Amy and SDiT Emma

From our trainer, Kendra, who is in Houston. She is working with Amy and her SDIT, Emma. Not so happy news.

“Amy just received the sad news that she has Multiple Sclerosis. She has been falling and getting hurt a lot. So, the family has decided that Amy needs a Service Dog the most right now, because if she falls while her husband is at work, she needs Emma to bring her the phone to call 911. Amy would also like Emma to help open and close doors, and be trained to work alongside a wheelchair for preparation when the MS brings her to that point.

At our session, Emma was not feeling well. We went to Petsmart just to have Amy and Emma get the feel of being in public together. Amy took Emma to the vet right after our session, and they discovered that she needed her anal glands expressed. So she is feeling much better now.”

I suggested to Kendra that Amy get a medical alert button to wear around her neck in case she falls. They have them at any Medical Device pharmacies. In addition, I explained to Kendra the “science” behind anal gland expression, impaction, and possible infection. While it does not seem like a pleasant topic to talk about, it is very important for all dog owners to be aware of this.

If you’ve seen your dog scooting across the room on his bottom, it could be a sign of anal sac disease. Dogs have two small pouches on either side of their anus. They make a smelly, oily, brown fluid that dogs use to identify each other and mark their territory. It’s why they often sniff each others’ behinds. Anal gland oils also help the defecation of hard stool. Anal sac disease begins as an uncomfortable impaction and can progress to an infection or abscess.

Symptoms that your dog needs to have his anal glands expressed are scooting, licking or biting its rear end, a bad smell coming from its rear, or constipation when trying to pass stool.

Normally, when a dog poops, the fluid in his anal sacs is squeezed out, too. It’s when they aren’t completely emptied that problems develop. The fluid inside can become so dry and thick that it plugs up the openings. This is called impaction. Thankfully, impacted sacs are easy to treat. The glands can be gently emptied, or expressed, with your fingers. You may have to do this regularly, and to save a trip, your vet can show you how. Our three dogs – Savage, Bonnie, and Molly, rarely need their glands expressed. But our beagle, Cherry, needs hers done about twice a month. Different breeds are prone to needing manual expression done more often. It is easy to do at home if shown by your veterinarian how to do it.

If your dog repeatedly has impactions, you vet may suggest adding more fiber to his diet. This increases the size of his poop, which puts more pressure on the sacs to empty naturally. If your dog doesn’t have a problem, there is no need for you to empty his sacs.

Left untreated, the impaction will turn into an infection. Look for yellow or bloody pus oozing from his sacs. This painful condition can cause your dog to act fearful or angry. Your vet will wash out the sacs and give your dog antibiotics. An untreated infection will develop into an abscess (a swollen, tender mass of puss) and could break open. Your vet will open and drain the abscess and usually prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Daily warm compresses can help, too.

If your dog keeps having problems, your vet may want to remove his anal sacs with surgery. It’s a simple procedure, but can result in complications like fecal incontinence (when his poop leaks uncontrollably).