What's under the Tail?

Between shampoos is a great time to express the anal sacs. Anal glands are actually scent glands, which empty into anal sacs. Every dog (and cat) has two anal sacs, one on either side of the anus. When your dog has a bowel movement, the anal sacs are compressed, causing them to expel an oily liquid that “marks” the bowel movement. This is why dogs like to sniff the rear ends of other dogs. When a dog sniffs another dog, it's a sort of doggy greeting: “Hello, how are you? What's your name?” A rear end sniff accomplishes the same thing as a handshake, so if your dog pokes you in the rear, try not to be too offended.

Dogs like to sniff the ground looking for just the right place to go. Don't think of it as gross; anal scents are sort of like a newspaper to your dog. He can sniff the ground and learn who was there and what kind of dog it was. He can tell if the other dog was dominant and a threat to him, just by picking up on its scent. You could say your dog likes to read while using the bathroom!

Anal Sac Secretion

Anal sac secretion is a common occurrence with many dogs.

You'll know it when you smell it. It's foul. It doesn't smell like poop, but it has an odor unlike anything else you could describe. When a dog is under stress, scared or upset, sometimes a little anal sac fluid can leak out. Your dog can also voluntarily cause the secretion to use for marking territory. This stuff is oily, and the smell is very hard to remove. Rule number one — don't scare the dog.

The old wives tale is that a dog that scoots on its rear has worms, but that's rarely the case. Dogs that scoot, lick, or chew underneath their tails usually have anal gland issues. Another thing to watch for is matted hair around the anus. Many dogs will scoot trying to remove the mats. Some people think their dogs are constipated, when in reality the matted hair across the anus is actually holding it in.

Impacted Anal Sacs

Impaction occurs when the anal sacs fail to empty normally. Impaction is very common in small dog breeds but can occur in any breed. Soft stools, small anal sac openings, or overactive anal glands can cause anal sac impaction. When impaction occurs, the secretions are thick, pasty, and creamy in texture. You may notice your dog scooting her rear on the floor or licking her rear in an attempt to relieve the pressure. When this happens, you need to express the anal sacs and empty them. To prevent problems in the future, sometimes a high-fiber diet helps to bulk up the stools so the dog can empty them when defecating. In repeated occurrences of anal sac disease, veterinarians can carefully remove the anal sacs using various surgical techniques. However, many vets frown on this procedure, as it can lead to incontinence in some dogs.

Expressing Anal Sacs

To express the sacs, first prepare a paper towel or baby wipe. Be sure that hands and skin are not in the way. Disposable gloves are a good idea. Raise the dog's tail and locate the anal sacs, which should be at approximately five o'clock and seven o'clock positions in relation to the anus. They feel like small, firm grapes; if you can feel them, they are full.

Place the wipe or paper towel over the area. Position your thumb on the outside of one sac and your index, middle, and ring fingers on the outside of the opposite sac. Press in and squeeze your fingers toward each other and upwards; the glands should empty. Wipe the area clean and repeat if necessary. You should do this outside or during a bath, where you can wash the secretion away along with the odor.

If you have difficulty or the dog is acting as if it really hurts, he may need a vet to express the sacs internally; they may be impacted or infected. Now that you've expressed the anal sacs, be sure to rinse the area well and shampoo that area to get rid of the odor.

Ruptured anal sacs usually present with a swollen, painful thickening of the area beside the anus on the affected side. Sometimes, just before rupturing through the skin, a soft bruised area will be seen in the skin. Occasionally, an open draining fistula, or ulcer, is present just beside and down a bit from the anus and requires veterinary attention for treatment.

Infected Anal Sacs

Anal sac infection is indicated by blood or pus in the anal gland secretions. The dog may also exhibit discomfort when the glands are emptying (either naturally or by you expressing them) or do a great deal of scooting or licking. If you cannot easily express the anal sac, be careful; you can rupture the anal sacs and that can cause a great deal of pain. If you run into any difficulties, you need to take your dog to the vet and your vet can express the sacs internally by inserting a finger into the anus. If the anal sacs are infected, your vet needs to treat your dog with antibiotics.

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