This morning I got a call from a local customer who owns a 1 ½ year old Bichon. She noticed lately that the little charming fellow is scooting and has problems with his anal glands. Her problem is that she is feeding the dog raw diets only, as she puts it “strict by the law.” The reason why I put this up here at the blog is that I am looking for input of petowners who have faced similar problems and possibly can contribute some advise beyond what I told her:
I am sure you have somewhat already researched the subject and do not want to bore you with too much details as to why, what and so on.
The bottom line is that the experts say anal gland disease is a common problem in dogs and cats. The anal glands, also called 'anal sacs,' can become impacted, infected, and abscessed.
What is new to me is that this is the first time that I hear of a dog having the problem while being on the “almost perfect” and “strict by the law” raw diet.
Anal gland problems occur when our pet's feces are too soft, and while passing through the glands, do not empty them completely. If the glands produce too much liquid, it can thicken and clog. Dogs and cats have two anal glands beneath the skin near their anus. You will know that your pet is having a problem, affected pets may lick the anal area, 'scoot' along the floor, or have problems with defecation.
Fortunately, this is a problem that you can look after at home. Have your vet show you how to deal with this by yourself. Here is basically how it is done:
Get a person to help hold the pet and make sure that you both change into some old clothing and wear some disposable gloves. Use an old blanket or sheet to lie underneath the animal as the material that is removed from the anal glands will be smelly and can cause stains. Clip away any long hair beneath the tail so that you have a clear view of the area you are going to work on. With one hand, lift the tail way up over the animal's back so that you can expose the glands (located at 5 and 7 o'clock positions on the anus). You will be able to feel if they are full. The ducts that will actually empty the glands are located a little bit higher at 4 and 8 o'clock. In a milking type fashion, use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze the glands in a C-shaped sweeping movement. The fluid will probably be a dark brown to clear color, however if it is yellow or blood tinted, it is likely that your pet has an infection and you must see a veterinarian immediately.
After you have finished, sooth the area by applying a luke warm, wet, soft cloth to it. Once the cloth cools, warm it again with water and repeat the process for at least ten minutes at a time three times daily.
If the glands are infected, which you would be able to tell by looking for signs such as, the glands themselves appearing red or discolored, the animal experiencing severe pain, developing a fever, loosing their appetite and becoming lethargic, it is at this point that you need to get immediate veterinarian help.
On the dietary side, in an effort to eliminate the problems of impacted glands, there are a few changes that you can make. Goal is to increase fiber intake. This can be accomplished in various ways:
The therapeutic effects of fiber are that it prevents the formation of stools that are difficult to pass and reduces colon luminal pressure. Cultures who regularly consume unrefined high fiber foods rarely suffer from the intestinal disorders of Westernized cultures. Fiber is not easily digested by the digestive secretions in a body and enters the intestine essentially intact. In the intestine, water is drawn into and confined within the spongy matrix structure that fiber provides. The hydrophilic nature of fiber assists in the development of a bulkier, softer stool and its quick passage through the body. Fiber has the ability to stimulate smooth, efficient working of the bowel makes it an excellent natural laxative.
There are some dry foods available with high fiber content, however under almost no circumstances I would want you to make a change to the raw diet you are feeding. I strongly believe that feeding raw is the best you can do for your pet since it is the food closest to natural prey. If you feed meat/veggie/fruit mixes look for some with higher fiber content. XXX offers some mixes with higher fiber rich content. Their lamb mix (YYY or ZZZ) contains carrots, which are rich in fiber. Also, please check back on our website towards the end of next week, we are adding ABC to our raw food assortment, another option with correspondingly similar or even higher fiber rich veggie/fruit ingredients.
The other option you have is adding a supplement to your current diet. The ones we recommend because they are rich in fiber are: XYZ 1, or from XYZ 2 the XYZ 3 or even with more fiber their XYZ 4. (Remember: No advertising here, if you want to know them e-mail me). All of these supplements have a 14 to 15% minimum fiber content on the guaranteed analysis base.
Your final option is to just add fresh fiber rich veggies to the food daily. Recommended items are carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage and celery, all high in fiber. However the problem with this solution may be that your dog is not going to like it too much, while when adding a supplement to the food you sort of trick him into what is good for him and he does not even notice it.
Up front I want to make you aware that increasing fiber in the diet will, besides helping to get the problem under control by helping them express or clear their anal glands, also increase the size of their droppings.