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What can I do to help anal gland problems?

Dear Sir: My seven-pound Yorkie has to have his anal glands expressed every month! I am concerned because this is too frequent to have them...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Mar 9th 2007

Dear Sir: My seven-pound Yorkie has to have his anal glands expressed every month! I am concerned because this is too frequent to have them so full! Is there anything that I can give him, holistically speaking, that could help this process? I have heard that animals do it to themselves… but for some reason he doesn’t take care of this. When he is full, he will look at me and sit! He doesn’t scoot.

Thank you so much, and we do hope to hear from you!

Jan and Lord Pippin

Dr. Janet H.
St. Augustine Florida, USA

Anal glands are not a savory subject. However, a tremendous number of cats and dogs suffer from anal gland problems. So, although this column won’t make good dinner time reading, it’s a worthy subject.

Anal glands consist of two bulbs adjacent to the anus. The bulbs are connected to the anus by thin ducts. The glands produce a foul-smelling fluid that, under normal circumstances, is expressed through the ducts onto feces as animals defecate.

Many pets are blessed with anal glands that function normally their entire lives. However, in some animals the glands do not empty as they should. This may occur because the fluid is too thick or because the ducts get clogged. When this happens, the glands become distended and uncomfortable. This syndrome is known as impaction.

Dogs and cats with impacted anal glands often drag their rear ends on the ground. This is known as scooting. Other animals may chew on their rear end, sit down abruptly, or act as if it hurts to defecate.

Treatment for impacted anal glands involves manually emptying them. This is called anal gland expression and is well known to be one of the least desirable jobs in the world.

Some animals with impacted anal glands recover permanently after one treatment. Others, however, require regular expression for their entire lives. Many pets require the procedure at least once each month, so your dog is not exceptional in that regard.

The best way to prevent anal gland problems is to promote normal defecation. This is most readily done by adding fiber to the diet. A small amount of canned pumpkin each day works well for most dogs. For cats, natural fiber supplements are available. However, even pets with good stools can suffer from anal gland problems, and manual expression of the glands is usually the most effective way to keep them comfortable.

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