Anal Gland Abscess in Dogs

Anal Gland Abscess in Dogs

Indiana the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Many of you might not even know what an Anal Gland is let alone what an Anal Gland Abscess 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 before an Anal Gland Abscess occurs. 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 .

But My Dog Has Never Had An Anal Gland Issue Before

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.

anal gland abscess in dogs

Anal Gland Abscess

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.

It Doesn’t Look Like An Anal Gland Issue

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.

Anal Gland Abscess Diagnosis

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.

What the Vet Had to Say

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.

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.

Treating An Anal Gland Abscess

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.

Meds and Rest Are What the Doctor Ordered

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.

Watching Anal Glands for Signs of Trouble

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.

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  1. How strange. I am glad Indiana is doing well now. My little one (Rose) just started needing her anal gland expressed about a year ago. She is 8 1/2 years old now, so I guess that age does have something to do with it. Thanks for sharing this (very important) story.

  2. Brutus Duffy says

    Poor Indiana! I had a dog who had 2 anal gland abscesses and know how traumatic it can be for them. Hope she never gets one again.
    Boxer hugs!

  3. Poor baby. She looks like she crying real tears. I’m glad she’s feeling better.

  4. I have a female cavalier named London and she 1 1/2 yrs old. She had surgery yesterday due to anal gland abscesses. She began crying the other night and when my daughter and I checked on her we saw her licking her rear end and checked it out only to find and open wound with pus and blood coming out. So off to the vet we go the following day. Both her sacs were full and needed draining and lanced. Thank you for the informative story. Now I must pay closer attention to her glands or take her to the vet when she starts scooting her rear end on the floor we must take her to the vet because that’s a sign that her sacs are full and need drained.

  5. My tri color boy just went through this, he was so miserable and the vet actually misdiagnosed him at first, He got flushed out and an enema cause the abscess was blocking his bowl movements, and he is home, draining, and looking miserable, he won’t except treats, with his meds so I am going to wait a little bit to give him his meds. He is resting in his crate looking sad and sore.. I can’t wait for him to feel back to his sweet self. 🙁

  6. This exact issue just happened to my three year old pug! Thank you so much for sharing. When I first saw this on her I was baffled. Just like Indiana, it seemed like dirt on her tail and once cleaned up exposed something quite alarming! It is good to know this is one of those things they will live through with TLC and the help of their vet. Really appreciate your story!!

  7. This is happening to our shih-tzu now, they(vet) sent us home with an antibiotic ointment but I’m worried cause he is not eating, barely drinking and not peeing that well. I’m wondering if more needs to be done. I have actually learned more from your post than I have from the vet. Our dog Emmitt is also wearing a cone.

    • If all you received was an antibiotic I would call the vet and ask for a pain medication. The lack of appetite and potty issues could have to do with pain. Also I would mix in a little plain Yogurt with Emmitt’s food in order to help his body replenish the good bacteria. Just like with people antibiotics take away the good with the bad and sometimes our systems need a little bit of help. I would be worried about the not drinking part because it is super important that he stay hydrated. Call your vet and let them know everything you shared asked for a pain medication (we used Metacam but there are others that your vet might choose instead).

  8. Sir Hamlet...Cocker says

    This just happened today, July 5, 2013. My cocker is always wagging his tail and wanting to sit next to you. He stopped wagging his tail, and it just hung there. Second, he was not jumping up on the couch or bed. Fearing an injury, we patted him down, and he whinned when we touched his stomach. Then he was straining to poop. We went to the vet, and he has an abscess on his anal gland. The vet cleaned both and sent us home with antibiotics. We had started giving him pumpkin at 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds. The vet acknoledged the use of pumpkin and was happy that we already were feeding it. So, Your example is right on. Thanks for sharing. Too early for us to see improvement, and we never had this problem before.

    • Sir Hamlet...Cocker says

      I took Sir Hamlet back to the vet today, July 6, 2013. He demonstrated pain and was whinning. The vet sent me home with anti-inflammatory pills. Currently, Hamlet is on the following:

      1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of dog -Organic Pumpkin – Twice a day
      1 anti-biotic – Amoxi 500 Mg/Clav 125 Mg-Twice a day
      1 allergy pill -Benadryl 25 Mg – Twice a day
      1 anti-inflammatory – Carprofen 25 Mg – Once a day
      1 heartburn pill -Pepcid AC 10 Mg – Once a day

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  10. Kevin Tallant says

    Caviler king charles cookerpanel. We had glades drained but he is still licking and screaming at his tail what could it be

  11. This just happened to my 1.5 year old Cavalier, Lola, today. She had been scooting off and on and I had taken her to the vet a few times in the past and had her glands checked and they were fine so I just dismissed the scooting and assumed it was an itch or nothing serious. Yesterday she began incessantly licking the area and we knew something was not right. Gave her a pain med and a bath, put a cone on her and put her to bed in her crate and scheduled an appointment first thing today. She had a ruptured gland. Poor thing! Will always pay closer attention and take her to the vet if she begins scooting again. Yikes.
    Lola the Cavalier recently posted..UNDER CONSTRUCTIONMy Profile


  1. […] to share it becomes all that more interesting. For instance about a year ago Indiana had an anal gland abscess I had seen them before when I worked at an Animal Hospital but had no idea what her’s was […]

  2. […] Along with Bad Earlier today we received a question on a post we wrote last year about Anal Gland Abscess in Dogs and it brought up something that I think we just don’t consider when giving our pets […]

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