Diarrhea is inevitable in the life of a dog. They’re constantly trying to eat things they shouldn’t, which usually ends with a tummy ache and a mess pet parents get to clean up! Some unlucky pups deal with diarrhea on a regular basis. Chronic diarrhea doesn’t merely indicate digestive problems, though—it could spell trouble for a dog’s anal glands, too.
Chronic diarrhea is the leading cause of anal gland impaction. Read on to learn about the condition and what you can do to treat it.
The role stool plays in anal gland health
Dogs have a pair of anal glands located inside the rectum. They secrete an oily, foul-smelling substance that’s yellowish-brown or gray in color. Anal gland secretions are designed to mark a dog’s territory every time they poop. Pet parents usually don’t notice this, but these secretions are supposed to get eliminated along with the stool.
Firm stool is necessary in order for the anal glands to naturally express themselves. In other words, healthy poop means healthy anal glands! Stool with a normal consistency pushes against the anal glands as it exits through the rectum. Secretions travel through tubes that are connected to each gland. This process ensures that the glands are emptied on a regular basis.
However, when a dog suffers from chronic diarrhea, secretions can build up inside the anal glands. Glands that aren’t naturally expressed may become swollen with too much fluid and eventually become impacted. Anal gland impaction means the secretions are too thick to drain out of the tubes normally. Severe impaction may cause these secretions to dry up and develop an infection. Dogs with this condition require a vet to manually express their anal glands.
Symptoms of anal gland impaction
Pet parents are often frustrated by dogs who scoot their rump on the carpet. However, this frustrating behavior is actually a cry for help. Impacted anal glands make the anus red, swollen and painful, causing your poor pup to do whatever they can to ease some of their discomfort.
The following signs have also been associated with anal gland impaction:
- Straining to defecate
- Chasing their tail
- Licking or biting the rear end
- Foul smelling odor
- Oozing abscesses around the anus
Discover what’s causing the diarrhea
Chronic diarrhea is one of the most common causes of impacted anal glands. In order to stop recurring impactions, pet parents should consult a vet to determine what’s causing the diarrhea. Your vet will have to run tests to pinpoint the underlying cause, since diarrhea is a symptom of many different health conditions.
Causes of diarrhea are usually local to the digestive tract, such as intestinal parasites or inflammatory bowel disease. Dogs with chronic diarrhea might also have a foreign object blocking the small intestine or a sensitivity to their food. With any luck, the problem could simply be that your pup ate something they shouldn’t have! Unfortunately, anal glands that are regularly impacted typically stem from a more deeply rooted issue.
How to treat impacted anal glands
Several treatment options are available for dogs with impacted anal glands. Vets typically recommend manual expression every four to eight weeks. Your vet will conduct this procedure in their office by inserting a gloved finger into the dog’s rectum and applying gentle pressure to drain the anal glands. Sedation is necessary only if the glands are infected or manual expression causes a lot of pain for the pup.
The vet might also recommend at-home treatments to firm up your dog’s stool. This often involves gradually switching to a high-fiber diet so the bowel movements have enough bulk to press against and drain the anal glands. Some commercial dog foods are high in fiber to promote good digestive health. You could also add a spoonful of plain canned pumpkin to your dog’s kibble. Plus, pumpkin puree makes a tasty treat!
Probiotics are an important part of every healthy digestive system. They populate the gut microbiome with a diverse range of friendly bacteria that help regulate the consistency of your dog’s poop. The most common way to ensure pups get enough probiotics is through a daily supplement.
Pet parents can prevent impacted anal glands by seeking veterinary help the second they see runny poop in the backyard. One incident of diarrhea won’t harm your pup—but letting it go untreated for too long is what causes impaction. Wait to see if the diarrhea clears up in a couple days. If it persists, seek diagnosis to protect your dog’s anal gland health.