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Removing anal glands from a dog: is it recommended?

Tony Buckwell advises on emptying anal glands in a dog

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel

Q: I am having to take my dog to the vet quite often to have his anal glands emptied. I have heard removing anal glands is possible in a dog. Is this something you would recommend?

A: Each time a dog passes a firm stool, it voids an amount of foul-smelling serous or pasty liquid. This is secreted by small glands in the anal sphincter and coats the stool. It is believed to play a part in territorial scent-marking behaviour.

If the dog’s stools are soft or small, the sacs may not empty completely and can fill up, become uncomfortable and, if left untreated, become impacted or even infected. Most dogs will try to relieve this discomfort by licking or biting their rear end or dragging their bottom along the floor (scooting). (Read why does my dog drag its bottom.)

DIY emptying – not a pleasant task

With a little practice and patience, you can empty your dog’s anal sacs yourself, but the smell of anal gland fluid is so unpleasant that many people prefer to take their dog to the vet to have its glands emptied. Some dogs have particular problems and require their anal glands to be emptied frequently.

If this is the case, first check the consistency of the dog’s faeces. If it isn’t generally passing large, firm stools on most occasions, you may have to modify the diet accordingly. Try adding bran in the first instance. Add a couple of teaspoonfuls to the feed each day initially and increase a little as necessary to bulk up the stools. If your dog is overweight, reducing weight can also help.

If the situation becomes difficult to control and problematic, it is possible to operate to remove the anal glands and the associated anal sacs. The operation requires careful surgery, both to locate and remove the glands and cause as little disruption as possible to other tissues in the area. In a few cases, there can be complications. Because of this, I would not normally recommend removing anal glands unless it becomes necessary.