Has your dog suddenly developed a big, red lump near its bottom? Is the swelling growing alarmingly fast and turning into what looks like a pus-filled abscess?
If your pooch is in pain or is showing signs of being incredibly uncomfortable with its backside, you might be dealing with an anal gland issue.
Here’s what happened to our dog when she had the sudden onset of an anal gland rupture (including photos of the timeline and healing process).
Anal sac issues are fairly common in dogs, and require immediate medical attention if an abscess develops and ruptures. Without treatment, the infection can spread rapidly, leading to significant damage to the anus and rectum.
There’s a lot of advice out there on how to deal with anal gland problems – leading to some confusion and overwhelm.
We’ll share our own experience and personal journey of an anal gland rupture scenario – and what we wish we had known beforehand!
Health Warning: The following contains explicit images of our dog’s anal gland abscess and rupture, which may be unsettling for some readers!
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.
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 around 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 an 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
Our pup’s journey with an anal gland abscess and rupture was a total rollercoaster ride! Here’s the day-to-day of how everything played out:
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 very 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 pooch was clearly uncomfortable and understandably reaching around to her butt to try and figure out what on earth 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 she 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 the rupture looked horrendously painful. However, the truth is that she did not seem like she was in any pain and was actually far better than she had been.
Now, your first thought will be that there is absolutely no way this wound can heal 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 rupture healing process.
Over the coming days, our pup was finally getting back to her usual, playful self – even though the sight of her rupture 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 rupture had completely healed. 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
Treating an anal gland rupture is actually a really simple process, and far less stressful than the discovery itself!
Here are the things to watch out for:
1. Don’t Express Their Glands
If you normally empty your dog’s anal glands 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 the rupture healing.
5. Keep the Area Clean
We were advised to use warm water and hypoallergenic cotton wool pads, keeping the open wound clean by dabbing 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 reaching and licking their rupture, 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 round to their bottom.
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.
If possible, try to prevent your dog from scooting along the floor once the abscess has burst as this may agitate the wound further, causing delays to the healing process.
Just as we have experienced, the wound will initially look far worse before it gets better. We were utterly surprised at just how quickly an anal gland rupture can heal!
Here’s the overall timeline (in photos) of the healing process:
3 Ways to Prevent Anal Gland Abscess and Rupture in Dogs
Preventing an anal gland abscess and rupture in dogs may not be as easy as you’d like to think, but there are certainly ways to improve your dog’s chances:
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 expressed. This normally costs around $30 / £25 and is a fairly easy process.
Can you empty Anal Glands yourself?
Ideally, anal glands should be expressed by a vet or a trained professional. 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 $180 / £140.
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.
If you’re unable to reach your own vets and need to get hold of someone urgently about an anal gland tear or rupture, and the actions you should take, you can now speak to a licensed vet around the clock.
Also, having the right type of insurance can alleviate the worry of covering any unexpected associated costs.
Your Dog’s Anal Gland Rupture Will Heal!
If you’ve never experienced an anal gland rupture in your dog, then count yourself (and your pooch) extremely lucky!
These issues can be fairly common, and although the discovery might leave you feeling helpless as an owner, in most cases there’s not much that can be done to prevent it. Just be sure to give your pup the extra kisses and cuddles they truly deserve.
We wish your pup all the best, and hope this article has helped to reassure you that your pooch will be back to their usual (cheery) selves in no time!