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Clogged perianal glands in dogs – how to deal with them?


Perianal glands, also called perianal sinuses, are specific scent glands located around the anus in some mammals, including our domestic dogs and cats. If they work properly, they do not cause any discomfort and do not require special care from the caregiver. Some caregivers are not even aware of their existence until their pet develops disturbing symptoms and becomes particularly interested in the anus area. Why do animals need such glands? Where exactly are they located and what symptoms may indicate problems in this area?

Where are a dog’s anal glands?

The perianal glands are located symmetrically on both sides of the anus. Depending on the size of the dog, they may resemble an almond or, in larger dogs, a medium-sized grape. The perianal gland is a kind of invagination of the skin that creates a cavity in which odorous secretions are collected. These sinuses are located between the internal and external sphincter muscles, and their opening is hidden in the folds of skin surrounding the anus.

Dog's anus

What is the function of the secretion from the perianal glands?

The secretion from the perianal glands may look different depending on the individual – its color may range from yellow, through greenish to dark brown, and its consistency may range from oily to pasty. It has a very specific, unpleasant smell, which many people describe as “fishy”. For dogs, however, it is a very interesting smell that is an individual hallmark of each dog. This scent has an important communication function – it is not without reason that dogs get to know each other by smelling each other’s tails. However, secretion from the perianal glands does not come out all the time. For this to happen, you need the right amount of pressure. The most secretion comes out during defecation – it then covers the excreted feces. This is why the stool left by one dog is so interesting to others. This fact also explains why canine ancestors used defecation as a way to mark the boundaries of their territory. This behavior can still be observed, for example, in wolves. A small amount of secretion from the perianal glands also appears during excitement and strong emotions, which cause the anal sphincters to tighten.

Dogs sniffing each other

How to recognize clogged anal glands in a dog?

Overcrowded perianal glands cause quite characteristic symptoms in most dogs. Problems may be heralded by the sudden appearance of an intense and unpleasant odor from the anal area. In addition, the dog begins to show significant discomfort – licking nervously under its tail and sledding, i.e. rubbing its hindquarters on the ground. This symptom may seem funny, but it means that you should take your pet to the vet as soon as possible to have the condition of the perianal glands checked. Lack of reaction by the caregiver at this stage may lead to the development of painful inflammation or even rupture of the gland and the formation of a fistula around the anus. In such a case, urgent medical consultation and implementation of appropriate treatment are necessary.

A dog with clogged anal glands at the vet

Causes of inflammation of the perianal glands

Where do problems with perianal glands come from? There are several possible causes and each case should be treated individually. Clogged and clogged anal canals in dogs may be caused by anatomical predispositions – this occurs most often in small breeds, e.g. Maltese, Shih-Tzu or Chihuahua, but also in Labradors. In this case, the structure of the exit duct makes it difficult for the secretion to flow out of the gland during defecation. The gland overflows, causing discomfort and bacteria may multiply there. Then inflammation and swelling occurs, which further impedes the flow of secretions.

In such cases, prevention and regular manual emptying of the glands are very important, which helps prevent excessive accumulation of secretions. Another reason for the overflow of perianal sinuses is digestive system disorders. In order for the secretion to be squeezed out during defecation, the stool must have a sufficiently compact consistency. Therefore, too loose stools and frequent diarrhea can lead to gland problems. The same is true in the case of recurrent constipation – when a dog does not defecate at all for a long time, it also causes excess secretions to stagnate and accumulate. Repeated inflammation of the perianal glands may also be one of the signals indicating food allergy. Therefore, if inflammation of the perianal sinuses is a problem that recurs regularly, it is worth looking for the root cause of the problem and implementing appropriate prevention.

If we suspect a food allergy, the best way is to conduct an elimination diet. You will learn more about it in the article “Elimination diet for dogs and cats”.

If your dog has problems with its perianal glands, you can make an appointment with me for a nutritional consultation, where we will discuss the potential cause and solution of the problem.

Dog defecation

How to clean your dog’s perianal glands

If you notice disturbing symptoms that may indicate a blocked or inflamed gland, be sure to take your dog to a veterinarian. The first time, do not try to evacuate excess secretions yourself, because you may do it incorrectly and cause unnecessary pain. If you want to learn how to perform glandular evacuation at home, ask your veterinarian for proper instruction. There are 2 ways to do it – external and internal. Veterinarians most often use the internal method, especially since in some dogs the external method is practically impossible to perform due to the anatomical structure. The internal method also allows you to assess whether the overflow of the glands is accompanied by inflammation that should be cured. Regardless of the technique you choose, prepare a piece of paper towel and put on disposable gloves. Then you need to lift the dog’s tail, locate the glands and press them appropriately so that the secretion lands on a sheet of towel.

Be sure to read the article too “What to do to stop your dog from smelling from his mouth”.

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