This odd piece of dog and cat anatomy rears its ugly head every day at the clinic, but most owners have never heard of them. On either side of the anus, at approximately 3 and 9 o'clock, are two balloon shaped glands. They are located just underneath the skin, and are connected to the colon by a small duct. These glands produce a foul smelling brown liquid, which normally excretes when a dog defecates. The smells in this fluid act as a marker to other dogs in the area, and is one of the reasons dogs enjoy sniffing other dogs' feces.
For the majority of dogs, the anal gland never causes any issues. It is very common for the duct along the pathway to become inflamed and swell, making it difficult if not impossible for the fluid to be released. The duct becomes inflamed most commonly in dogs with allergies, they can even become infected!
Enlarged anal glands are extremely uncomfortable to our dogs, this is the stage when we usually see dogs licking at their hind end, or rubbing their back end on the carpet. Some dogs don't tend to show any signs at all. This is the point when they need to be brought to the clinic to have their anal glands expressed, so we can relieve the pressure.
If the pressure continues to increase, these balloons can burst and cause an infection under the skin which requires surgery to clean the area, antibiotics, and to wear a cone collar on the neck for two weeks while the area heals.
Having these anal glands expressed as soon as your dog is rubbing their back-end on the floor, or licking nearby can help prevent an issue. It only takes a few minutes, and can give your dog some needed relief.