Care for your pet like Vince the Vet

When a dog's anal glands are working normally, there's no knowing they're there - apart from the occasional burst of a fishy smell from the rear end perhaps, or the overexuberant snuffling of the bottom by a canine friend.

When they do develop problems however, there's a tendency for issues to reoccur.

And when this is the case, effecting a long term cure can be challenging, particularly when the underlying cause or causes persist.

These often include:

1.  Anatomical issues:

Abnormal positioning of a gland or a smaller than normal duct through which the anal sac secretion has to pass on its way to the bowel, can both restrict emptying of the affected sac(s) - which become increasingly swollen and painful until the contents are expressed manually. 

In affected dogs, this often means repeated emptying throughout life.

2.  An unhealthy diet:

Lack of fibre intake can lead to soft stools, which fail to press firmly enough on the anal sacs to empty them naturally during defaecation.

Carbohydrate and sugar rich foods, including fruits, grains and sweet vegetables can fuel yeast overgrowths in the gut, predisposing to microbiome disturbances which aggravate intestinal and anal sac disease.

3.  Obesity:

Excess bodyweight may lead to added pressure in the perineal region and weaker muscle tone, which can affect anal gland emptying.

4.  Lack of exercise:

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weaker muscles around the anus, contributing to difficulties in gland expression.

5.  Infections:

These are often associated with an unhealthy microbiome which increases the risk of ‘unfriendly’ bacteria travelling up the ducts from the large intestine and into the anal sacs, where they can cause abscesses, irritation, impaction and other conditions. 

6.  Dietary sensitivities:

Food allergens can trigger inflammation and swelling of the tissues around the anal glands leading to blockages and / or infections. 

7.  Inflammation

Conditions such as colitis or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can also involve the anal glands.

8.  Parasites:

Inflammation of the bowels caused by a range of intestinal worms can contribute to anal gland issues.

Steps to help reduce the need for manual emptying:

1.  Add Digestion to the diet.

This supplies healthy fibre to aid gland emptying. 

2.  Give a good probiotic.

Plain live yoghurt, kefir or a commercial bio-culture such as this (entre vincethevet15 at checkout on Time Health's website to receive a 15% discount), for example.

This plus Digestion supports the development of a healthier gut microbiome, which is important for the maintenance of healthy anal glands.

(The probiotic of choice boosts the beneficial bacteria population in the gut while Digestion supplies the fuel they need to thrive and populate the bowels.


These supplements also help to counteract the ill-effect of previous courses of antibiotics and other medications on the gut flora.

3.  Add Immunity to the Diet.

This increases faecal bulk to physically aid emptying of the glands, and also supports the body's natural defences to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation and infection.

Introducing Vitality further down the line, provides a rich supply of anti-oxidants to further combat inflammation, and boost the level of micronutrients in the diet, which aid tissue regeneration and repair.  

4.  Adjust the diet:

If food sensitivities are suspected, it is important to identify which foods are responsible for provoking inflammation so they can be avoided. The best way to do this is by means of an elimination diet. A Nutriscan test can help to narrow down where to begin. 

Cutting starch and sugar from the diet (found in all fruits, most grains and many vegetables) will help to reduce yeast and bacterial overgrowths which disturb the gut microbiome, and minimise the adverse effect this has on anal gland function.

Reduce calorie intake if necessary to maintain an ideal body condition.

5.  Screen regularly for worms and implement natural worm control:

Submit a stools sample for analysis every 3 months using this kit to rule out infection with intestinal worms (roundworm, tapeworm, whipworm, hookworm and lungworm).

Give 2 - 3 drops of Natural Worm Control and Detoxification Support on a teaspoon of fresh food (not kibble) 3 times daily for the first 7 days in every month.

6.  Make lifestyle changes:

Increase exercise to improve muscle tone around the anal region. Swimming is particularly good for this - but don't overdo it early on.