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Anal Gland Disease

How to deal with Anal Glad Disease in dogs

What are Anal Glands?

They are a pair of small sacs or glands normally a few millimetres in diameter that sit a small distance from the edge of your dog/cat’s bottom. The lining of these sacs produce a smelly secretion. Each time a stool is passed it presses gently on these sacs and they empty through a duct onto the stool. This gives each dog/cat its own scent. In the wild they are used as territory markers, but nowadays they have no useful function.

Why do they become a problem?

The bottom and surrounding tissue is a very sensitive area. The glands can become distended and when they do they are very uncomfortable. The classic “scooting” dog is easy and we can all see that it’s probably got a sore bottom. Other dogs do some odd things when they are in pain with their glands. Some will lick/chew at their flanks, some will lick obsessively at their front paws almost as distraction behaviour, and others just go quiet. I think we shouldn’t underestimate how chronically uncomfortable these glands can be.

They become overfilled for many reasons:

  • Not emptying fully, if the stools passed are too soft or intermittently loose
  • Infections
  • Anatomical problems for example position of the glands or ducts
  • Over secretion; we often see such problems with dogs that have skin problems.

Treatment options

Manual Emptying

This is not pleasant for owner, dog or vet but this will often resolve mild anal gland disease. Sometimes it needs to be done two or three times to get on top of the problem. Often with antibiotic cover and dietary changes.

Flush and Pack

If the condition does not resolve with emptying or is severe we may suggest flushing the sacs. This requires a general anaesthetic, then passing a cannulae into each sac via the duct and flushing with and antibacterial solution before packing the glands with a steroid gel. This will help many cases and is relatively risk free.

Anal gland removal

This is the gold standard in anal gland disease treatment; if they are in the bin they are never going to be a problem!

This can be quite delicate surgery but we perform this frequently at Copeland vets. Two small incisions are made either side of the bottom and the glands are dissected free and removed.

Post-Operative Care for Anal Gland Removal

"Sore bottom" the bottom is a sensitive area and the necessary surgical preparation and surgery itself can leave the bottom and surrounding tissue bruised, inflamed and sore. We do various things to minimise this.


During the surgery and for a few days after your dog will be given steroids. This has a massive effect on reducing the inflammation, redness and soreness around the bottom. It may cause a short term increase in thirst but this is just for a couple of days.


As we are using steroids you will be sent home with an analgesic different to our normal post-op pain killer. The discharge nurse will go through the dosing with you. You will often only need these for a couple of days. This procedure is not without recognised risks. After the surgery the skin can be very sore for a few days. We have found with the correct post-op regime this will often be a minimal problem. There is also a recognised risk of incontinence. Whilst this is very serious it is extremely unusual, and the vet will discuss this with you. We definitely feel the benefits far outweigh any perceived risk with this surgery.


Normally you will get 5 days' antibiotics often to give in the food.

Further post-op advice

Ring the day after

We like to give your dog a couple of days to settle before seeing you again but like you to give us a ring the day after surgery to let us know how things are.


There will often be discomfort when passing stools for a few days and occasionally you may have a couple of accidents in the immediate post-op period but this is more through bruising and reluctance to pass stools than incontinence. If it occurs at all it is short lived.

Post-op check

We like to check the wound 5-7 days after surgery. The sutures we often use will come out by themselves. These sutures are softer than normal nylon sutures so nicer for your dog.

Try to keep stool consistency good in the post op period so try and keep your dog’s normal diet unchanged.

If you have any problems or anything you are unsure about please call us.

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