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, and how long it took for her to fully heal.
Anal sac disease is fairly common in dogs, and once the abscess 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 – leading to confusion and overwhelm.
Here are some tips from our personal experience of dealing with an anal gland 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.
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
- Whining, or needing to be close to you
However, not all of these symptoms need to be present to confirm the issue.
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
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 on the left side of her anus. She was walking around quite gingerly and being a little cautious when jumping up onto the couch, but all else seemed fine.
Our initial thoughts were that she may have been stung by an insect whilst out in the yard all day.
The morning after was a little shocking, to say the least.
We couldn’t believe just how aggressively the swelling had grown overnight. From almost nothing to a whopping great big abscess.
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 from 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.
After our visit to the vets, they confirmed that this was an anal gland abscess and rupture, and recommended a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain relief 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…
Our dog was miles 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, which she took to really well.
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 were being aggravated. To our horror, we then saw the following…
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 far better than she had been.
Now, your first thought will be that there is absolutely no way this wound can heal and close up without stitches, 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!
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 flooring as this was very likely to open up the wound again.
How to Treat an Anal Gland Rupture in Dogs
1. Don’t Express Their Glands
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 matters far worse.
2. Try not to Panic
It is likely that once the abscess has progressively formed it will rupture or burst naturally at some point when your dog sits down. This may cause some distress to you both, but try not to make a big deal out of it. Dogs can sense panic in their owners!
3. Find Reassurance
Once the abscess has burst, your dog will (more than likely) be in less pain as the pus will start draining out and relieving some of the pressure. This is a good thing for them.
4. Get Professional Help
Your dog will need a visit to the vet where they can flush out the wound, and prescribe anti-inflammatories, pain relief, and antibiotics to help make your pooch a little more comfortable to assist with healing.
5. Keep the Area Clean
We were advised to use warm water and hypoallergenic cotton wool pads, keeping 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
6. Prevent Licking
Do your best to prevent them from licking their bottom or any of the pus stains left on bedding.
7. Get an Inflatable Collar
Use an inflatable collar if you think your dog may make matters worse by reaching the wound.
Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture Healing Process
Most anal gland abscesses and ruptures 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 a dog’s anal gland abscess and rupture:
3 Ways to Prevent Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture in Dogs
1. Keep them in good shape
Just like humans, dogs can quickly become out of shape if they don’t get enough exercise. Overweight dogs can also find it more difficult to empty their anal glands due to weakened muscles around their bottom.
2. Good diet
Feed them good quality dog food filled with additional fiber to encourage stable digestion and healthy stools. Bulky and firmer poop will help with emptying their anal glands naturally, as 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 soft stools and issues with their anal glands.
3. Regular checks
Take your dog to the vet every two or three months to see if they need to have their anal glands emptied. This normally costs around $25 / £20 and is a fairly easy process.
Beagles and other (highly) food-driven dogs are particularly prone to problems with their anal sacs as 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 a vet 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 may 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, other than to flush it out. 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 $140 / £120.
If the rupture is left untreated or complications arise, then surgery may be required to remove the anal glands. Discuss these options with your vet.
Emergency Help for Anal Gland Ruptures
If you’re unable to reach your own vets and need to get hold of someone urgently about a potential anal gland rupture, you can speak to a licensed professional vet via video or chat 24/7 through Fuzzy Digital Pet Care
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 monthly payment plan for around $25 / £20 which also includes checking and expressing anal glands for an unlimited number of times.
Your Dog’s Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture Will Heal!
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 fairly common, however, there are ways to identify potential issues early on and prevent this from happening in the future.
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!
And finally, 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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