The Always-At-Hand Diagnostic Tool: Whoa, Girl Dogs Have Anal Glands Too!

A great diagnostic tool is right in front of your nose!

While we cannot measure up to our dogs in the olfactory department, it doesn't mean that our noses are useless. Our main disadvantage isn't how much information our noses can collect but how little of it we can interpret.

Bad or suspicious odor can be a (subtle) first sign of a problem.

Ever since Jasmine's back-to-back skin issues, I learned to pay close attention to the way her skin smelled—particularly around her tail where she got the worst of the infection last time. The fur is very thick there and can hold unwanted moisture.

I do regular sniff-checks to determine whether or not she is due for her next medicated bath.

Last week's check resulted in an immediate action.

Normally, when something is brewing in Jasmine's skin, it smells like a "moldy rag". You know, if you have a towel or rag that was damp for too long. (I say moldy, but it is actually bacteria what is causing the smell)

Last week I thought it smelled rather different, but wasn't sure what to make of it.

Jasmine got her bath and everything smelled right that night.

The next day though, the smell was back with a vengeance. 

I was quite sure we dried her really well but not to take any chances we bathed her rump again.

All was well that night but the next day the smell returned yet again.

What I found strange was that while the smell seemed quite strong, it seemed as it wasn't really coming from her skin. Also, the nature of the smell was different; it smelled more poopy than anything. Which didn't make any sense because I checked and she was perfectly clean.

The thought of anal glands crossed my mind but I didn't say it out loud. There were no other signs of an issue in that department.

Fortunately, Jasmine had an appointment for catrophen (Canadian version of Adequan) injection for Saturday morning. To be on the safe side I included instructions for the vet to check the skin around her tail, and her rectum.

Expecting just to give a couple of quick injections, the vet walked in cheerfully, carrying coffee and a bag with breakfast. 

Little he realized we had a different plan for him.

He put the breakfast down, checked the skin and looked at the rectum. "Seems to look fine," he said, but because he never takes described symptoms lightly, he went on checking the glands. "There is a little bit of discharge ... oh, there it is. There is a bit of infection."

"Nothing like doing this just before breakfast."

He expressed the anal sacs.

Jasmine didn't know what to make of all that, "hey, didn't know that we were THAT friendly!"

Because the infection was still minor, no medication seemed necessary. He will check them again on Friday to see how they're doing. The smell seems to have gone away though, so I think that the expression might have just done the trick.

"You're never gonna underestimate my wife's nose again, are you?" hubby asked.

But the vet didn't underestimate it the first time either. That is one of the things that make him the great vet he is.

And I am glad that I paid attention to my scent findings too. Unhappy anal sacks can get pretty nasty.

So the next time your nose tells you that something is off, listen to it. You might save your dog a lot of grief.

Did your nose ever alert you to a health problem in your dog?

Related articles:
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Odor
Rump Scooting is Not a New Trick - It is a Serious Problem


  1. Did I jinx you asking questions about anal glands? Glad you caught it nice and early. Our 4 mo old boy pup is starting to... mature? For a few days he was oozing a little and it was smeeeellllly. I'm hoping it is just puberty because it has subsided now.

  2. Hi Serissime,
    it would certainly look like it, wouldn't it? Particularly since she never had any issues with it before! :-)

    I don't have experience with "maturity" discharge, JD certainly didn't exhibit anything like that. 4 mo also seems a bit early.

    But if the smell is gone I think you should be ok either way.


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