Canine Anal Gland Expression or Evacuation

Brushing the fur, de-shedding, clipping, scissoring and trimming the nails. A thorough clean and rinse. These are just some of the procedures we expect provided when we take our dogs to the groomers. But what about anal gland expression or evacuation? If that last one surprises you, you’re not alone. Yet, I have found many dog groomers are offering this add-on service.

To me, something doesn’t seem right about a dog groomer carrying out this procedure on my much loved companion.

Isn’t canine anal gland expression a veterinary procedure? Are groomers qualified or even capable of expressing an anal gland properly? And do anal glands even need expressing in the first place?
These are just some of the questions raised in my mind. Knowing I couldn’t be alone, I’ve set out to find the truth about this procedure.

What’s the deal with canine anal gland expression?
And could I trust a dog groomer to determine my dog needs this procedure, in addition to his wash and blow dry?

What are anal glands?

Anal glands – aka anal sacs – are located on either side of a dog’s anus. These glands express a pungent liquid used for marking a dog’s territory.
However, there isn’t unanimous agreement that this is the primary function. Others believe the anal glands release pheromones, used to communicate chemically with other canines.
Indeed, it’s reported that using the anal gland scent, other dogs can discern the dog’s health, sex, and approximate age.

Pretty remarkable, right?

Whatever the reason, anal glands can become blocked. It’s a simple problem. But if left, a blocked anal gland can worsen, eventually developing an infection or abscess.

What causes a blocked anal gland?

If you’ve ever given it a thought, you probably assumed the anatomy of the rectum was simple. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Multiple things can go wrong – many of which cause an anal gland blockage.

Here are some of the most common and serious causes:

Inflammation of the anal ducts causes swelling, which blocks the glands. In smaller
breeds, even low-level inflammation can trigger a blockage due to small
ducts.
Constipation or a large stool will block the rectum and anal canal. That, in
turn may block the anal gland.
Diarrhoea conversely will also block the anal gland, as there is not enough
pressure to empty the glands.
Other causes include allergies, infections, hypothyroidism, and low-quality
food.

Certain breeds are more likely to have anal gland problems, including Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Poodles. You’ll also notice that blockages occur more commonly in older dogs.

Symptoms of a blocked anal gland

f your dog is suffering from a blocked anal gland, unfortunately, they’re unable to say so. That means you need to learn and watch out for the tell-tale signs. Most often, however, the anal gland will drain on its own accord. But if any of the following symptoms persist, seek medical attention:
1. Scooting. Here, your dog will drag their bottom along the ground.
2. Pungent smell. A strong foul, fishy smell.
3. Swelling and redness. The anal region will look noticeable red – or even purple in
extreme cases. It should appear swollen.
4. Biting or licking the rear. In frustration, your dog may try to lick or bite at its anus.
5. Pain when defecating.
6. An abscess. A noticeable bulge in the anal area can indicate an abscess has formed.

What is canine anal gland expression?

Anal gland expression or evacuation is the process of unblocking and draining the glands. Because in some cases, the fluid may not be naturally released, leading to a build-up.
To express the fluid from the gland, a veterinarian will gently squeeze the liquid from the gland from inside the dog’s anus. This is a delicate procedure, as the anal glands are located inside the dog’s rectum.

But it also requires expertise.
In some cases, the anal gland may have already developed an abscess. Pressing on an abscess will cause severe pain and may worsen the problem. Even in a mild blocked anal gland, there is a risk of rupturing the glands. That’s why it’s advised to leave it to a medical professional who has an extensive understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the region.

Should you trust a dog groomer with anal gland expression?

The anal gland is a delicate part of a dog’s anatomy. Even expressing a minorly blocked anal gland can elicit severe pain. To save your dog the trauma of an excruciating anal gland expression, only use a medical professional. They know precisely what they’re doing and will enter internally to express the glands properly.
Many dog groomers offering this procedure squeeze the gland externally, with no ability to examine any internal anal gland issue present.

Moreover, if the worst were to happen, then a vet has the equipment and experience to handle any complications.

The last thing any dog owner would want is for their companion to be severely disabled from what would otherwise be a simple veterinary procedure.

Also, in some cases, an anal gland cannot be safely expressed. These dogs will need anti-inflammatories or anti-biotics to begin the process. Groomers cannot prescribe these medications.

How to prevent the need for anal gland expression in your dog

There’s an old saying: prevention is better than the cure.
That’s true for anal gland blockages too. Here’s what you need to do to lower the risk of a blockage occurring:

1. No obesity. Overweight dogs are at far greater risk of an anal gland blockage. Therefore, monitor your dog’s weight and diet.

2. Regular vet check-ups. Routinely have your dog’s anal glands inspected by a vet. They’ll also be able to advise on spotting the signs of a blocked gland.

3. Fibre. Just like people, fibre is the ultimate solution to all bowel problems. Adding bran powder or sugar-free bran flakes into your dog’s diet will ease the stools’ passage and prevent long-term anal gland problems.

The bottom line

Trust the experts. Vets are trained dog health professionals capable of safely and reliably expressing dog anal glands. Do not attempt to express the gland yourself or trust non-medical people. if your dog displays any signs of anal gland blockage, have your dog checked by a vet.

Further reading:

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