Sometimes dogs may not empty their anal sacs when they pass faeces as well as they should. This may be due to the stools being too soft (perhaps due to diarrhoea), excessive amounts of secretion being present or poor muscle tone in the area. If the anal glands do not empty properly they will become impacted with secretion.
Dogs with impacted anal glands show varying signs of discomfort. They may scoot their bottoms along the ground in an attempt to empty the glands, strain when they pass faeces, nibble and bite at the anal area and sometimes they may behave unusually, perhaps suddenly jumping up while resting and looking at their tail. If these signs are noticed before further problems develop the anal glands may be gently expressed to relieve the problem.
Once the anal glands have been expressed it is worth looking at the diet or any other possible factors which could be causing the anal glands to be incompletely emptied during the normal passage of stools. Sometimes faecal bulking agents may be used to ensure that the anal glands are more likely to empty properly during defecation.
If the problem goes unnoticed at the early stages the anal glands may become inflamed or infected. Usually it is still possible to treat the problem relatively easily by gently expressing the glands to remove the impacted secretion. At this stage it may also be necessary to instill antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication into the anal gland following expression of the secretion which is often a thick brown/ yellowish paste .
Abscesses may also form if impacted anal glands are not treated and these may rupture releasing a foul smelling discharge around the tail area. If the problem has progressed to this stage treatment with antibiotics will usually be required and the dog may be noticeably unwell due to the infection.
If your dog is very prone to problems with its anal glands it may be worth getting them checked by your vet on a regular basis rather than waiting for problems to arise (if the anal glands can be easily palpated through the skin they are considered to be enlarged). If your pet has continual anal gland problems it may also be worth considering having the anal glands removed surgically. This is a relatively simple procedure carried out under general anaesthetic. However no surgery is completely without its risks and apart from the usual risks of anaesthetics and surgery there is a small chance that your pet may not be able to control his bowel movements following this type of surgery. However this risk is small and when it does occur faecal control may improve with time. If the surgery goes well (as it usually does in my experience) the outcome is very good.