You may have heard about them, your dog may have had them emptied, but do you know what they are?
Anal glands, or anal sacs, are little balloon-type structures, about the size of a grape; located inside the body, either side of the anus, you can see them outlined in blue on the picture below:
The glands contain a special scent, which is of interest to other dogs.
Every time your dog has a poo (passes faeces) some of the anal gland liquid comes out. This is perfectly normal and should happen.
The scent is strong smelling (smells quite fishy), and is thought to be invloved in territory marking.
Sometimes, the glands become full, and due to the faeces not being hard enough (not enough fibre in the diet), anatomy, or other causes (cancer, allergies) the gands don't empty properly with each motion passed.
The fluid continues to build up inside, and you may notice your dog 'scooting' along the ground, or licking at their botttom.
Scooting, although it may look amusing, is actually a sign of pain and discomfort, and you should book an apppointment with your vet clinic as soon as possible.
If anal glands become blocked, they could develop an infection, whcih can lead to a very painful abscess, which can require surgery.
What can go wrong with them?
Should I express my dog's anal glands myself?
We would not advise you to do this.
Expressing anal glands requires knowlege of anatomy and how to handle these very delicate parts of the body.
If they are not expressed carefully and correctly, then the delicate balloon-like gland could burst, and this may require expensive and complicated surgery, with a sepcialist surgeon, to correct.