Anal Glands: What are they exactly? Where are they? And is my veterinarian making them up a mythical medical concern to add expenses? Anal glands are indeed real! They consist of two pouches located on the inside of your dogs rear end. Think of it as looking at a clock with the anus as the face of the clock: the anal sacs are at 8 and 4. These sacs fill up with a concentrated liquid and as your dog does his duty slowly they release tiny amounts of odorous liquid along with his stool. The liquid will vary with thickness and amount, depending on your dogs genetics, and diet. That liquid is your dogs personal id tag! When other dogs sniff your dogs poop (they shouldn't because you cleaned it up right?), they will smell that gland liquid all over the feces along with the other unprocessed elements of your dogs diet.
Generally your dog will express these sacs on his own naturally when defecating, but on occasion if not monitored can cause real problems for him and your wallet. A full anal gland sac is at risk to rupture at any time. A ruptured anal gland is when the gland becomes too full, either because of shear amount, lack of solid stools to naturally express or the thickness of the liquid. The sac fills and when it has no more sac to fill, will burst out of the side of your dog's anus creating a painful and one sore tush. This is a medical emergency that will require a vet office visit, likely with anesthesia and a handful of prescriptions.
Regular anal sac monitoring and maintenance is a great way to keep the emergency vet bills at bay. Your groomer may offer to provide expression using an “exterior” method. This involves taking your thumb and rolling inward over the sacs expressing with pressure. This method is a good easy fix, however it does not empty the sac completely and is not recommended for dogs with frequent issues. A vet tech will glove up and using a little lubrication will insert a finger to pinch the sac between pointer and thumb finger. This methods empties the sacs mostly and is the best solution for dogs with chronic anal gland problems.
Diet change may be possible to assist anal gland issues. Dog food with a heavier fiber reading, canned pumpkin or coconut fiber will assist with a fiber deficient chronic anal gland problem but will not fix it completely. Ask your veterinarian for a diet recommendation that will meet your dogs specific needs.