawn
  • Excessive licking or itching the anal area
  • Straining or difficulty with defecation (pooping)
  • Blood or pus in the stool or near the rectum

Causes of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Certain factors may increase the likelihood of a dog developing impacted, infected or abscessed anal glands:

  • Chronic skin dermatitis 
  • Obesity
  • Insufficient dietary fiber
  • Chronic soft stool
  • Food and/or environmental allergies
  • Genetics: While it’s more common for smaller breeds to develop issues with their anal gland no breed is immune. 

Treatment and Prevention of Anal Glands Disease

If your dog is displaying signs and symptoms of an anal gland problem, seek the advice of your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may manually express the sacs. An antibiotic may be prescribed if there is an infection.

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. Read the label on the canned pumpkin to ensure there is no Xylitol, which is deadly for dogs.

Have a non-urgent medical question? AKC Vetline is a live, 24/7 service staffed by licensed veterinary staff and pet professionals. Get unlimited access to answers about your pet’s health and wellness whenever and wherever you need it from a source you know you can trust.

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