What is an Anal Gland Abscess in Dogs and Cats?

Anal Gland abscess in a dog

You may have heard about an anal gland abscess and wondered what it is, or your pet may have been unfortunate enough to have one.  So what is an anal gland abscess and how does it differ from other anal gland problems?  

An anal gland abscess is one of the most severe results of anal gland problems in dogs and cats.  Abscesses can occur almost anywhere in the body and are a collection of pus that has formed within a pocket of tissue in the body.  In the case of an anal gland abscess, the pus has accumulated within the anal sac and is the result of an infection.  If the anal glands are not properly draining they can build up material over-time that can lead to an infection.  This typically can cause some redness or swelling of the area and your pet may lick the area excessively due to the discomfort.  

As the fluid and pus build-up it creates pressure.  This is the reason that we can see swelling, redness, and pain near the anal region.  An abscess of the anal gland typically only forms on one side but in many cases both anal glands are affected to some degree.  Pus is formed by white blood cells (hence pus is a whitish color) and the role of the white blood cells is to fight off infection.  As the pus and fluid continues to accumulate it creates pressure that can eventually burst or rupture through the skin.  When this happens you may see blood or fluid from the rear-end of your pet or possibly a gaping hole or opening.  

Generally speaking allowing an abscess to drain is an important part of the treatment.  So if the abscess has not ruptured on it's own, your veterinarian may need to sedate your pet and "lance" or open the abscess.  Antibiotics alone would not be able to penetrate into the abscess so draining and flushing the area are important parts of the treatment.

In addition to draining the abscess and prescribing antibiotics, pain meds are often given to help with the discomfort and an elizabethan collar might be placed to prevent your dog from licking the area.  In addition, your vet may recommend warm compresses to help reduce the swelling and facilitate further drainage of the area.

The best way to treat an anal gland abscess is to avoid it altogether!  Carefully monitoring your pet for signs of anal gland problems and staying ahead of an abscess are important.  Using Glandex® regularly can help support healthy anal gland function and natural emptying of the anal glands.  If your dog's anal glands are not emptying properly then they may need to be expressed by your vet and additional medications may be needed.

Dr. James Bascharon, D.V.M.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or to replace proper medical attention.  If your dog is experiencing anal gland problems or any other health issues you should seek a medical exam from your veterinarian.

Get in on the conversation!  Post your questions or comments below.  Our staff veterinarian will review your question and respond back to you.


  • JKala

    Thank you. Very useful. My little pup just 70 days old had a anal abscess. Very deep hole and it scared me. My veterinarian Dr Mannu explained and took care of it.


    Mister has burst have antibotics and pain med.
    Shouldnt i be putting some sort of antiseptic cream spray powder. Cause its a open wound.

  • Anita

    My poor mini dachshund Bella seems to have a chronic anal gland issue. She has had at least one abscess before (she’s about four yo) and she has one again! There’s redness, swelling and a bit of bleeding already and the poor thing looks very uncomfortable.

    I have heard that it can be aggravated, especially in a small dog, by lots of ball chasing and jumping, which she does even though we try to minimize it…something to do with the low back.

    I’d like to try Glandex (as well as taking her to the vet again) but do you have a distributor in Canada? It costs a fortune to order one item and have it shipped across the US/Canada border, especially right now with our low dollar. So anywhere I can find it in Canada?


  • Marcela Aven

    My dog is scooting on her rear. She has no tape worms. About 2 yrs ago she had a anal gland infection and was treated. Now I think she has it again. Do I take her to the vet again?

  • Kathy

    If you commence glandex would you still take to vet to have anal glands checked as my cavalier has had an abscess and I now have her glands done regularlyand I would worry if I pinned my hopes using glandex believing it has worked and then have problems

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