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Should You Express Your Pet’s Anal Glands or Not?

This may be an unpleasant topic to some, but it’s something pet owners should be aware of so they can deal with it if and when they have to. The topic? Anal glands. Should you have them expressed, or not?

What are Anal Glands?

Anal glands can be found on either side of your cat or dog’s anus, underneath the skin. They are small sacs that secrete a liquid that has a strong, unpleasant odor. This smelly liquid is that cat or dog’s unique and identifying odor.Normally, the liquid is secreted  along with the animal’s feces.

If the animal’s feces is not hard enough (which some attribute to modern pet food, which is usually higher in fillers rather than meat),the anal sacs will not receive enough pressure to “express” the fluid. Sometimes, a dog or cat will express their glands of the fluid when it is startled or scared.

Some even express their glands when the vet uses a rectal thermometer. One of my clients experienced that with a newly acquired cat. She took the cat in for a check-up and during the exam, the room was suddenly filled with a very stinky odor!

How Do I Know if My Pet’s Anal Glands Need to be Expressed?

Like any pet issue, some animals don’t have any problems while others have consistent problems with their glands. For some, a high-fiber diet (that will bulk up feces)and regular checks of the anal glands might be necessary. It’s up to you to stay observant and act fast when you see something out of the ordinary.

If the glands are not expressed regularly or adequately,the liquid can become thicker and the glands can become impacted. If  bacteria enters the glands, an infection can result,and even escalate to an abscess. This is very painful for the animal and will need medical treatment.

Some problem signs you may want to watch for include:

  • “scooting,” or dragging of the rear end on the floor
  • excessive licking of the anal area
  • crying when trying to defecate
  • unusually soft stools
  • unusually strong odor from the anal area
  • obvious sensitivity in the rear end

Take your pet for a vet visit if you suspect an anal gland problem. As with any medical condition, the sooner you address it, the better. If the problem becomes chronic, surgical removal of the glands might be necessary.

Can I Express the Glands Myself?

Yes,if you are properly instructed and motivated, you can learn how to express your pet’s anal glands. The best thing you can do is talk to your vet about this topic and see if they can help you with instructions. Expressing the glands means locating the sacs and  applying the proper pressure in the right direction.

This is a sensitive area, so learning how to express the glands properly is important. If you don’t do things correctly, you can potentially cause more problems, like infection. You can also have your groomer or vet do the deed.

Here is a site I found online that demonstrates expressing the anal glands of a dog.




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