Anal Glands and Raw
By Alan Weaver
For the majority of pet owners an issue with anal glands will never arise, however for around 12% of pet owners anal gland issues are a real and persistent problem. Symptoms of problems with anal glands are 'scooting', swelling of the glands or an awful smell that you are unlikely to mistake for anything else.
What Are Anal Glands?
Anal glands sit just inside the rectum of many mammals, including dogs and cats, and it is believed that their primary function is to 'scent mark', in a similar way to urinating. Each animal produces a unique scent in their glands, through an oily substance, which is why you often will see your pet sniffing another pets butt. The glands are positioned at 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock, on either side of the anus.
For the most part anal glands do their job without any interference from humans. Normal bowel movements, with good consistency, are usually sufficient. However, for a small number of animals problems can arise, usually for 3 main reasons:
Unfortunately some animals glands are positioned too deep in the rectum, so are not in the optimum place where most pressure is exerted in the colon. This situation will usually require surgery to correct.
This is a common problem as many well-intentioned groomers and vets routinely empty anal glands. Anal glands are very delicate, and any out of the ordinary pressure can damage them, and ultimately exacerbate any issues. Manually expressing anal glands weaken them, and though relieve the symptoms, do nothing to fix the cause.
Without doubt the biggest cause of anal glands issues is diet. Commercial diets, full of grains, carbohydrates and starches are often allergens and cause irritation of the GI tract, therefore they can and do irritate the anal glands. Often the stools of pets fed a commercial diet are softer, and this does little to help express the glands.
Feeding a species appropriate diet of meat, bone and offal will help as this will produce firmer poops, and these will help to express the glands naturally.
If you are feeding a species appropriate diet, yet still experiencing anal gland issues, you could try feeding fur-on prey, as fur is a natural bulking agent, in much the same way that fiber is to us. Other suggested aids are Silica or Psyllium Husk (We personally have had great results with the latter).
Psyllium Husk for Anal Gland issues
Before using Psyllium Husk please read carefully- Psyllium is a bulking agent meant to only be used until symptoms have subsided. You MUST provide unlimited access to water as psyllium husk sucks moisture out of the digestive tract and can cause constipation if over-fed. If your dog is on any medication psyllium can inhibit it's absorption. Allow a 3 hour window between feeding psyllium husk and giving medication.
Side effects include: Flatulence, intestinal or esophageal obstruction (this is possible if water access is limited.)
How to prepare it:
Mix 2 tablespoons of Psyllium Husk into 1 cup of warm bone broth or water. It should dissolve quickly and form a jelly-like consistency. Allow it to cool before feeding.
Small dogs: 1/5-1/4 cup per day
Medium dogs: 1/2-3/4 cup per day
Large dogs: Full Amount per day
Feed for 1-2 days or until you can confirm the anal glands have been expressed.
DO NOT OVERFEED! Obviously, if symptoms persist and/or the glands become infected and swollen, please consult your vet.