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For the love of your pet: The scoop on the scoot

By By John Beck
Sept. 27, 2012 at 4:27 a.m.

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I have a 4-year-old male dog named "Scout" and he is always dragging his bottom on the floor. Why does he always do that?

I hope you've already had breakfast; this article might get a little foul. Scout's anal glands are more than likely compacted and bothering him. Anal glands are sacs/pouches inside the rear end of the dog. They are on each side of the anal opening at 4 and 8 o'clock if you're looking at the anus, the duct looks like a little black head. The actual sac itself is just below the skin on either side of the rectum.

Cats have anal glands as well, but they seem to seldom cause them problems.

Anal sacs are located between the external and internal muscles of the anal sphincters. The gland has two functions - its primary function is for identification for other dogs and cats. It's their own personal scent, that's why you see dogs smelling each other's rear ends. Usually the dogs meeting each other for the first time will raise their tail and slightly express their anal glands. To humans it's the same as shaking hands. They also slightly express their anal glands when passing stool, it's a form of claiming their territory.

The other function is to lubricate passing stool and put their mark on it. Most of the absorption of water in the body takes place in the intestine so sometimes the stool can be pretty compact.

The fluid/substance secreted from the anal gland can vary greatly in color and consistency depending on the length of time since the gland was last emptied naturally or manually. I've seen colors from white to black and everything in between. The same with the consistency some is liquid while some can be gritty, and even like toothpaste in appearance and feel.

There's no mistake the smell with anal gland expressions. They can be described as putrid, foul, rotten, and the list can go on forever. It smells bad. But that's perfectly normal. Dogs have a sense of smell far superior than ours; they can whiff out if the aroma came from a male or female, if a female is in heat, and they can even tell a rough age estimate.

Anal glands that have not been expressed as frequently as needed can lead to very bad infections of the anal gland itself. The gland can get filled to the point where it actually ruptures inside the abdominal cavity or through the skin near the rectum. The only way to fix this problem is to completely remove the anal gland.

Expressing Scout's anal glands is not as complicated as you think, it's actually quite easy. With proper training, you can do it all on your own once you see Scout needing some help. The next time you bring him into your family vet, ask the veterinarian or technicians to show you the proper technique on how to safely express anal glands.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at drjohnbeck@hotmail.com.

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