What are anal glands?

When your chihuahua has anal gland problems it really is a pain in the arse, for both you and your chihuahua.

Anal glands are two little sacs of fluid that sit just inside your dog’s rectum. Their job is to produce his signature scent that he leaves on his poo as a marker for other dogs. When your chi stops to sniff another dog’s poo they are picking up the scent that identifies who the dog is. This is also one of the reasons that dogs will sniff each other’s bums when they first meet.

If you are lucky, your chihuahua will never have anal gland problems and this process will pass you by. His anal sacs will empty by themselves when you chihuahua does his business and happily, you will be none the wiser.

How to treat inflamed anal glands

Our latest vet (long story) suggests that giving oral antibiotics can be ineffective as they find it difficult to reach the area of infection. Persistently infected glands need to be irrigated then filled directly with an antibiotic. This is done under sedation rather than full anaesthetic. This is something we might have to consider for Mika as he has recurring issues with his glands. (Update we did have this done in the end and it did seem to help).

Another option is to remove the sacs completely. Many experts warn against this unless there is absolutely no option. Removing the anal glands can cause their own health issues and cause permanent damage to the anal sphincter.

Another job of the anal glands is to help the body cleanse itself of toxins (like flea treatments, vaccines and worming tablets). If the anal glands are not there, then the body can find it harder to remove these toxins.

Why do they get anal gland problems?

There can be a variety of reasons why your chihuahua’s anal glands get inflamed and infected.

  • Allergies; If your chi has allergies to grass, pollen and other substances, sitting and getting them on his bum are going to cause itching. As your chi chews and scratches at the area he can cause trauma to the anal glands.
  • Existing GI or colon inflammation is likely to cause inflammation in the glands.
  • Medications, vaccines, flea and worm treatments. These toxins can cause inflammation and an imbalance. The usual liquid in the glands becomes thicker and can’t be discharged through the ducts.
  • The glands may be slightly in the wrong place and aren’t stimulated when a stool passes.
  • A chihuahua that does not get enough fibre in his food will probably pass soft stools. This will mean they don’t have enough bulk to stimulate the glands as they pass through. This can happen after a bout of diarrhoea or illness.

Should we DIY?

Once-upon-a-time it was usual for the groomer to automatically express your dog’s anal glands as part of the service they provided. The advice now is don’t express a healthy dog’s glands. Constant manual manipulation causes trauma to the gland and poor muscle tone. This can cause the very problem you are hoping to avoid. Once you have started to express manually you find yourself having to do it more often and the issue becomes cyclic.

Some owners also like to express their dog’s glands at home and have taught themselves how to do it. I can understand why at £20-30 a visit to the vet. But, caution is required here. If pressed too hard the gland can rupture. This would be very painful for your chihuahua, might require surgery and antibiotics.

You can try and stimulate the glands externally by  gently massaging your dog’s back end just under his rectum and this has proved helpful during lockdown with our dogs with visits to the vet problematic. I don’t like to leave them alone while you stand in the carpark. (sigh)  So even after the lockdown lifts, I will carry on with this option unless I am concerned that there is some kind of infection or the glands are blocked. There are occasions when an internal empty is best. 

There is a useful video on Youtube of an American couple showing you have to do an external massage. Be warned you can never unsee it!!

Signs your chihuahua is having anal gland problems.

  • Scooting across the floor on his bum
  • Rubbing himself against the furniture or you
  • Sitting down while on walks
  • Chewing his back end or legs
  • Paw licking and displaying signs he is in pain. Read how to tell if my dog is in pain.
  • Sitting uncomfortably
  • Hot painful lumps just under his tail
  • Squatting to produce phantom stools

Prevention is always better than cure

Trying to avoid anal gland issues is better and a lot cheaper than trying to cure it. Make sure your chihuahua has a healthy species appropriate diet that produces firm stools. Raw is good for this. People who feed their dog’s raw food will delight in their dog’s small firm stools.

Add psyllium husk to their food. This will bulk up and firm the stool and make it more likely that it will express as the stool passes.

Keep your chihuahua at a healthy weight, as anal glands covered in fat are less likely to express naturally.

Make sure your chihuahua has regular exercise, chihuahuas may be small but they still need to get out for a good walk every day.

Avoid over vaccination and other toxins like chemical worming and flea treatments. There are plenty of natural alternatives. Yearly vaccination boosters are unnecessary and Leptospirosis is just a nonsense vaccine that can make your chihuahua ill.

Keep your dog’s teeth clean. Excessive bacteria in the mouth can cause all sorts of additional health issues.

Try to avoid manual manipulation of the anal glands unless it is necessary.

Update! Try this…

We have been using this with out chi chis to facilitate training and calm things down. It also has a beneficial effect on the gut. Poops are hard so the anul glands are expressed during evacuation. It’s not what we brought it for, but I’ve noticed  a massive improvement and not had to do Mika’s glands for some time..

Get it here