You may have never heard of anal glands, but if you have a pet, you should be aware of them. They are a pair of pockets on either side of a dog’s or cat’s anus. Not usually visible, they are essential to your pet’s digestive health.
Anal glands have several functions. One is to lubricate their behind, making it easier to pass stool. They are also used to release a scent. Some animals use it to mark their territory. Skunks, of course, are known for the scent theirs produce. Possums use it to convince potential predators that they are dead and rotting when they “play possum”. The odor produced by anal glands is particularly unpleasant to humans.
The fluid inside the glands can be released when your pet is scared or stressed. This can lead to unfortunate consequences in the veterinary industry when dealing with a frightened animal. When I tried to explain what they smell like to my husband, I told him that it was like eau de poop – the smell of excrement, but concentrated into a very potent liquid, and easy to differentiate from stool.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll never notice your pet’s anal glands. They can develop problems, however. Infections and abscesses can develop if they aren’t emptying properly. Sometimes animals need help expressing them, but may need medications if a serious problem occurs. If you notice your pet scooting, licking their hind area excessively, or if you see any swelling or redness on either side of the anus, take them to your veterinarian. It is better to treat them early, before an abscess develops or the infection ruptures.
Have you had any problems with your pet’s anal glands? Are you glad you know about them, or so so sad that you had to experience such things?