Pantops Pet Salon
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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

It's what we do -- it's all we do.

(434) 293-2424
Fax: (434) 293-8231
504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

What’s the deal with anal glands?

Friday, August 10th, 2007 by Jenna

Often we get customers in who ask us to express their dog’s anal glands or sacs.  Many grooming shops perform this service and “The All Breed Grooming Guide” even lists anal expression as one of the steps for each groom.  At the Pet Salon, we do NOT express anal glands—and not just because the task is as gross as it sounds!

Anal glands are two small sacs just inside your pet’s anus.  The strong scent of the glands is used to mark territory and sometimes for self-defense.  A thick, oily, foul-smelling liquid fills these glands and is typically secreted during defecation.  There is some research that indicts that a diet rich in fiber (producing firmer stool) will aid in emptying the sacs. 

Large breeds rarely have a problem voluntarily emptying their anal glands and only about 12% of dogs in general have a problem with them.  However, breeds that are more likely to need their anal glands manually emptied (expressed) are:  Toy and Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles.

Several anal gland issues can develop but anal gland expression only benefits dogs whose glands are impacted.  If the glands are not naturally emptied the liquid may thicken to the point of blocking (impacting) the glands.  Impacted glands are uncomfortable for the dog and can become infected.  Dogs with impacted anal glands will scoot their rears across the floor (or lick/bite or chase their tail) in an effort to empty the glands themselves.  If they continue without success to scoot across the floor, they need to be taken to an experienced veterinarian who can empty the glands and check for any infections.  Some dogs may have chronic issues with their anal glands and need them to be emptied frequently.  If so, the anal glands can be permanently removed.

If somewhere around 88% of dogs never have a problem with their anal glands, why is anal glad expression so common at grooming shops?  We don’t know.  Especially since the process of expression—if not done correctly—can damage a very sensitive area of the dog.  We are happy to leave this smelly process to veterinarians who can express the glands carefully and diagnose (as well as treat) any problems that they discover.

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