I think my dog has worms…

“I think my dog has worms….he’s rubbing his bum on the ground”

While tapeworms were a historically common cause of itchy rear-ends, the more likely culprit is the anal glands. The anal glands are a pair of sacs that are associated with the muscles of the anus. There are 2 rings of muscle keeping that nasty brown stuff (aka feces) from just falling out of the rectum constantly. The anal sacs are located between these rings of muscle. When a dog or cat has a “number 2”, the rings are stretched and pressure is transferred to the anal sacs, which then empty onto the feces through tiny ducts on either side of the anus.

What could these possibly be good for you ask?

The anal sac contents are a kind of ‘scent signature’ for each dog or cat. Other dogs and cats smelling the feces are actually detecting the anal sac contents and can tell a lot about each other from it.

Why do so many animals rub, bite and lick these glands?

A number of factors including the angle or narrowness of the ducts, thickness of the anal gland material, infection, allergies, and soft stool can lead to distension and inflammation of the sacs.

So what do we do about them?

If the sacs are simply full, then emptying them can provide relief. In other cases, anti-inflammatories or food changes can help. Occasionally, surgery is required to remove one or both glands in order to make the animal comfortable.