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Dog Gland Removal Pros and Cons + Everything in Between

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Sheena Paredes

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Dog Gland Removal Pros and Cons + Everything in Between 1

Dog gland removal, also known as anal sacculectomy, is a surgical procedure that removes the anal glands, small sacs located on either side of a dog’s anus. These glands produce a strong-smelling fluid that is used for marking territory and identifying individuals. Some dogs may have problems with their anal glands, such as impaction, infection, abscesses, or cancer, which can cause pain, discomfort, and health issues.

In some cases, removing the anal glands may be recommended by a veterinarian to treat these problems. This article, dog gland removal pros and cons, aims to provide a detailed overview of the procedure and allowing pet owners to make informed decisions regarding their dog's health.

What are Dog's Anal Glands?

Dog Gland Removal Pros and Cons

Pros of Canine Gland Removal

  1. Prevent anal gland issues such as impaction, infection, and abscesses, which can be chronic and recurrent.
  2. Eliminate the need for manual expression, which can be uncomfortable and distressing for both the dog and the owner.
  3. Relieve pain and discomfort caused by anal gland problems, and improve the dog’s quality of life.
  4. Decrease the risk of injury from self-trauma, such as excessive licking or chewing of the anal area.
  5. Reduce the risk of recurrent anal gland issues, which may require repeated visits to the vet and medications.
  6. It can improve life expectancy for dogs with anal gland cancer.

Cons of Canine Gland Removal

  1. Involves surgical risks and complications, such as reactions to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, wound breakdown, scarring, or recurrence of anal gland problems.
  2. May cause potential changes in bowel movements, such as increased frequency or loose stools. Anal glands play a role in the normal functioning of the digestive system, and removing them may affect it.
  3. May result in potential loss of communication signals. Anal gland secretion contains pheromones that serve as communication signals between dogs. Removing them may affect a dog’s ability to communicate effectively with other canines.
  4. May incur increased cost, depending on the complexity of the surgery and the post-operative care required.
  5. It is an irreversible procedure. Once the anal glands are removed, they cannot be restored. If complications arise after the surgery, there may be limited treatment options available.
Dog Gland Removal Pros and Cons + Everything in Between 2

The Procedure

Preoperative Assessment

  • Before the surgery, the veterinarian examines the dog's anal glands and assesses their condition.
  • The dog's overall health and medical history are considered to ensure they are a suitable candidate for surgery.
  • Diagnostic tests, such as blood work and imaging, may be conducted to evaluate the dog's overall health.

Anesthesia and Surgical Approach

  • The dog is placed under general anesthesia to ensure comfort and minimize pain during the procedure.
  • The surgeon chooses between two common surgical approaches: the conventional method and the laser-assisted technique.
  • In the conventional method, the surgeon makes an incision near the anus to access the anal glands, removes them, and closes the incision with sutures.
  • The laser-assisted technique utilizes a laser beam to remove the glands, reducing bleeding and potentially minimizing postoperative pain and swelling.

Postoperative Care

  • After the procedure, the dog is monitored closely during the recovery period.
  • Pain medication and antibiotics may be prescribed to manage pain and prevent infection.
  • The surgical site should be kept clean and dry, and any discharge or signs of complications should be reported to the veterinarian.
  • Follow-up appointments are scheduled to assess the healing process and remove sutures if necessary.

Surgery Costs

The cost of dog anal gland removal surgery, also known as anal sacculectomy, depends on several factors, such as the size of the dog, the location of the veterinary clinic, and the experience of the surgeon. On average, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for this procedure. However, some cases may require referral to a specialist center (especially for dogs with chronic anal gland problems), where the cost could go up to $2,000 or more.

This cost usually includes pre-surgical bloodwork, anesthesia, the surgical procedure itself, post-operative care, and any necessary medications. However, you should always ask for a comprehensive quote from your vet before proceeding, as there may be additional costs for follow-up visits, potential complications, or any unforeseen treatments.

If you have pet insurance, you may be able to get some or all of the cost covered by your policy. However, this depends on your insurance company and the terms of your policy. Some insurance companies may decline the claim if anal gland issues were detected before the policy was taken out or if they consider the surgery to be elective. You should check with your insurance provider before scheduling the surgery to avoid any surprises.

Dog Gland Removal Pros and Cons + Everything in Between 3

Can Dog’s Anal Glands Get Blocked?

Normally, the fluid is released every time the dog defecates, or when they are startled or scared. However, sometimes the fluid can become thickened or hardened, and the ducts that drain the glands can become blocked. This can lead to a condition called impacted anal glands, which can cause discomfort, pain, and infection for the dog.

What causes blocked anal glands in dogs?

There are several factors that can contribute to blocked anal glands in dogs, such as:

  • Diet: Dogs that eat a low-fiber diet, such as kibble, may have soft stools that do not put enough pressure on the glands to empty them. A high-fiber diet can help to firm up the stools and stimulate the glands to release their fluid.
  • Obesity: Overweight dogs may have excess fat around their anus, which can compress the glands and make it harder for them to drain. Losing weight can help to relieve the pressure on the glands and improve their function.
  • Allergies: Dogs that have allergies or skin conditions may have inflammation or irritation around their anus, which can affect the glands and their ducts. Treating the underlying cause of the allergies or skin problems can help to reduce the inflammation and improve the gland health.
  • Injury or infection: Dogs that have trauma or infection around their anus, such as from biting, scratching, or parasites, may have damage or scarring of the glands or their ducts. This can interfere with the normal drainage of the fluid and lead to blockage or abscess formation.

How to tell if your dog has blocked anal glands?

Some of the signs that your dog may have blocked anal glands include:

  • Scooting: Dragging their butt along the floor or carpet, trying to relieve the discomfort or itchiness caused by the blocked glands.
  • Licking: Licking or chewing their anal area excessively, trying to clean or soothe the irritated glands.
  • Straining: May have difficulty or pain when passing stools, due to the pressure or inflammation of the glands.
  • Swelling: Have a visible swelling or redness around their anus, indicating inflammation or infection of the glands.
  • Odor: A foul-smelling discharge from their anus, due to the leakage or rupture of the glands.

Alternatives to Dog Gland Removal

Before opting for dog gland removal, you should consider some alternatives that may be available for your dog’s anal gland problems. These alternatives may be less invasive, less costly, or more suitable for your dog’s specific situation. Here are some of the main alternatives to dog gland removal.

1. Dietary Changes

By feeding your dog a high-fiber diet, you can help to promote healthy bowel movements and reduce the frequency of anal gland problems. Foods such as pumpkin, sweet potato, and green beans can also be added to your dog’s diet to provide additional fiber and support digestive health.

2. Manual Expression

This is a technique that involves squeezing the anal glands gently to release their fluid. This can be done by a veterinarian or a groomer, or by yourself if you are comfortable and confident. Manual expression can help to prevent impaction and infection of the anal glands, but it should be done carefully and only when necessary.

3. Medications

There are several medications that can be used to manage anal gland problems in dogs, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and corticosteroids. Your veterinarian can recommend the most appropriate medication based on your dog’s individual needs and health history. Medication can help to treat infection, inflammation, and pain caused by anal gland problems, but it may also have side effects or interactions with other drugs.

4. Topical Treatments

There are some topical treatments that can be applied to the anal area to help soothe irritation, reduce inflammation, and prevent infection. These include creams, ointments, sprays, wipes, or powders that contain ingredients such as aloe vera, witch hazel, tea tree oil, or zinc oxide. Topical treatments can provide relief for mild to moderate anal gland problems, but they should not be used on open wounds or without veterinary supervision.

These are some of the main alternatives to dog gland removal that you should consider before deciding on this procedure. You should consult with your veterinarian about the best option for your dog’s anal gland problems and weigh the benefits and risks carefully. You should also monitor your dog’s anal area regularly for any signs of trouble and seek veterinary attention promptly if you notice any abnormalities.

Dog Gland Removal Pros and Cons + Everything in Between 4

When to Remove Dog Anal Glands?

It is necessary to remove a dog’s anal glands when they are causing severe, chronic, or life-threatening problems for the dog, and when other treatments have failed or are not suitable. Some of the situations that may warrant anal gland removal are:

Anal gland cancer: This is a rare but serious condition that affects the anal glands. It can cause pain, bleeding, swelling, and difficulty defecating. Anal gland cancer can also spread to other organs and cause systemic symptoms. Removing the anal glands is the first line of treatment for anal gland cancer, and it can improve the prognosis and life expectancy of the dog.

Recurrent anal gland infection or abscess: This is a common condition that occurs when the anal glands become blocked and infected by bacteria. It can cause inflammation, pain, discharge, and rupture of the glands. Recurrent anal gland infection or abscess can be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and manual expression of the glands, but sometimes these treatments are not enough or effective. Removing the anal glands can prevent further infection and abscess formation, and relieve the discomfort and suffering of the dog.

Intractable anal gland impaction: This is a condition that occurs when the anal glands become overfilled with fluid and cannot empty properly. It can cause pressure, discomfort, and irritation of the glands. Intractable anal gland impaction can be managed with dietary changes, supplements, topical treatments, and manual expression of the glands, but sometimes these measures are not sufficient or feasible. Removing the anal glands can eliminate the problem of impaction and improve the quality of life of the dog.

Last Words

As you can see, dog gland removal has both pros and cons, and it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Anal glands play a role in the normal functioning of the digestive system, and removing them may affect it. It may also result in potential loss of communication signals. Anal gland secretion contains pheromones that serve as communication signals between dogs. Removing them may affect a dog’s ability to communicate effectively with other canines. It may also incur increased cost, depending on the complexity of the surgery and the post-operative care required. It is an irreversible procedure. Once the anal glands are removed, they cannot be restored.

You should consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s specific situation and weigh the benefits and risks carefully before opting for this procedure. You should also ask your veterinarian about alternative treatments that may be available for your dog’s anal gland problems, such as dietary changes, supplements, medications, or topical treatments.

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