Many of you might not even know what an Anal Gland is unless your dog regularly goes to the groomer and they express their anal glands as part of the regular services offered. Once in a while your vet might tell you at a routine visit that your dogs anal glands are full and they need to empty them. They either take the dogs to the back of the office or call in the vet tech to hold your dog while they remove really smelly stuff that makes you want to gag. There is no age or sex predisposition to anal sac abscess or impactions some dogs are fine all their life some developed problems as puppies and others as they age. While it is uncommon in large breeds it can occur. Infections and impactions are often experienced by small breeds but even veterinarians don’t really have an explanation. While the addition of extra fiber to a dogs diet is thought to help there is no medical proof that this is the case. It is also extremely common in cats but again there in no real medical explanation for this .
Neither Davinia or Indiana ever had a problem in this area. In fact we were told by a vet not to let anyone touch them as both girls were completely healthy and their daily potty activities seemed to take care of keeping them empty. Davinia started to need help expressing her anal glands after she was attacked. Her back leg muscles in one of her legs never healed and if you touch her back leg you realize there is very little muscle there so going to the bathroom for her sometimes proves upsetting and so overly hard or soft stool is something I avoid with Davinia. Once every six months to a year I take her to the vet and they manually empty them for her and then we are fine again.
What happened to Indiana last week was something I was completely unprepared for. Even at her last vet visit they saw no reason to express her anal glands manually when they were doing Davinia’s. I noticed something stuck to Indiana tail last Monday but didn’t really think anything of it as it looked like dirt and she had been playing outside. It was gone the next time I looked so completely didn’t even think about it. Then Wednesday night Indiana cried and I thought that was a little strange because she was just hanging out under the bed and her dew claws were cut so I knew it couldn’t be that they got caught in her ears. Then we went for a walk and I noticed the dirt again actually this time her tail had grass and twigs and other stuff so I went to pull it out and Indiana got upset. For some reason I looked into the girls crate and noticed what looked like a round blood spot and then I remembered that after playing with one of the little boys that he had a stain on his shirt that his mom and I both thought was rust because he had been climbing on the area where he keeps his bike. I put Indiana in the bath with some warm water and she just sat down and stayed there. She didn’t get up and move around or try to jump out of the bath tub when I left the room to check on something she just sat there. Once all the dirt and grass and twigs were out of her tail I decided to clean her up a bit more with a shampooing. That’s when I noticed something very not right.
Indiana had an open sore on what appeared to be her back thigh which would normally be covered by fur and her tail which is why I didn’t see anything earlier. It was leaking a mix of blood and pus so I emptied the bath and refilled it with clean fresh water. She seemed to be feeling a little bit better by now and so not having anything else with antiseptic properties in the house I put a bit of tea tree oil on a q-tip and applied it to the area in hopes it would help heal it. I wouldn’t suggest doing this as in large doses it can be toxic to dogs but I knew she wouldn’t lick it and that Davinia wouldn’t lick it either as neither can stand the smell if I use it on me. I also hoped it would help clear out the infection. Indiana likes to dry herself off so I let her play on the balcony with a clean blanket. The infected area was still leaking so I put her in her crate and closed the door and she feel right to sleep so I left her there for a few hours until it was time to go out to potty. When we came in I cleaned up the area with some napkins and she went back into her crate.
The next morning the area was still open and she got into her crate and just plopped down without leaving room for Davinia to go in with her. So I left them in separate crates and ran to work where I made an appointment for later that day to visit the vet. I went home and walked both girls and then put Davinia back in her crate and took Indiana to her appointment. After doing a pretty intense check up t make sure everything else was good she examined the open infection. The vet immediately said it was an anal gland abscess and I looked at her funny because. The open wound was on Indiana’s thigh yes it was close to her bum but not where I know a dogs anal glands are. She said the good news is the abscess had opened itself and was draining so she wouldn’t have to lance it. The bad news is she would need to get out the infection. So she took Indiana to the back of the office and removed what she could, cleaned it out, and injected antibiotic into the area along with a steroid to try and kill the bacteria left inside. The veterinarian also cleaned out the other side which she also said was impacted. They sent a sample of it out for testing but didn’t expect to get any result back that the flagyl that they were going to put her on wouldn’t clear up anyway.
Once I had Indiana the vet stepped out of the room and brought back a sample to show me of what she had removed from Indiana. Before she went to show me I asked if she had sprayed it with odor remover she said she didn’t need to which I thought very odd. Then she showed me what was removed and it looked nothing at all like I thought it would. Instead of being a mix of blood and pus there was no blood it was just very dry almost dirt like strands. The vet who was also expecting to find an active infection said she had never seen anything like it. Basically it had dried out but that there was so much that is why it ruptured and created the abscess. Since it became dried out there is no way that this is something that could have cleared itself up on its own nor do we know if this was a sudden thing or if it had been building up over time. She said the only way for her to attempt to get it all out would be to put Indiana under for surgery but she didn’t feel that would be a great option as it could damage her anal glands for the future. She cleaned out her anal glands on both sides, flush out the anal glands, put antibiotic directly into the area, and put Indiana on antibiotics and a pain med.
When we got home Indiana had dinner and got her meds and then spent the next few hours sleeping alone in her crate. When I took the girls out for a walk Indiana’s tail was wagging again and she seemed happier already (probably from the pain meds). We came in and I cleaned her up she went to her crate but I didn’t close the door and then about a half hour later she wanted to come into the bed with Davinia and I and she slept the entire night. By the morning the wound was no longer open and she was back to her regular self. The area was barely inflamed and she was happy to spend the day resting in her crate with Davinia while I was at work.
From now on I will always have to keep an eye on Indiana though the fact that this happened is no indication it will ever happen again or that she will need help once this incident is completely cleared up that she will even need help emptying her anal sacks. Since it is something that was never an issue for Indiana and happened very suddenly I wanted to share our story and make the topic something you think about and at least ask your vet to take a look at for your dogs next annual exams.