September 28, 2022 Everyday Medicine

What’s in a Dog’s Anal Glands? Your Unusual Dog Questions Answered

cute puppy

What’s in a Dog’s Anal Glands? Your Unusual Dog Questions Answered

Even though I have been a veterinarian for most of my life, I am surprised on a daily basis with unexpected questions from pet families. Since my clients asked these questions, I am sure some of my readers have the same questions. So I dedicate this blogpost to answering questions that I, and other AMC veterinarians, were asked this week.

What comes out of a dog’s anal glands? Is it feces?

Dog owners know that when their dog slides, scoots or rubs their fanny on the floor, the anal glands are full and need to be emptied. As a veterinarian, of course I know what’s inside anal glands, and I wrongly assumed everyone else did too, so let me explain. The job of any gland in the body is to create and release a substance to perform a bodily function. For example, the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone to keep our metabolism running at a normal rate. Sweat glands produce sweat, which regulates our body temperature. A dog’s anal glands excrete an individualized scent that helps dogs recognize one another and mark their territory. It also smells really bad. Considering that fact, it reasonable for dog families to think that feces comes out of an anal gland.

Why does my dog make puppy dog eyes at me?

Every dog owner’s phone is full of photos of their dog making puppy dog eyes. Note, this phenomenon is not called kitty cat eyes, because it is unique to dogs. As wolves evolved into domesticated canines, they adapted to living and communicating with humans. One evolutionary change occured in the muscles of their face. A specific muscle, the levator anguli oculi, is uniformly present in dogs but not in wolves. The levator anguli oculi allows the dog to cock an eyebrow, like Ryder in the photo accompanying this blogpost. The ability to raise an eyebrow seems to be a trait valued by humans. In a study of shelter dogs, those able to make puppy dog eyes were adopted more quickly than those who could not raise their eyebrow. This finding suggests the puppy dog eye expression could have promoted early domestication of wolves due to human preference for dogs exhibiting the expression.

Why does my dog cough after drinking water?

If your dog enthusiastically drinks water, I bet the cough after water drinking just means the water “went down the wrong pipe.” However, there are a couple of medical conditions that come to mind when a dog coughs after a drink of water. Acid reflux, or the movement of stomach fluid into the esophagus and mouth, has recently been associated with coughing in some dogs. Perhaps drinking water in some way promotes reflux and coughing? Dogs with laryngeal paralysis also often cough or seem to clear their throat after eating or drinking.

Another common question we get at AMC is “Why is my dog shaking?” For the answer to that question, take a look at a previous blogpost on shaking in dogs.

Tags: dogs, pets,

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