Why your dog’s rear end matters in health and longevity
When I started writing holistic health articles, I never expected the most read blog will be one about anal glands infections and inflammation in dogs.
When it comes to anal glands, they are small in size, but important when it comes to your dog's health. They have a very important role in the body's detoxification process and they also allow your dog to have what I call a scent signature.
As a child, I used to dread having our dachshund Gerda on my lap when we were going up to our cottage. Almost every time we went she would get excited and then empty her anal glands, which was a very smelly business. I still recall the pungent fish like smell!
On a more serious note, today I would like to write about the topic of perianal gland tumours that are sometimes called circumanal gland tumours. These tumours come in two different forms, the benign forms - perianal adenoma, and the much less common form, malignant hepatoid gland carcinoma.
Perianal tumours are three times as common in intact male dogs and their formation is directly linked to the production of testosterone. Some breeds such as Huskies, Pekingese, Cockers and Samoyeds are predisposed to the condition and senior dogs are also commonly affected.
Beware of this mistake
A few years ago, a client came to me very upset because her other veterinarian found an anal gland tumour and suggested removing her dog's anal gland. Such surgery can sometimes end up with anal sphincter weakness and dysfunction and my client wanted my opinion to see if such an invasive surgery was necessary.
When I reviewed the histology report, it became clear that there was a mistake made in interpreting the results and the dog did not suffer from an anal gland tumour, but had perianal adenoma. Obviously, removing the anal gland itself would be contraindicated.
What is the difference between anal and perianal tumours?
There are several different types of tumours around the anal area.
Anal glands resemble little blister packs tucked under the skin at the 8 and 4 o'clock position around the anus. There are only two anal glands and their two main functions are to detox and for scent marking. You can read for more details on anal gland problems here.
Perianal glands are numerous little openings around the anus, similar to sweat glands. They are very small and cannot be felt on examination. They are located around the anus at the very edge of the skin and the lining of the anus. Their histology, tissue and cell anatomy is different from anal glands.
Why do tumours of perianal glands happen?
Similar to any other types of tumours, there are many factors that play a role.
Nutrition, deficiencies and toxicity contribute to cancer formation. However, there is one more factor that, in my opinion, contributes to increased rates of tumour formation.
The second, third and fourth lumbar vertebrae neurologically and energetically supply the anal area. Perianal and anal glands’ health depends on this region as a source of blood, nerve and energy flow. When the sacral region gets injured, the flow to the anus decreases and the cells of the region start deteriorating. Such situation may then lead to anal gland problems in dogs and later on to anal and perianal gland tumours.
A lesser known predisposing factor in perianal and anal gland tumours
Based on the opinion of my colleague, Dr. Catherine Lavoie, an animal chiropractor, dogs most commonly injure the sacral region by an overextension of the leg and hip joints. High jumping and leaping often cause such injuries. The other cause may be slipping to the side. Based on Dr. Lavoie's opinion, the lumbar-sacral region is one of the top three weakest points of the canine spine.
Unless a dog is regularly adjusted by an experienced chiropractor, such injuries often remain unrecognized for years. This results in chronic decrease in energy flow to the anal area, which leads to increased likelihood of tumours.
What to do when you see a bump under the skin of your dog's anus?
In such instances, the most likely cause is a blocked or abscessed anal gland, but anal and perinatal tumours may also be possible. In either case you should see your veterinarian to determine the diagnosis. Such assessments should always include a rectal examination.
If your dog does have a firm growth under the skin, the next step is a fine needle aspirate of the lump to obtain cells for the growth evaluation.
If your vet is suggesting an immediate biopsy or direct removal of the growth, I suggest that you ask for a fine needle aspirate first. It is much less invasive and there is a relatively high chance of getting conclusive diagnosis. In other words, the histology results will help you determine the right treatment.
Surgery or not?
This decision is never easy. Every dog and case are different. Based on reports, 95 percent of male dogs with perianal tumours respond to being neutered. Some people do not like the idea of their dog being neutered, but my experience is that this may be the best compromise.
The biggest challenge is the dogs that have not responded to such treatment - neutered dogs and females. Surgery has to be evaluated from several points of view. If perianal growth is small and not growing, I would recommend monitoring it instead of removal.
If it appears to grow rapidly, or is ulcerated, there is not much choice, but to remove the diseased tissue. I usually recommend herbal Healing Solution Spray to help healing and reduce scarring and discomfort.
Post surgical care and prevention of perianal tumours
You may find it interesting that I have put these two together. The reason is that to prevent tumour formation, it is important to adjust and reduce the congestion of the sacral region and the same applies for post-surgical care.
Read more here on general principles of natural cancer prevention.