Anal Glands & Raw Food

Anal glands; dogs have them; we don’t. Why? What do they do? Why do they cause problems? What can we do to help them help themselves? Does feeding a raw food diet help?

What are Anal Glands?

Anal glands are two small pouches of watery to sticky material that exists just inside the anus of all dogs. They sit at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock on the anus of the dog, if you visualise a clock, as you look from behind, under the skin and below the last inch of the rectum.

In a Chihuahua, they are about the size of a frozen pea. In a Dane, they’ll be the size of a small plum. Anal glands are modified sweat glands – which also ooze stuff onto the skin: sweat.

They Do What? Seriously?

Anal glands are used in the complex scent communication life of a dog. A dog’s stool in itself tells a sniffing friend a lot about the dog – what they’ve eaten, how healthy they are and how recently they deposited the turd, usually marking out territory.

In addition, the anal glands put a smear of anal gland material, juice, stuff on the stool which gives more information about the previous owner of the stool – individual identifiers, like a finger-print, pheromones to indicate if bitches are in season or how mature a male is or, again, how healthy they are and therefore how much of a threat they may represent.

I always describe anal gland material in dogs is like a man wearing a fancy or whacky tie, or a woman a discreet brooch or flamboyant scarf – it’s all to do with communicating who you are and what you may be able to do. Maybe you could call it the start of the advertising industry? It’s still (advertising that is) a pretty mucky business to this day!

Problems?

In prehistoric times, when dogs ate a species-appropriate diet of rabbits, mice, antelopes, sheep poo, a few berries and whatever carcases they could scrounge, their stools were mainly small, hard, bony and crumbly. As these ancient chalky stools passed the ancient anal ring, they would cause the glands to be squeezed, depositing a small blob of goo on each stool – to tell the world what it needed to know about the poo-er. It was a self-regulating system – when the dog passed a stool, some material was squeezed out every day or so. Simple.

Nowadays, we get problems mainly because of inconsistent stools. The anal gland system is based on regular gentle squeezing by good firm poos. Irregular stool consistency, as we often see in our processed food fed dogs, means irregular self-squeezing of the glands. Irregular squeezing means build-up of anal gland material, potential infections, complication and pain.

Scooting

The most common sign of anal gland discomfort is scooting on their backsides. Some people call it sledging or bum-shuffling. I think you know what I mean. I’ve also seen dogs with anal gland problems chew anywhere from their tail base to their hind toes. I know it’s this because once you fix the glands, the chewing stops. Some folk will tell you scooting is due to worms. This is rarely the case.

Help Your Dog’s Anal Glands

You can help your dog immensely by changing to a nutritious and variable diet that gives consistent stool quality. In my book, this is raw food, all the way. My reasoning is we’re just going back to the original model – raw, species-appropriate food into the dog, good stools out. Change that equilibrium with junk food, junk treats, ultra-processed diets and inferior quality’ pet food’, and this is a likely result.

So talk to a quality raw food supplier and change your dog to raw. It’s as simple as that. We usually see this easy and delicious change making all the difference: GIGO – garbage in, garbage out, HIHO – health in, health out!

Persistent Problems?

Some dog’s anal glands have been such an issue for so long that the anal gland may have been damaged, permanently inflamed, or the microbiome disrupted, so called ‘dysbiosis’. Your vet can investigate to tell you if there is damage. In this case, unfortunately, surgey may be necessary. Persistent infection, inflammation and dysbiosis can sometimes be addressed by flushing the glands or putting an anti-inflammatory/antibiotic solution into the glands. In my practice, if the dog will stand for 2-3 minutes, it’s often possible to instil Canaural solution (yep, the greasy stuff for ears!) into each gland in the consulting room. This simple intervention, often carried out on the conscious dog, can, at one go, block inflammation, kill persistent bad bugs and then give the good bugs a chance to take over again. Talk to your vet about this if your dog has anything but the mildest of problems.

Ancient Diet Fixes Modern Problem

If your dog scoots any more than once or twice a year, then get their anal glands checked at the vet when they do. If the problem persists, please please consider a raw food diet to consistently firm up the stools with a rotation of balanced meals providing full and broad nutrition. The bone content of the diet is key to producing a firm stool. The raw food diet’s healing effect on an inflamed or even IBD gut to allow firm, normal stools is a sight for sore eyes.

You heard it hear first – heal those anal glands with a raw food diet. Do it today.

Nick Thompson

BSc (Hons) Path Sci., BVM&S, VetMFHom, MRCVS. Founding President of the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society. Petplan Vet of the Year Nominee 2009, 2015, 2017, 2018 & 2020. The practice of the Year Nominee 2018.

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