A few days ago a very nice woman brought her Miniature Schnauzer to my office. The dog had been acting agitated for several days. He seemed reluctant to sit down, but when he finally was seated the dog had a tendency to rub his hind end on the floor.
A thorough general physical examination was unremarkable (unremarkable is how veterinarians say normal–we can’t actually say normal because the word normal, according to some malpractice insurance providers, implies things that can be very dangerous if we have missed something subtle).
The symptoms were consistent with an anal gland problem. If you never have heard of anal glands, consider yourself lucky. You may want to stop reading now in order to preserve your innocence.
The anal glands are bulbs located adjacent to the anus. The bulbs are connected to the anus by ducts. The glands produce a fluid with a unique odor. It smells like a combination of rotting fish, feces, and tear gas.
Cats and dogs have anal glands. Skunks do too–the glands are modified in skunks and are responsible for skunks’ unique smell.
The anal glands normally empty when a cat or dog defecates. In some instances, however, this does not happen as it should. The result is anal glands that are impacted and distended. Animals with impacted anal glands often drag their rear ends along the ground.
Impacted anal glands are treated by manual expression. The most effective means of manually expressing anal glands involves inserting a finger into the animal’s rectum and massaging the accumulated fluid out of the glands.
This is what I proposed for my patient whose hind end was so uncomfortable.
The owner accepted my proposal. However, she declined to accept my recommendation that the procedure be performed in a section of the hospital where only employees were present. She asked to be present while her dog’s anal glands were expressed.
Palpation of the glands revealed that they were both markedly distended. Both glands were expressed with ease. A large amount of fluid was released.
As the smell of the fluid filled the room, the owner of the Miniature Schnauzer soon was ill at ease. She complained of light headedness and dizziness. She asked to sit down. She retched and nearly vomited.
The nurse and I escorted her to some fresh air. She rapidly recovered. I blame myself for not warning her vehemently enough that anal gland fluid smells really bad.
After enough time one becomes inured to the smell of anal glands. To the uninitiated, however, it can be overpowering.