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Anal Glands

Poodle Anal Glands

Overview

For first time dog owners, especially, there is a lot of confusion regarding Poodle anal glands. If an issue occurs with the glands it can often be mistaken for something else... Some owner will think that their dog is bleeding from the rear (butt) and others with female Poodles mistakenly believe that their dog entered a heavy heat if they come home to find quite a large amount dark fluid on the floor. 

Anal glands that "pop" can expel quite an overpowering smell...that is why some owners refer to this as "odor glands" or "stink glands".

Let's talk about what anal glands are, what purpose they serve and how to properly care for your Poodle so that they do not become engorged and "burst".
What Anal Glands Are

All dogs, both male and female, have a pair of anal glands. They are found right under the skin that surrounds the Poodle’s anal muscles. These are also known as scent glands. The glands hold an oily substance that is released in very tiny amounts when one dog meets another. This is why they sniff at each other's rear ends. It is through the anal gland scent that a dogs pick up information about the other including gender, health status and general mood (aggressive vs friendly).  A tiny bit is also released when a dog pushes out a bowel movement. 

What Engorged Anal Glands Are

If there is too much accumulation fluid, they can swell and become engorged. When this happens, if a Poodle eliminates and the bowel movement is hard or large, it can press against the sac(s) and cause one or both of them to break open. 

Alternatively, when engorged this can cause discomfort and itching. A Poodle may then scoot his/her rear on the floor or ground in an attempt to relieve that feeling. It is not uncommon for an owner to mistakenly believe that the dog is 'wiping' him or herself after going to the bathroom. But this is actually the actions of a dog that is in discomfort from swollen anal glands. When a dog does this, the action may cause the sac(s) to break open. If all of the built-up fluid is expelled in this way, the smell is quite terrible. Some refer to this as a skunk odor or an exceedingly strong musky smell. 

If the Anal Sacs Break Open

If your Poodle's anal sac(s) have broken open, it is best to give the dog a bath taking care to not rub the area, but rinse it well with warm water. Since the broken skin will be vulnerable to infection, you will want to keep an eye on the area for any signs of red skin. You can dab the area with a topical antibacterial gel, though it may rub off rather quickly.
Expressing the Glands

When the fluid builds up enough for the dog to scoot, this means that the sacs are impacted. It is at this time that they should be expressed in a controlled manner as opposed to having them break open due to scooting behavior. This can turn into a serious canine health issue if the glands are not released of any excess fluid on a regular basis. If this is not done, the watery fluid can eventually turn to a substance that is as thick as peanut butter. Once this happens, it is very difficult for you, a veterinarian or a dog groomer to express the fluid out. Also, once hardened, there is a much great risk for the dog to get a bacterial infection and/or abscess.

How This is Fixed

The glands must be released of fluid any time that they become enlarged. It is suggested to inspect the glands so that you will know what the normal size of your particular Poodle's glands are, as you will then be better able to identify when they are larger than normal. Anal glands are expressed (releases of fluid) in a similar fashion as one would 'pop a pimple' however due to their location and the discomfort that a Poodle may be experiencing, it can be difficult for an owner to perform this task at home. For this reason, many dog groomers and all veterinarians offer this service. The typical fee for anal gland expression is $12 to $18 USD.
Expressing your Poodle’s Glands Yourself

You should understand what you are getting into if you choose to do this yourself! Anyone who is squeamish should not do this. Also, the odor can be extremely overwhelming and the process is usually very messy. Still ready to do this? Okay! 

You will want to place your Poodle in the bathtub to express the glands. As if “popping a pimple”, you will want to put a finger on each side of the sac. You then will press upwards and inwards towards the rectum. If you do not see the fluid come out, you will then want to have your Poodle’s vet or groomer take care of this. If you want to learn the exact technique, the vet or groomer should be able to show you how they perform this action and then you may wish to try on your own again. 

Having Your Vet or Dog Groomer Do This

Many owners choose to have their Poodle’s vet or groomer do this procedure; there is no shame is saying that you do not prefer to do this or that you are not able to do this. If the glands have not been expressed in quite a while and this has gotten to the point of the fluid turning into more of a solid (referred to as 'impacted'), you must have the veterinarian handle this. 

To fix impacted anal glands, the vet may need to give a dog a sedative medication. A catheter will be put into the duct of the gland. The vet will then slowly inject water into the gland until the secretion is removed. Most veterinarians will then inject an antibiotic ointment into the glands to protect against any possible bacterial infection. 

Treatment of infection due to torn skin if the sacs have broken will include cleaning them with an antiseptic solution. The vet will usually flush this solution into the gland each day or every other day until it has healed. This is the best treatment method, as the dog’s gland must be allowed to heal from the inside first. Do take note that this can quickly mount into rather pricey vet bills; therefore it is best to make sure that your dog has his/her glands expressed regularly so that this more serious issue does not happen.

When Surgery is Necessary

There are instances in which a Poodle may need surgery for this issue. Some dogs tend to have very frequent problems. If so, it is usually recommended for the anal glands to be surgically removed. After all, they do not serve a critical purpose in a dog’s body and removal will eliminate any future issues. For this type of canine surgery, a Poodle will be given a general anesthetic. The glands will be removed and stitches will hold the area closed until they heal, about 2 to 3 weeks later. 

Prevention

Unless the anal glands are surgically removed, you cannot stop them from filling with fluid. You can, however, make sure that they do not fill to the point of becoming a problem. Check the glands at least each month to see if they have grown enough to be visible. It is best to do this while you are bathing your Poodle. You can also have your dog’s vet or the dog groomer check the glands at each visit. Many dog groomers express the sacs as part of the normal dog grooming process. 
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