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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Checking Your Dog for Anal Gland Cancer

Updated: October 1st, 2018

Unseen Does Not Mean Undetectable

It’s great to develop a habit of performing regular check-ups of our dog’s body by physically running our hands down their legs, looking in their ears, and sneaking in some extra neck rubs while we feel for lumps and bumps. Some dangers however, develop internally. Knowing how to detect these nearly invisible dangers tip the odds greatly in our favor.
Drs. Dressler and Ettinger have already covered specifics of anal cancers in several posts.  In this post I’ll discuss more about the how and why of checking your dog for signs of any problems in these areas.

To Snip or not to Snip

There is much debate on spaying and neutering, and at what age for optimum health. Dr. Ettinger’s three part post “Spay/neuter and the association with cancer in dogs” is a wonderful resource for information on the pros and cons of both procedures, and the statistics linking these procedures with anal cancer.

An Equal Opportunity Problem

Both male and female dogs can develop anal gland cancers. The anal sacs are those small scent glands just inside the anus.  You definitely know about them if your dog has ever had impacted glands! Cancers can develop just inside the anus and in the outside area around it, where the hair starts.

If a problem begins on the outside of the body, around the anal opening, you may notice that one or more unusual areas have developed. They may be discolored, raised, and even be moist and seeping.  Now let’s be real; the only way you’re going to see this is by having a good, close look.  No getting around it.  And if you dog has a lovely long coat, you’re going to have to get your hands involved to part the hair and expose the area you want to check.

Not very appetizing? Would you rather have a dog with cancer?  Of course not.  So, as with all our checks, the best way to do this is in the privacy of your home, having a cuddle with your pup.  Be respectful. Many dogs don’t like having their tails lifted. So pick a relaxed time and casually include visual examination on a regular basis.

Another possible problem is a growth inside the anal passage.  Dr. Dressler’s post “Carcinoma of the Anal Gland” gives in-depth information.  You can’t see it, and don’t worry, I’m not suggesting any hand involvement with this one.  For this symptom you use your eyes.

A growth inside the anal canal can produce flattened stools.  If the waste going through your dog from the great food you’re feeding has to squeeze over a lump, it’s going to be squashed.  So it’s worth keeping an eye on the poo.  Not fun, but not really a problem.

The shape of your dog’s poo is a significant early-warning tool.  Also, watch your pet as he has a poo. If he’s straining it may be because of just this situation.  Watching the size, shape, consistency and color of your dog’s stool will tell you much about his health.

What to Do If You Find a Bump or Lump on Your Dog

Make a habit of checking for any areas of swelling, redness or discharge around the anus, and keep a discreet eye for misshapen stools.  If you discover either, it’s time for an appointment with your vet.  Why wait? Please always remember the good news; not all lumps and bumps mean cancer, and the earlier you catch something the easier it is to treat.

Happy Tails

Leave a Comment

  1. ozonated olive oil on June 2, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Great information on a very misunderstood and largely unknown problem with dogs. I didn’t know until now that female dogs were also prone to anal gland conditions. Having just gone through repairing a gaping hole on the bum of our male shih tzu from an abscessed anal gland, I now understand better. We used warm water baths with dilute 1% hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant then filled the abscess with organic fully ozonated olive oil paste from and the abscess was healed completely in three days.
    Thank you for the information.

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