Anal gland solutions

To express or not to express? That is the question.

Thankfully many of my new clients are specifically requesting only anal gland checkups, however, I still remember the old days when they were asking for it. Even sometimes nowadays, too. So which way is the way to go and what makes sense from a health perspective?

Anal glands are located on the left and right sides of the anus area. They make sure the dog's business cards have a unique scent, among other tasks.

In the past, it became a routine at grooming salons to get every single dog's anal glands expressed and unfortunately still many do. As biology evolved and we are dealing with the aftermath of the trial of this "expression for all" approach, we came to the conclusion it was the wrong way.

Nowadays groomers are regulated (not in all states) to not do a "one squeeze fits all" type of approach and do not do regular anal gland expressions on all their clients.

Science proved -what many of us passionately suspected- that dogs can take care of their anal glands when their system is working correctly.

In case the stool is solid enough, dogs express their glands by themselves while they poop, leaving a unique doggy business card on the grass.

Issues arise when something is up.

Manually manipulating the area will not only cause minor or major discomfort for the dog, but it will also interfere with the natural way of life -sometimes even damage tissue causing incontinence and random anal gland explosions.

Who is qualified to do anal glands?

At the vet office, either a veterinarian or a veterinary technician is going to express the glands. In grooming salons, ideally, the anal gland expression is done by groomers, only when it is prescribed by a veterinarian. Regulations vary state to state, so wide that in some states people who are not qualified to groom dogs can put their sign up and start taking clients like that. Personally, I would only let a vet take care of my dog's anal glands and find the root cause of what is causing the symptoms I notice in case some come up.

Backstage notes

I have some scare city going on in me about it, based on my experience from the beginning of my career. The grooming workflow at the groomer is like this: the groomer does a pre-haircut or most likely the dog gets a brush out by a bather/groomer trainee. Since anal gland expression is such a stinky process, it is done in the tub. Since it is stinky and it is done in the tub, it is mostly left to be done by bathers. (It makes it easier for the groomers by keeping them clean for the haircuts they do in the workflow. It also helps to keep them smelling better, in case of a consultation with a client. Saving the precious time of the groomers.)

My worry spikes when bathers do anal glands since they are semi-skilled workers, not professional groomers. They can do great prep work for the haircut and make the groomer's job much easier, but they are not trained to tell when it needs to be done and to perform it due to the lack of anatomy understanding and grooming knowledge.

It's sad, but in the fancy salons I have worked in CA, I haven't seen groomers walk over from the grooming table to the bathers as a routine, wash appropriately, do an anal gland expression, wash again and go back to the table. Let alone do this on multiple dogs being in a different grooming stage so they'd need to do this like every 5-10 mins. It was left to the bathers, me. I was fresh out of the grooming school, taking the first opportunity in my profession and climbed the ladder right from the first step here in the US.

Just as a comparison, in the UK, groomers are not allowed to reach into the body cavities, only vets are so the internal anal gland expressions is left to veterinarians only. Groomers need to be taught to anal gland expression by a veterinarian and after qualification are allowed to perform one. And I totally agree with it.

Anal gland symptoms

* scooting
* anal itching/sensitivity
* chewing on the butt/anus/base of the tail area

Some scooting and itching are fine, we all scratch out butts every now and then (just not in public). LOL

What to do when the dog is scooting?

If you see a symptom arise, I either get him/her to the vet right away or in mild symptoms monitor the dog's behavior. I would act based on the symptoms and suggestions detailed in the link below, by Dr. Peter Dobias.

If I were a dog, I would not let anyone touch my bum with anal gland expression purposes, period. If I can do it when I poop, no finger sticking and squeezing in/around there! Not on my watch. :P

You can totally monitor your doodle's glands by checking out this great article from Dr. Peter Dobias (Canadian veterinarian) about the yummy topic of anal glands. LOL It is very informative, has videos, and is very easy to understand.

Belly rubs to your doodle! :)