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Getting to the bottom of things

What are anal glands and why does my dog need them?!
On either side of your dog’s anus are two small sacs called “anal sacs”. The walls of these two sacs are lined with cells that secrete a fishy-smelling, oily substance. As a dog defecates, the stool that passes through the anus puts pressure on the two sacs, and their smelly contents are smeared onto the feces. This is thought to be a method by which dogs communicate with each other: A dog who encounters another dog’s feces can tell something about that dog by the unique smell of the material secreted by his or her anal glands.

Why is my dog scooting his butt on the floor?

He probably has full anal glands. Most dogs empty their anal sacs through normal defecation and most dog owners don’t encounter problems during their dog’s lifetime. However, sometimes the anal sacs get blocked or irritated and the dog will scoot in order to try and relieve the problem. They may also start to chase their tails, and/or lick their anal region and fur around their tails.

How do I keep my dog from ‘poppin wheelies’ on the carpet?

In order to relieve the problem, the anal sacs must be emptied or ‘expressed’. Any veterinarian can perform this procedure, or, if you’re feeling brave and would like to learn the technique on your own, we can perform a demonstration for you. Most pet owners schedule appointments with us because of the horrible smell involved. THERE IS NO SMELL LIKE IT! Once the sacs have been emptied (on occasion it takes more than one session to empty them completely) the scooting may not stop immediately but should stop within a few days. A scooting problem that involves the anal sacs needing to be emptied becomes VERY painful for a dog (or cat) if it is left untreated and can create an abscess or rupture.

What can I do to keep my dog expressing his glands on his own?

Two things may help: First, be sure your dog has firm stools. You may wish to add some high-fiber food to his diet which will help create firmer stools. Second, be sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Strong muscles help dogs have normal bowel movements and empty the sacs normally.

PLEASE NOTE: Although scooting USUALLY denotes an anal sac problem, scooting can also be the result of tapeworms, a back injury, ulcers near the anus or other problems. We recommend an appointment to diagnose and treat any scooting problem in your pet.


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