Canine Anal Sac Infection: The Always-At-Hand Diagnostic Tool—Whoa, Girl Dogs Have Anal Glands Too!

Anal sacs in dogs can easily become impacted.

An infection is fast to follow and it can result in an abscess. The typical sign of anal gland problems is scooting–dragging the rear along the ground. Your dog might also lick or bite at the area at the base of the tail.

Would it be possible to discover anal sac infection before it becomes swollen and painful? Perhaps?

Scent diagnosis

A great diagnostic tool is right in front of your nose!

While we cannot measure up to our dogs in the olfactory department, it doesn’t mean that our noses are useless. Our main disadvantage isn’t how much information our noses can collect but how little of it we can interpret.

Canine Anal Sac Infection: The Always-At-Hand Diagnostic Tool—Whoa, Girl Dogs Have Anal Glands Too!

Smells fishy

Bad or suspicious odor can be a (subtle) first sign of a problem.

Ever since Jasmine’s back-to-back skin issues, I learned to pay close attention to the way her skin smelled—particularly around her tail where she got the worst of the infection last time. The fur is very thick there and can hold unwanted moisture.

I do regular sniff-checks to determine whether or not she is due for her next medicated bath.

Last week’s check resulted in immediate action.

Normally, when something is brewing in Jasmine’s skin, it smells like a “moldy rag”. You know, if you have a towel or rag that was damp for too long. (I say moldy, but it is actually bacteria what is causing the smell)

Last week I thought it smelled rather different, but wasn’t sure what to make of it. Jasmine got her bath and everything smelled right that night.

The next day though, the smell was back with a vengeance.

Smell that doesn’t wash away

I was quite sure we dried her really well but not to take any chances we bathed her rump again.

All was well that night but the next day the smell returned yet again.

What I found strange was that while the smell seemed quite strong, it seemed as it wasn’t really coming from her skin. Also, the nature of the smell was different; it smelled more poopy than anything. Which didn’t make any sense because I checked and she was perfectly clean.

The thought of anal glands crossed my mind but I didn’t say it out loud. There were no other signs of an issue in that department.

Fortunately, Jasmine had an appointment for catrophen (Canadian version of Adequan) injection for Saturday morning. To be on the safe side I included instructions for the vet to check the skin around her tail, and her rectum.

At the veterinarian

Expecting just to give a couple of quick injections, the vet walked in cheerfully, carrying coffee and a bag with breakfast.

Little he realized we had a different plan for him.

He put the breakfast down, checked the skin and looked at the rectum. “Seems to look fine,” he said, but because he never takes described symptoms lightly, he went on checking the glands. “There is a little bit of discharge … oh, there it is. There is a bit of infection.”

“Nothing like doing this just before breakfast.”

He expressed the anal sacs.

Jasmine didn’t know what to make of all that, “hey, didn’t know that we were THAT friendly!”

Because the infection was still minor, no medication seemed necessary. He will check them again on Friday to see how they’re doing. The smell seems to have gone away though, so I think that the expression might have just done the trick.

“You’re never gonna underestimate my wife’s nose again, are you?” hubby asked.

But the vet didn’t underestimate it the first time either. That is one of the things that make him the great vet he is.

And I am glad that I paid attention to my scent findings too. Unhappy anal sacks can get pretty nasty.

So the next time your nose tells you that something is off, listen to it. You might save your dog a lot of grief.

Did your nose ever alert you to a health problem in your dog?

Related articles:
Scooting in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Dragging Their Bum On The Ground?
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Odor

Further reading:
Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

Categories: Bad odorDiagnosesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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