Dogs can get hemorrhoids?!
Actually no, not in the same manner as us humans. But dogs have their own derrière issues which can be just as painful. Let's talk about you dog's bum.
A Doggie's Derrièree
A hemorrhoid that humans get, in case you don't already know, is just a swollen blood vessel that can be located on the inside edge or outside edge of the anus. These hemorrhoid(s) can become inflamed and start to protrude once they get big enough and they're incredibly sensitive and painful. Dogs have blood vessels around the anus just as anyone does, but dogs do not normally get the condition that we refer to as hemorrhoids- a dog’s horizontal posture likely has something to do with their lack of hemorrhoid issues.
Make no mistake, dogs can have plenty of painful conditions that occur around or within their rectal tissue that appear similar to our hemorrhoids, such as hyperplastic tissue, adenomas, irritated tissue, anal gland problems or tumors, just to name a few examples.
By and large, the most common abnormalities we see in veterinary practice concerning a dog’s bum have to do with their anal glands. Mistakenly but understandably, many refer to these issues as “hemorrhoids”.
Since anal glands pose the most common problem concerning a dog’s hind end area, we will focus on these pesky little glands.
What are Anal Glands?
Anal glands (anal “sacs”, “scent” glands) are small bean shaped glands located on either side of your dog’s rectum, at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. These glands are thought to be used to secrete fluid to mark a dog’s territory or possibly to provide lubrication in order to help a dog pass hard feces. Whichever theory you go with, make no mistake that these glands produce a very foul smelling, brownish colored fluid that is used to identify him or her with other dogs. The smell of the anal glands may inform other dogs of things such as the sex, health and/or age of your dog.
The anal glands are meant to excrete a small amount of this fluid each time the dog defecates. Sometimes this does not happen as it should, for example, if your dog’s feces are too soft or abnormal in some way, if the pet is eating a poor-quality diet, if there is not enough fiber in the diet, or if the pet has a genetic or inherited condition which affects the anal gland. Any of these factors can potentially cause a problem with the normal function of the anal gland causing it to become infected or impacted, which causes it to not secrete fluid normally and can cause it to rupture. Anal glands can also have growths, polyps or tumors associated with them, normally on the inside of the rectum, which can cause pain or problems for your pet. Whatever the reason, if the gland is not functioning normally it can be very painful for your best friend and possibly make it painful for him to have a bowel movement.
Commonly a dog will attempt to relieve the discomfort of an impacted or infected anal gland by chewing at his bum or scooting across the ground. Either of these behaviors could damage the delicate tissue around your dog’s rectum, therefore it’s best to get your dog to your veterinarian as soon as possible to help relieve the discomfort. Also, any growth on the inside or outside of the rectum or anal glands could pose a serious threat to your dog’s health and needs to be checked. Every time your pet goes to the vet, his rectum and anal gland area are inspected to ensure there are no obvious growths, tumors or impactions.
Treating and Preventing Anal Gland Problems in Your Dog
The best treatment for anal gland problems is prevention. Therefore, be sure your dog has his semi-annual vet check-ups to ensure his bum is healthy. But if an anal gland problem does occur, how it is treated will depend on what the problem is and how severe it is. The earlier a problem is caught the better, because an early infection is often simply treated by flushing the gland and using oral antibiotics for a couple weeks. But an impaction, abscess or rupture of a long-standing anal gland problem often results in a more in depth procedure, surgery or even removal of the glands.
It's also important for your dog to drink plenty of water and have consistent exercise in order to maintain gut regularity. More exercise has the added benefit of stimulating your pet’s GI tract to help prevent constipation and keep things moving normally. Healthy dogs should poop approximately two to three times a day.
If your dog is having, or showing signs of an anal gland problem, it is important to take him to the vet to make sure he is not suffering from an underlying intestinal disorder and have his glands checked. Carpet scooting, excessive licking, brown staining, and a foul smell can all indicate your dog's glands need attention. It is always best to see your vet with any sign of an anal gland problem, but once your pet receives a clean bill of health then your vet can teach you how to properly express your dog’s anal glands in a pain free manner- although some wish to leave this particular procedure to the pros!
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