Twelve percent of dogs (mostly small ones) are said to have issues with anal glands. Unless they are obese, cats and large-breed dogs are less likely to, and your pet’s age and sex do not seem to matter.
Coverage and Costs of Anal Gland Problems
Rarely will pet insurance cover expressing anal glands. It is more likely to be covered by a wellness program, if at all, as ‘routine’ and ‘preventive.’ However, if infected or abscessed, treatment could fall under ‘unexpected accidents and illnesses,’ as long as it is not considered a pre-existing condition.
- Embrace specifically covers routine anal gland expression under its Wellness Rewards plan, whereas AKC’s wellness plan excludes it.
- Embrace, Healthy Paws, and AKC (PetPartners, Inc.) exclude expressing anal glands from their standard policies.
- Some companies may include treatment or removal of damaged glands under ‘illness.’ ASPCA’s Complete Coverage appears to cover anal gland expression and/or resection when infection is present.
- Pets Best excludes gland expression and removal in both standard and wellness plans.
- Nationwide Insurance specifically excludes “Expression of anal glands, anal sacculitis, or removal of anal glands” from its Major Medical, Medical, Injury and Feline Select plans, but not from its Whole Pet with Wellness.
If you think anal glands may become an issue with your pet, be sure to ask a future insurance provider exactly what is covered and under what circumstances.
What are the Costs Related to Anal Gland Problems?
Groomers will express your pet’s anal glands as a courtesy, or for a small fee. A vet may charge $10-$20 on top of the cost of a regular office visit. Infected or abscessed glands that require drug infusions or surgery can cost $100 to $1,000. Removal of the anal glands (or anal sacculectomy) can cost $750 to $2,500, depending on the veterinary surgeon and where you live.
What Are the Anal Glands?
Two little sacs sit right inside your pet’s rectum, at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock position on either side of the anus. A strong-smelling fluid containing pheromones is released through small ducts each time your pet defecates.
The feces moving through press fluid out of the glands, which acts as a biochemical marker for other animals. It explains why dogs and cats often sniff one another’s anuses, as well as the feces of other animals.
What Kinds of Problems Occur with Anal Glands?
If the oily brown fluid in your pet’s anal glands is not expelled regularly, it can thicken and eventually cause the gland to become impacted, inflamed, or infected. That could result from chronically soft stools.
Symptoms include your pet scooting on the ground; tail-chasing; licking or biting the tail area; apparent pain; swelling; or a powerful, fishy smell. Cats show fewer signs.
Impacted glands that become infected or abscessed can require surgery to repair or remove the damaged gland. The procedure is not complex, but complications can result in fecal incontinence (or uncontrolled feces).
Vets are conflicted about whether pets with no issues should have their anal glands expressed regularly. However, some vets may agree to teach a pet owner who insists on learning to do it. Pet groomers will often include the service in regular grooming.