Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture in Dogs (Our Personal Experience)

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anal gland abscess and rupture in dogs treatment

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Is there a large red lump appearing by the side of your dog’s anus? Or perhaps it’s clear that the swelling is rapidly progressing into an abscess? 

If your dog is in pain or is showing signs of being incredibly uncomfortable with its backside, then it may be an anal gland abscess. Here’s what happened to our dog when she had a sudden anal gland abscess and rupture.

dog ruptured anal gland abscess treatment

Anal sac disease is very common in dogs and once it bursts they will need immediate treatment through medication. If left untreated, the infection can quickly spread, causing severe damage to the anus and rectum.

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to deal with anal gland problems. But it can be confusing and overwhelming. 

Here are some tips from our experience of dealing with an abscessed anal sac rupture…and what we wish we had known beforehand! 

Health Warning: There are some graphic photos below of our dog’s anal gland abscess and rupture which can make some people feel a little uncomfortable!

What are Anal Glands?

Most people don’t know that dogs have two glands in their anus, called anal sacs or anal glands, which are located under the skin near where the rectum meets the anus. 

These glands produce a smelly liquid that is normally pushed out of your dog’s body when they poop, but sometimes these secretions build up inside their body and need to be expressed manually by the vet (lovely!)

A large number of dogs will have some form of issue with their anal glands during their lifetime. 

dog scooting from anal gland issues

Symptoms of an Anal Gland Abscess in Dogs

The following is a list of symptoms associated with anal gland abscesses in dogs:

  • Red, swollen bottom
  • Scooting (dragging their bottom along the ground)
  • Pain when pooping
  • Quickly reaching round to try and lick their bottom
  • Excessive licking
  • Trying to poop more often or straining
  • Foul, fishy smell
  • Wound near their anus
  • Sitting down suddenly
  • Discharge or blood around their bottom
  • Low energy
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Loss of appetite

Not all of these symptoms need to be present to confirm the issue though.

For example, one of the most common facts about anal gland secretion is that it has a foul, fishy smell.

When our dog started having issues this smell was the first thing we looked for, but it didn’t smell foul at all. This led us on a wild goose chase, believing that it couldn’t have been an issue with her anal glands!

That’s why it’s so important to get professional advice from a vet as soon as possible.

Timeline of our Dog’s Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture

Day 1

We first noticed that our beagle was scooting around the floor a lot more regularly. I mean, she is partial to this every now and again but on this particular morning, it was fairly constant. 

We checked her backside and all seemed fine, nothing unusual at all. 

Towards the evening, she began drinking a lot of water, almost twice as much as she normally would. She also became quite needy, wanting to stay close to us. 

Then there was the sudden sitting and reaching around towards her bum.

Just before bedtime, we noticed a slight swelling to the left side of her anus. She was walking around quite gingerly and being a little cautious when jumping up onto the sofa, but all else seemed fine. 

Our initial thoughts were that she may have been stung by an insect whilst out in the garden all day.

Day 2

We couldn’t believe how aggressively the swelling had grown overnight. From almost nothing to a whopping great big abscess.

picture of anal gland abscess in dogs

Our beagle was clearly uncomfortable and understandably reaching around to her butt to try and figure out what was going on.

We called the vets immediately and they booked us in for the afternoon. 

Our dog did not suffer with any loss of appetite (she’s a beagle!) and so was eating as normal, however, she was really struggling to poop. She was in and out constantly, trying desperately to go but was having a lot of trouble.

Soon after breakfast, whilst inside the house she sat down suddenly, causing the abscess to burst!

This left a small bloody puddle on the floor which had us in a little panic, but the dog seemed to feel a lot better. Again, this did not have any foul smell whatsoever.

anal gland rupture red bloody liquid

After our visit to the vets, they confirmed that this was an anal gland abscess and recommended a course of antibiotics and painkillers for the next 10 days, no other treatment was deemed necessary. 

They warned that the wound would get worse before it starts to heal, which was very reassuring considering what was yet to come…

dog fresh ruptured anal gland

Day 3

The dog was far better on day 3 and was able to have pees and poops way easier than the last couple of days. 

She couldn’t resist the urge to try and lick her backside, so we placed an Inflatable Collar on her to prevent this from happening. 

We also had to frequently replace blankets and towels on her bedding as the wound was seeping everywhere. 

Naturally, she was still scooting along the floor which meant the wound and abscess was being aggravated. To our horror, we then found the following…

anal gland abscess rupture in dogs

Having never experienced anything like this before, you can understand how dog parents may react when they see this happening to their little fur babies! 

It was heartbreaking, as it looked horrendously painful. However, the truth is that she did not seem like she was in any pain and was miles better than she had been. 

Now, your first thought will be that there is absolutely no way this wound can heal and close up, after all, it was huge! 

A quick video consultation with the vets provided further reassurance that this was to be expected and that the medication and anti-inflammatories would help with the healing process. Phew!

anal gland abscess rupture home treatment

Days 4-14

Over the coming days, our beagle was finally getting back to her usual, playful self – even though the sight of her bottom made us wince every time she turned around! 

We’re pretty sure that the medication had a large part to play in her comfort and the healing process.

At around day 10 the wound had completely closed up. Naturally, our dog found the scab a little irritating and would rub her bottom along the floor at every opportunity. She was supervised outside where we have rough concrete flooring as this was very likely to open the wound again.

dog anal gland infection

How to Treat an Anal Gland Rupture in Dogs

  • If you normally empty your dog’s anal sacs yourself you’ll want to make sure you definitely do not try this if looks like there’s an infection developing. Your dog will find this incredibly painful and you may end up making matter far worse.
  • It is likely that once the abscess has progressively formed it will rupture or burst naturally at some point when your dog sits down. Try not to panic!
  • Once the abscess has burst, your dog will be in less pain as the pus will start draining by itself and relieve some of the pressure
  • Your dog will need a visit to the vets where they can prescribe anti-inflammatories and anti-biotics to help make your pooch a little more comfortable and assist with healing
  • We were advised to use warm water and cotton wool pads, try to keep the wound clean by rubbing around the area very gently. This is particularly important after they have had a poop to try and keep the area as sterile as possible
  • Do your best to prevent them from licking their bottom or any of the pus stains left on bedding
  • Use an inflatable collar if you think your dog may make matters worse by reaching behind
using an inflatable collar for home treatment of anal gland issues

READ: Are Inflatable Collars Beagle-Proof?

Anal Gland Rupture Healing Process

Most anal gland abscesses will heal after 10-14 days, so long as there are no complications. 

Just as we have experienced, the wound will initially look far worse before it gets better. 

If possible, try to prevent your dog from scooting along the floor once the abscess has ruptured as this may agitate the wound further, causing delays to the healing process.

Here’s an overall look at the healing process for her anal gland abscess and rupture:

anal gland abscess and rupture in dogs healing process

3 Ways to Prevent Anal Sac Abscess in Dogs

1. Keep them in good shape

When dogs become overweight they can find it difficult to empty their anal glands due to weak muscles around their bottom. 

2. Good diet

Feed them with a good quality complete dog food that provides firm stools. Firmer poop will help with emptying their anal glands naturally. Add more fiber to their diet to help with bulking up their stools if necessary. The anal sacs are more likely to fill up after a few days of diarrhea. 

NOTE: Dogs that scavenge and pick up things they are not supposed to (such as eating dog poop) are more likely to have issues with their stools and anal glands.

3. Regular checks

Take your dog into the vets every two or three months to see if they need to have their anal glands emptied. This normally costs around £15/$20 and is a fairly easy process. 

Beagles are particularly prone to problems with their anal sacs. They have the tendency to be overweight and therefore should be checked routinely.

Can you empty Anal Glands yourself?

Ideally, anal glands should be expressed by vets or trained professionals. Trying to empty anal glands yourself when there is no need can lead to inflammation or further issues in healthy dogs. Some dogs will also come to rely on it and will stop emptying their glands naturally.

If your dog has ongoing problems then you can ask your vet to show you what you need to look out for before bringing them in.

How much does it cost to Treat Anal Gland Rupture in Dogs?

There is not an awful lot the vets can do once an anal gland has ruptured. Usually, a course of anti-inflammatories and/or pain relief along with antibiotics is prescribed for around 10 days. 

The average cost of a vet consultation with these prescribed medications is in the region of $100/£70.

If further follow-up consultations are required or any complications then surgery may be required to remove the anal glands. Discuss these options with your vet. 

READ: Here’s Why Your Beagle Stinks!

Suitable Insurance

Ensuring that you have adequate insurance for your dog will take the stress out of any ongoing problems. Check that you are happy with the level of cover you are being provided with as some insurers may not cover the initial cost of treatment for an anal gland abscess.

TIP: Some vets offer a payment plan for around $20/£15 per month which includes checking and expressing anal glands for an unlimited number of times. 

Rounding Up

If you’ve never experienced an anal gland abscess and rupture in your dog, then count yourself (and your pooch) extremely lucky! Anal sac disease is very common, however, you now have some useful ways to help prevent this from happening to yours.

If it’s looking likely that your dog has an abscess, rest assured that they will be back to their usual self once you have got them the treatment they need. 

An anal gland rupture looks far worse than it actually is, but we hope this article has given you some faith that in a matter of a few days, everything will be just fine with your pup again.

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13 thoughts on “Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture in Dogs (Our Personal Experience)”

  1. Hi there, my boy is having an reoccurring anal gland abscess. It happened exactly like how you described, the abscess happened so fast, seemingly overnight. Ever since his last incident, I’ve been careful with the area, I clean him with wipes after he does his business, I take pictures every week. So the new abscess really took me by surprise. I took him to the vet before it popped, the vet gave me some antibiotics and cream. And it popped right now, do I need to go back to the vet?

    1. Hi John,

      We are so sorry to hear that your poor boy is going through this again. I would most definitely give your vet a call, it’s likely he will need to go back on the antibiotics for a minimum of 10 days, but go by their advice. How long ago was the first one? It might be worth discussing with your vet whether he needs regular anal gland expression to try and help prevent a recurring abscess. We wish him a speedy recovery.

      1. Thanks for replying!

        The first abscess was on June 14, the vet open the abscess and clean him up, he told me he found only a little bit gland secretion.

        I took him to get his gland checked and expressed on July 14, the vet again found very little juice, but there was a little bit pink on the tissue. The vet told me it was okay, so I didn’t think too much of it.

        I learned how to express anal gland externally myself. So I did one on August 3, I got 5, 6 drops of anal gland content, but that was it.

        The most recent abscess was on the 11th, his glands weren’t impacted.

        He’s doing better now, I still can’t figure out why. I’m experimenting with his diet, I’m lowering his fat intakes and added more fibers.

        1. Hi John,

          It’s tough to know exactly what’s causing a recurring anal gland abscess. Sometimes we may tend to over-express, which itself can lead to further complications. It’s best to have monthly/bimonthly checkups with your vet so that they can assess whether expressing is necessary.

          You’re doing all the right things with his diet – obesity is high on the list when it comes to issues with anal glands in dogs, lack of sufficient exercise can also be a factor.

          We send our best wishes to your little boy!

  2. Thanks for all the informations!

    What scares me the most is how fast it can progress, it came out of nowhere. He didn’t show any discomfort or symptoms at all. No pain, no scooting… I’m aslo getting him more active.

    Thanks again for everything!

  3. What brand inflatable collar did you use? My dog has same issue and his patience is wearing thin with the plastic collar. I thought he was on way to healing but it filled with blood today and ruptured again. I need a collar option that is easier to get on and more comfortable for him.

    1. Hi Pam, we’re so sorry to hear that your poor boy is going through another rupture. We have tried so many different types of collars, the most important factors come down to getting the right size with an adjustable strap. You may find this post helpful, and we would recommend something similar to these inflatable collars. They keep inflated and last 10x longer than the ones with a hook and loop. Let us know if you need any other info, we wish your pooch a speedy recovery!

  4. I’ve been looking for a something like this since my dog got an abscess yesterday. It ruptured while I was at work. I took her to the vet where they flushed it and medicated her. She woke up yelping at 1:00 this morning (she’s not what you’d call a stoic dog) and while the pain med helped, it broke my heart to leave her to come to work today. I was looking for a timeline of healing to help put my mind at ease and this post was perfect. Thank you!

    1. We are so sorry your pup was in pain this morning, it’s an awful thing to go through. We are fairly certain that she is far more comfortable now than before the rupture, and although pretty terrible to look at – it should heal soon. Thank you for your comment, we love to share our experiences to help others feel reassured!

  5. Thanks so much for documenting this! My poor girl had an abscess that ruptured (I assume because there were a couple of small bloody spots on the floor) a few days ago but I was clueless until last night when another spot appeared and I looked closely and noticed the awful swelling. She didn’t show any signs like scooting or anything. Got to the vet today and they drained and cleaned the anal sac and sent her home with some pain meds and antibiotics but no cone of shame or anything like that and no further special instructions for me. There seems to be a small hole about the size of a dot from a felt tip marker that I assume was created by the vet. We’ve got a recheck scheduled for ten days from today. I have no clue what caused it as her stool seems normal sized and consistency. A real mystery.

    1. It can be fairly tricky finding the root cause of the abscess unless you have any real level of certainty. Perhaps your vet will be able to identify the reason when you go back for a checkup in ten days? It’s good to hear that she didn’t show any signs of discomfort, hopefully she has a good (and quick) recovery!

  6. Thank you for this post. My elderly dog had this develop quickly over the weekend. The vet tried to clear out his anal glands but the abscess came anyway and quite rapidly within 24 hours of compresses.

    We knew it was likely going to happen as we were told to expect one, but wasn’t prepared what to expect. With each compress it kept growing so large! It was heartbreaking to see him in such distress right before rupturing, all the blood and sizable hole in our beloved dog after the fact. The poor guy seemed instantly better once it ruptured, however like you described. Even with it actively still draining, he seems so much more comfortable and was even playing this evening. It’s a relief to see his appearance is normal progression and he will continue to improve like your dog did!

    He’s in good physical shape and ideal weight, has great bowel movements so this caught us completely off guard. The vet says that impacted anal glands and abscesses can happen for many reasons including old age or even allergies.

    1. Hey Sara,

      Thank you for your message! I agree, it can be completely heartbreaking watching your poor pup going through this, especially at old age. I’m glad the vets gave you some indication of what to expect, hopefully the photos of our dog’s healing progress will help further reassure that it shouldn’t be too before the wound closes up. So happy that he is being playful again!

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