Certain dogs have a chronic problem with their anal glands becoming clogged. To be sure, anal gland cleaning is an unpleasant task, but a dog groomer can help you handle the problem.
Preparation and Assessment
The groomer shampoos the dog, taking special care to cleanse the area under the tail. She assesses whether the anal glands need expression. These matching sacs just inside the dog's rectum are the size and shape of a medium-sized grape. The glands release stinky fluid upon defecation or when an animal is terrified or stressed. Not all groomers offer anal gland care as a service. If the groomer does provide this service, she determines if the anal glands are full, dons a pair of gloves and gently palpates the glands from the outside.
The Groomer's Process
The groomer performs the expression while the dog is still in the tub, with a water source ready to flush the contents down the drain. If the problem is not too severe, the fluid comes out. It takes a lot of trial and error and expertise on the part of the groomer to get the glands fully expressed. One word of caution: A groomer should never attempt to express anal glands in the presence of infection or serious impaction.
The Vet's Process
If impacted anal glands become a chronic problem for your dog, you may elect to take your pooch to the vet every time the glands become inflamed. When the glands are infected or inflamed or when the dog is especially fractious or fearful, the vet or tech expresses the anal glands with a slightly different and more invasive technique. He inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the anus about one-half inch. After locating the anal glands on each side, he depresses one gland at a time and draws his finger forward, emptying the contents into a paper towel pressed against the dog’s rear end.
This quickly clears out the room along with the anal gland since it is so effective and the fluid isn't flushed away immediately. The scent of the product of anal glands is unmistakable and lingering. Groomers have not been fully trained to perform invasive procedures and will not undertake such a dangerous feat.
If you feel you have the temperament for it, and your dog is a willing participant, you may want to learn how to empty the anal glands yourself. It would be wise for you to ask your vet if this is a good idea, as your vet knows your dog and his history of anal gland problems.
If your vet agrees to show you how to perform this delicate process yourself, make sure you are comfortable with every step during the procedure. Most dog owners, as with groomers, will not want to insert a finger into the dog's rectum and instead manipulate from the outside. Be careful, as even the dog with the sweetest temperament will protest. Prevention is a better policy, so make sure your dog gets plenty of fiber, exercise and hydration to keep things moving along, and keep an eye out for any signs of problems, which may include scooting or obsessive licking of the area.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.