Amber is a lovely little cavalier-cocker spaniel cross who was developed a wound around her bottom, close to her anus. On closer examination, she appeared to have developed an anal gland abscess. This was a surprise as she had never had problems with her anal glands in the past.
The anal glands are two sac-like pockets located on the sides of the anus in most carnivorous species, including dogs and cats. The secretions from the glands are used as scent markers. In most dogs and cats, the glands empty during defecation then fill again in the time between. In some of our patients, especially little dogs, anatomical quirks or poorer quality diets may impede emptying of the glands. When this occurs, the anal gland becomes overly full. The pockets attached to the gland that contain the secretions can expand to the size of a grape, or even larger!
When the anal glands become too large, they cause inflammation and discomfort to our little furry companions. The most common sign of discomfort is “scooting”, where the dog drags its bottom along the floor repeatedly in an attempt to empty the glands. Chewing and licking at the anus are also common signs. Overly full glands may also become infected and lead to abscess formation. Typically the abscess develops within the gland then bursts out the skin beneath. Unfortunately, this had occurred in Amber's case.
Amber had the abscess assessed and cleaned by a veterinarian. It is important to have any discharge or bleeding assessed by a member of the veterinary team. Often abscesses drain out the from the rupture in the skin but some bacteria and infected material is left within the surrounding tissues. All abscesses should be drained and flushed with sterile saline to remove as much of the infected material as possible. There was also a large amount of swelling occurring around the site of the infection.
Amber was started on a course of anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and for pain relief, and antibiotics to fight off the infection. The wound in the skin healed well over the next 10 days but we continued to check Amber's anal glands for signs of further over-filling. It is important after abscessation that the anal glands are emptied regularly to prevent further issues. In some cases, the glands continue to have problems emptying and may need to be surgically removed. Thankfully, it has now been a few months since the Amber's abscess developed and she is no longer having issues with her anal glands.
Anal gland expression is a procedure that we commonly perform in the clinic. This involves squeezing out the secretions within the gland to empty the pockets. Our patients feel much relief after the swollen glands are emptied. In addition to regular emptying, our team have dietary recommendations that can help to reduce the frequency of the over-filling. We also work together with our patients and their owners to determine a management plan for the future. If your pet is showing signs of discomfort around the bottom, do not hesitate to call us for some help. Early emptying of the glands reduces the risk of infection and abscess formation as occurred with poor Amber.