Can Food Cause Anal Gland Issues in Dogs?

Can Food Cause Anal Gland Issues in Dogs?

July 01, 2024

Dogs who scoot their bottoms along the floor may have anal gland issues.

Dog anal glands are little sacs near their tail that store a unique scent, but sometimes these sacs get clogged or infected.

Interestingly, your dog's diet may play a role in all this. This quick read will discuss the connection between what your pup eats and their anal gland health.

We will also discuss the best dog food for anal gland issues and what causes anal gland problems in dogs.

What are Anal Glands in Dogs?

Anal glands, sometimes called anal sacs, are two tiny pockets located on either side of a dog's rear end. These glands produce a strong-smelling fluid unique to each dog.

When a dog passes stool, the stool typically puts a bit of pressure on the anal glands, squeezing out a tiny bit of that particular scent.

It is believed that a small amount of this fluid is used to mark territory. Dogs may also involuntarily express their anal sacs when they are stressed or due to fear.

While most dogs will not have trouble with their anal glands, other dogs will experience glandular issues. Here are a couple of common issues.

Anal Gland Impaction

Your dog's anal glands can become impacted if they do not empty properly. You can tell your dog's anal glands are full by their behaviour.

Scooting is a clear sign that there is something wrong with your dog's glands. They might also lick or bite at their behind more than usual.

Impaction can happen for several reasons, but a common culprit is diarrhoea, which does not provide enough pressure to express the glands.

When this occurs, the fluid inside thickens and hardens, blocking the ducts and causing the glands to swell. An impacted gland will be painful for your pet.

If left untreated, impacted glands can become infected with bacteria, leading to increased swelling, fever, and even abscesses.

Anal Gland Infection

If an impacted anal gland is not promptly treated, it can lead to infection, resulting in significant discomfort for your pet.

You may notice redness and swelling in the area around the anus.

In addition to the above signs, a dog with an infected anal gland will often scoot or lick the area excessively in an attempt to relieve the irritation and pain.

Anal Gland Rupture

If the infection worsens, the pressure can cause the anal gland to rupture, creating a small hole near the anus. This might relieve some immediate discomfort but will lead to more major problems.

A ruptured anal gland exposes the inside of the sac to bacteria from faeces and the environment, increasing the risk of further infection and greater health problems.

What to Do?

If you think your dog's anal glands are full or infected, see your veterinarian.

They can conduct a rectal exam to determine the issue. If needs be, they can express the blocked anal glands by gently squeezing them to release the trapped fluid.

It is always best to leave anal gland expression to the professionals. Trying to do it at home can be risky and make things worse.

What is the Role of Diet in Anal Gland Health?

Diet plays a very large role in your pet's anal gland health! Here is how what your pet consumes can affect their anal sacs.

Natural Nutrient-Rich Diets

A highly digestible, fibre-rich diet allows your dog to absorb more nutrients. This minimizes waste and will create firm stools.

While dry food might seem convenient, these products are often packed with low-nutrient fillers that can lead to frequent, overly bulky, or loose, soft stools.

Instead, consider vet-formulated meals made with natural, whole foods. These meals are tailored to your dog's needs and balance macro and micronutrients perfectly in every serving.

Promote Regular Digestion With Fibre

Adding fibre to your dog's diet can improve their digestion and stool consistency. Pumpkin is an ideal source of fibre for dogs, but it is important to introduce it gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach.

Here is how.

  1. Mix a small amount of cooked, plain pumpkin (no added sugar, salt, or spices) with your dog's regular food.
  2. Gradually increase the amount over a few days to allow their digestive system to adjust.
  3. Canned pumpkin can work too, but double-check the ingredients to ensure it does not contain any filler ingredients.

While raw pumpkin is technically safe for dogs, it is difficult to digest and may upset their stomachs. Cooked pumpkin is much kinder to their digestive system.

Anti-inflammatory Ingredients

Inflamed anal glands are uncomfortable for your pet and can lead to further complications like impaction and abscesses. Fortunately, a diet rich in natural anti-inflammatory ingredients can help.

Incorporate the following powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients into your dog's diet.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These healthy fats are found in fish oil and can reduce swelling and prevent inflammation.
  • Ginger, Spirulina, and Turmeric: These powerful ingredients have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe and protect the anal glands.

In addition to these beneficial ingredients, ensure your dog consumes meals made with high-quality protein sources, like grass-fed, free-range, barn-raised, or wild-caught options.

These proteins are less likely to trigger inflammation than grain-fed proteins in many pet foods.

Fresh Water for Improved Digestion

Dehydration can slow down your dog's digestive system, leading to constipation.

This can be incredibly uncomfortable if your pet already has anal gland issues. Straining to pass a hard stool can worsen these problems.

Avoid this issue by ensuring your dog always has fresh, clean drinking water. A water fountain may be useful, as some dogs prefer moving water.

Hypoallergenic Food

Dogs that suffer from itchy skin or digestive issues may be exhibiting sensitivities to particular ingredients in their food. These sensitivities can irritate the anal glands and cause discomfort.

If you suspect your pup has a sensitive stomach, consult your veterinarian. They can recommend an elimination diet to pinpoint the culprit ingredient.

What are Dietary Factors Contributing to Anal Gland Issues?

What your pet eats plays a big role in keeping their anal glands healthy.

This section will explore how their diet can affect anal gland function.

  • Low Fibre Diets: Fibre is a primary bulking agent in a dog's diet. If your dog's diet lacks fibre, its stool may be too soft to apply pressure on its glands, leading to potential issues with gland expression.
  • Food Allergies or Intolerances: If your dog has a food allergy or intolerance, it can irritate its digestive system, leading to inflammation throughout the GI tract. This inflammation can extend to the anal glands, causing discomfort and impairing their function.
  • Dehydration: Water is key to healthy anal glands. A dehydrated dog will have hard and impacted stool, making natural expression difficult. Excessive diarrhoea can also disrupt the natural expression process.

By feeding your dog a diet rich in fibre, free from allergens they might be sensitive to, and keeping them well-hydrated, you can help them avoid discomfort and express their anal glands naturally.

What are the Symptoms of Anal Gland Issues?

Here are some common signs of glandular issues to watch for.

  • Scooting: If your dog is dragging their rear end on the floor, furniture, or carpet, it could be because their anal glands are bothering them. This behaviour indicates discomfort in that area.
  • Licking and Biting: Excessive licking or biting around the base of the tail or anal area can signal irritation or discomfort, possibly due to anal gland issues or skin irritation.
  • Straining to Poop: If your dog is struggling or showing discomfort while trying to poop, it might be because of pain from swollen anal glands. This will make it difficult for them to pass stools.
  • Fishy Smell: While anal glands naturally have a slight odour, a strong, fishy smell can signify an infection or other issue that needs attention. This odour comes from a buildup of secretions in the glands, which can become infected without regular expression.
  • Redness and Swelling: If the area around your dog's anus looks red, inflamed, or swollen, it may be indicative of an abscessed anal gland.
  • Scooting After Pooping: If your dog seems relieved after pooping but starts scooting afterwards, it might be because their anal glands did not empty properly. This can occur if their stool is not firm enough to pressure the glands.
  • Sudden Yelping: If your dog yelps or cries when touched around the tail or rear end, it can indicate pain from anal gland problems.
  • Visible Discharge: Brown or bloody discharge near the anus indicate an impacted or abscessed anal gland.
  • Loss of Appetite: Severe discomfort from anal gland issues can sometimes lead to a loss of appetite in your dog.

If you notice any of these signs, it is best to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Preventive Dietary Strategies

Keeping your dog's anal sacs in proper shape can save your dog discomfort and you a trip to the vet.

A big part of anal gland health comes down to diet. This section will explore some dietary strategies to prevent anal gland problems.

Recommendations for High-Fibre Diets

A diet rich in fibre is necessary to promote healthy anal gland expression. Here are some excellent fibre sources to consider.

  • Include Whole Grains: Incorporate whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat into your pet's diet. These fibre-rich grains can help keep their digestive system functioning properly.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Ensure your pet's diet includes plenty of fibre-rich fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, berries, broccoli, carrots, and leafy greens. Aim for at least five servings every day to supply essential fibre for your pet's overall health.
  • Add Legumes: Add legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas to your pet's meals. These fibrous legumes can be incorporated into different foods to boost your pet's fibre intake.
  • Choose Fibre-Rich Snacks: Choose fibre-rich snacks for your pet, such as specific nuts and seeds.
  • Incorporate Psyllium Husk: You may also consider incorporating psyllium husk, a natural dietary fibre supplement, into your pet's diet. This supplement can be mixed with water to help increase your pet's daily fibre intake and improve their digestive wellness.

Benefits of Probiotics and Other Supplements

Here are some of the key advantages associated with regular use of probiotics and other beneficial supplements.

  • Improved Digestion: Probiotic digestive supplements help balance beneficial bacteria in the gut, enhancing digestion and preventing issues like constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Boosted Immunity: Regular intake of probiotics can strengthen the immune system by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Better Nutrient Absorption: Probiotics aid in absorbing essential nutrients from food by maintaining healthy gut flora.
  • Decreased Inflammation: Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric can prevent issues like anal sac inflammation.

Tips for Transitioning to a New Diet to Aid in Anal Gland Health

Switching your dog's food suddenly can upset their stomach. Here is how to ease them into the new diet.

  • Gradual Change: Slowly introduce new foods to avoid upsetting the digestive system. Combine a small amount of the new dog food with the existing diet and gradually increase the proportion.
  • Monitor Reactions: Observe them for any signs of digestive issues, such as loose stools or vomiting, and adjust the diet accordingly.
  • Hydration: Ensure your dog has plenty of water available, as hydration is crucial for digestion and overall health.
  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps stimulate the digestive system, which can assist with anal gland health.

By incorporating these dietary strategies, you can help your dog maintain healthy anal glands.

Treatment Options for Anal Gland Issues

Anal gland problems in dogs can cause discomfort and health issues. Here is a simple guide to understanding when to see a veterinarian and the common treatments available.

When to See a Veterinarian

Consult a veterinarian if your pet shows any or several of the following signs.

  • Scooting: Dragging their bottom on the floor.
  • Licking or Biting: Excessive licking or biting around the anal area.
  • Swelling or Redness: Visible swelling or redness near the anus.
  • Foul Smell: A strong, unpleasant smell coming from the rear end.
  • Difficulty Defecating: Straining or showing pain when trying to poo.

Common Treatments for Anal Gland Problems

Treatment for a dog's anal gland issues can vary depending on the severity of the problem. Here are some common options.

Manual Expression

Manual expression is a frequently utilized method for addressing canine anal gland issues. It involves applying pressure to the dog's anal glands to release any trapped fluid.

This process is typically performed by a veterinarian or a trained groomer and is commonly used for mild cases or routine dog health maintenance.

Dietary Changes

Here is how you can adjust your pet's diet for optimal anal gland health.

  • High-Fibre Diet: Adding fibre to your pet’s diet can help create bulkier stools. These stools naturally press on the glands during defecation, helping them empty.
  • Hydration: Ensuring your pet drinks enough water can also help keep stools soft and easier to pass.

Medical Interventions

Here are some of the medical interventions a veterinarian might use to treat anal gland impaction.

  • Antibiotics: These may be prescribed to treat anal gland infections.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medicines: These can help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Flushing: The veterinarian might flush out the impacted anal glands with a saline solution to clean them.

Surgical Options

In case of severe or chronic anal gland impaction, surgical removal of the impacted anal glands, known as anal sacculectomy, may be required.

However, this process is typically considered a last resort due to the potential complications.

Home Care

Laying a warm, damp cloth on the affected area can relieve mild irritation by reducing inflammation and promoting blood circulation.

Keeping the area clean by gently washing it with mild soap and water can also help control further irritation and potential infection.

If your pet shows signs of anal gland problems, it is important to consult a veterinarian. Early intervention can prevent serious problems and keep your pet comfortable and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section tackles some common concerns dog owners may have about food and anal gland health.

What Happens if a Dog Has Too Much Fibre?

Fibre is crucial for healthy digestion in dogs, but finding the right amount is key. Too much fibre can cause diarrhoea, while too little can lead to constipation and anal gland problems.

Can I Feed My Dog Treats Even With Anal Gland Issues?

To pinpoint potential food sensitivities, temporarily eliminate all extras from your dog's diet. This includes treats and chews. Limiting ingredients can help identify if a specific ingredient is causing your dog's anal gland issues.

Key Takeaways on Food Causing Anal Gland Issues in Dogs

In summary, while diet isn't the sole culprit, it plays a major role in anal gland problems for dogs.

Certain dietary factors like the following can contribute to anal gland issues.

  • Fibre content
  • Allergies
  • Low-quality ingredients

Remember, a healthy diet is crucial for your dog's overall well-being, so do not wait to address any anal gland concerns!

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice your dog scooting or having trouble expressing their glands.

They can create a customized diet plan to address your dog's specific needs and improve their anal gland health.