What Do Anal Glands Do?
Anal glands are two small glands that are located just within the anal opening in all dogs and cats. The glands are not visible to the naked eye and are completely internal. These glands contain an oily and very foul smelling liquid which is used for scent marking purposes. Every time your dog or cat defecates, a small amount of this liquid is released from the glands for scent marking purposes, and this is how dogs and cats can identify each another.
What Causes Anal Gland Disease?
Anal gland problems develop whenever the glands fill-up excessively or become blocked. This can happen for a variety of reasons. As your pet normally defecates, the feces pass over the glands and creates pressure which causes the glands to empty. If your pet has soft stool or diarrhea then not enough pressure is created to empty the glands. Also, if your pet's glands are located in an abnormal anatomical position it may be difficult for your pet's feces to produce enough pressure to properly empty the glands.
Another problem can stem from inflammation of the anal glands either due to allergies or from infection. Inflammation of the anal glands can cause the tiny little ducts where the liquid escapes to become obstructed causing the liquid secretion to become trapped. If the liquid from the glands cannot be released normally, then it can build-up leading to an infection or an abscess.
What Are Symptoms of Anal Gland Disease?
If the liquid cannot be released from the anal glands then the pressure will build-up over time causing discomfort for your pet. Commonly observed symptoms of anal gland problems in dogs and cats are:
Dogs - Scooting of the rear end on the ground; excessive licking, chewing, or biting underneath the tail; straining to defecate, a sudden foul odor from your dog, and frequently turning to look at the rear end
Cats - Defecating outside the litter box, straining to defecate, a sudden foul odor from your cat, and excessive grooming underneath the tail