Anal glands

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Anal glands

These are two glands located one on either side of the anus. They usually contain a foul-smelling matter which is expelled at urination and/or defecation and act as territory markers. A secondary function of these glands is to act as the body's dustbins in that they are a means of collecting and discharging waste matter from the system.

Many dogs have problems with the anal glands - they cause discomfort which causes the dog to rub its rear-end on the ground or floor ("tobogganing or scooting"). The usual treatment involves manual expression of the contents of the glands, which usually has to be done by a veterinary surgeon. Sometimes these glands may even develop an abscess, which may burst discharging blood and pus. The German Shepherd breed seems to be prone to develop a condition called anal furunculosis, which is a chronic inflammation and infection of the glands and surrounding area.

Some veterinary surgeons recommend the removal of troublesome anal glands. Removing the anal glands surgically is akin to a household doing away with dustbins and keeping the household rubbish under the bed! Anal gland problems are usually blamed on lack of roughage (fibre) in the diet but in fact the problem tends to be seen most in dogs fed on diets which produce bulky faeces anyway.

In fact, if the anal glands fill up and cause trouble it is due to low-quality diets which create an excess of waste matter in the system. Feeding Burns results in very low amounts of faeces being produced yet Burns is an excellent food for avoiding anal gland problems because it minimises the amount of waste matter in the body.

The Health Management Programme at the end of the Dog Health & Nutrition Handbook explains how to avoid this condition through correct feeding.

After a change to Burns the anal glands may need to be emptied once or twice more, as the body ‘detoxifies’. If the anal glands continue to fill up on Burns this indicates there is an accumulation of waste in the body. This may be caused if intake exceeds output.

Excess intake can result from
1) overfeeding
2) incorrect proportions of nutrients, for example too much protein or fat (e.g. adding other foods to Burns)
3) inclusion in the diet of non-nutrients e.g. colourings, chemicals or foods difficult to digest e.g. wheat, soya or dairy products.

Decreased output can result from
1) insufficient exercise
2) a warm environment reduces the amount of energy needed to maintain body temperature (dogs may need less food in the summer)
3) the organs of elimination (kidneys, intestines, skin, liver and gall bladder) may become less efficient as they become clogged.

Many dogs which are overfed do not put on weight but discharge the excess giving rise to the symptoms described in the Development of Disease Stage 1 (page 3 in John Burns 'Dog Health & Nutrition Handbook'). This tends to be true especially for dogs which have lots of exercise. In general, it is the dogs which are not well exercised which become overweight.

If your dog still suffers from anal gland trouble and you have reduced the amount of Burns and cut out all other foods, then a change to a different variety of Burns may help, as some dogs have the ability to digest one type of protein source better than others. We have a variety of adult maintenance foods. Our higher fibre diets are Weight Control - Chicken & Oats and Burns Organic - you may also wish to try these.

"Anal gland problems are most common in overweight animals. These animals have a cushion of fat around the bowel, this can prevent the passage of faeces from exerting pressure on the glands to empty them."
Roberta Baxter MA, Vet MB, MRCVS
'Your Dog' March 2005.

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