Q: I have a 7 year old Basset male in good health. He develops blocked and then infected anal glands every 3 months or so. Usually anti-biotics takes care of it. His bowel movements are ok and his behavior is normal, but when he gets a bit smelly, we know something is brewing. Is there any way to remedy this or stop it? We did not have this with our first basset. Thanks
A: All dogs have a pair of grape sized sacs located just inside the opening of the anus at about the 4 and 8 o’clock position. These anal glands produce a smelly, yellowish-gray to brownish pasty material, which is normally secreted by tiny narrow channels or ducts leading from the sac to the surface of the anus when a dog poops or when it is startled or frightened.
Dogs with anal sac problems can’t properly eliminate material that their glands normally produce. Anal sac “disease” happens when the sacs become inflamed, impacted, infected, irritated, abscessed or affected by tumors. Infection, irritation and trauma damage the ducts. Repeated damage may cause the ducts to be partially or totally blocked. Blocked anal gland ducts cause the glands to enlarge, inflame and become painful. A vicious cycle is created as the more they become blocked, the more likely they will become blocked again. When the veterinarian expresses the anal glands, pressure is applied to the gland, blowing out the blockage.
There is no age or sex predisposition to anal sac issues. Uncommon in large breeds, infections and impactions are often found in small breeds such as Toy and Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, and Lhasa Apsos. Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles. Some dogs may be born with very narrow ducts that lead from the sacs to the edge of the anus, thereby hindering the flow of anal sac material.
If the anal glands get too full they can get impacted and this can cause serious discomfort to the dog. A dog with blocked anal glands may walk hunched, have difficulty defecating, or seem constipated. They may drag or scoot the anus on the carpet as if to scratch a painful itch on the area under the tail. Some dogs lick their anus excessively when they have problems. If an impacted gland is left untreated then bacteria builds up and the dog can get an anal sac infection, or even an anal sac abscess.
The veterinarian can then lance the abscess to establish a route for drainage, which will greatly reduce the dog’s discomfort. Antibiotics are often recommended for dogs with anal sac infections. Some dogs such as your male basset hound have chronic recurrent anal sac problems. In these dogs, long-term treatment should include managing the dog’s weight, increasing the amount of insoluble fiber in his diet and making sure that he gets an adequate amount of physical exercise. Adding some pumpkin (about 2 tbsp) to his food daily may help as well.
The occasional blockage is not serious, however, repeated or severe anal gland blockages warrant surgical intervention called an “anal sacculectomy.” Dogs do not need anal glands to defecate properly, and scent marking is not necessary for pets so the anal glands can safely be removed surgically. Removal will provide permanent relief for your dog.
Hope this helps,