If your dog is licking her back end a lot or dragging her butt often, she may have hemorrhoids. You noticed that the dog's anus is inflamed or reddened? If yes, read on to discover what you should do to ease the dog's suffering.
Hemorrhoids are also known as piles and are swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. They can cause a lot of pain and discomfort and are usually caused by constipation and straining to go to the toilet.
It’s actually really rare for a dog to suffer from hemorrhoids. Instead, it is much more likely that a dog has one of the more commonly seen anal problems that are often mistaken for hemorrhoids by owners, including anal gland problems, perianal tumors, perianal hernia, perianal fistula, rectal polyps or rectal prolapse.
In this article, we will discuss canine hemorrhoids, as well as the more common conditions that are encountered in that area that are commonly mistaken for hemorrhoids. That way you will be fully informed about the possible health problems that could occur in your dog’s rear end.
So it ‘s really rare for a dog to suffer from hemorrhoids. Some vets are even adamant they don’t exist in dogs. Maybe you have seen your dog scooting his bottom, or noticed a little bit of blood near his anus? It’s a common assumption for owners to guess it is hemorrhoids, as they are so common in humans.
Like we mentioned before hemorrhoids are just swollen blood vessels, either just inside or outside the anus. If a dog has them, it can make him feel uncomfortable, drag and lick his bottom, and cause streaks of blood to pass out in the poop.
However, dogs don’t tend to get hemorrhoids as their gastrointestinal tract runs more horizontal with less pressure on the blood vessels near the bum, compared to humans who walk on two feet and the gastrointestinal tract runs vertically.
In dogs, swollen or burst blood vessels in and around the anus are usually caused by chronic constipation and straining to pass poop. If you think your dog has hemorrhoids then it is important to take him to your veterinarian.
It probably isn’t hemorrhoids at all and is more likely to be another condition of the anus or rectum which can look similar in appearance, or show similar signs.
Your vet will be able to diagnose what is causing your dog to have problems with his rear end and come up with a treatment plan.
Now let’s look at the other possible conditions in a little more detail.
Anal Gland Problems
Dogs have two small anal glands on either side of their anus. These glands secrete a very strong-smelling liquid into grape-sized anal sacs, with tiny openings into the end of the rectum. (1)
The anal sacs empty when the dog goes to the toilet, it’s a way to mark their territory. If you have ever smelt this foul secretion- you won’t ever forget it! Problems can occur when the anal sacs get too full and become blocked.
- Impacted anal glands:
If the anal glands aren’t regularly emptied, then the normally very liquid contents become thick and can block the little openings of the anal sac. Normally, the anal sacs are squeezed and emptied regularly every time the dog passes some poop.
An impaction (blockage) is more likely to happen if the dog hasn’t been passing normal stools e.g.diarrhea or a reduced stool output due to illness.
Common clinical signs include: scooting the bottom and licking or biting the anus much more than normal.
Your vet can check if the anal glands are full or blocked, and most of the time they can be easily emptied with firm pressure. If the glands are very full, sore and inflamed then the dog might have an anal gland abscess.
- Anal gland abscess:
Untreated impacted anal glands can quickly develop into an anal gland abscess. This is when the gland becomes sore, inflamed and infected with bacteria.
The gland may even burst onto the skin outside of the anus. If that happens it looks like a red, inflamed area that drains pus and anal sac contents on one side of the bum. This condition is often mistaken for hemorrhoids by owners.
Anal gland abscesses are more common in overweight dogs or dogs with chronic gastrointestinal issues. Common clinical signs include: scooting bottom, licking rear end, straining and afoul smell. This problem is often treated with a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
If a dog has repeated episodes of anal gland impactions or abscesses, then the dog will need to have his anal glands expressed regularly to help prevent these problems.
A veterinarian, vet nurse or some dog groomers can empty the anal glands-some owners even learn how to do it themselves.
Some dogs may benefit from a diet change or adding more fiber into their diet to “bulk up” their stools to help the normal expression of the anal sacs. Sometimes the anal sacs can be surgically removed if the dog has constant problems.
The rectum is the end part of the intestinal tract where the poop is stored and then leaves the body through the anus. Rectal prolapse is when some of the rectum bulges out through the anus.
It looks like a pink or red cylinder-shaped mass protruding out from the anus. If the prolapse has been there for some time, the rectal tissue will start to go darker in color.
This condition most commonly occurs in dogs following severe diarrhea, parasite infection, or after a lot of straining to go to the toilet (urine or stools). Conditions that affect the nerves of the anus, can also lead to rectal prolapse.
If you see something bulging out from your dog’s bum, it is time to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet can identify the type of prolapse present, and diagnose and treat the underlying cause.
Small prolapses can often be carefully replaced back into their normal position, while the dog is under anesthetic. Sometimes the anus may need to be partially closed with a special stitch for a week or so, while treatment is started, to prevent the prolapse from happening again.
In more severe cases surgical correction of the prolapse may be required.
Perianal is the word used to describe the area around the anus. Perianal tumors are cancerous growths that occur in the tissues surrounding the anus.
These growths can be harmless tumors (benign) or more aggressive tumors (malignant) that grow faster and may spread to other parts of the body. (2)
Older, male dogs that are not neutered are at a much higher risk of developing these tumors. Often neutering these dogs will cause most benign tumors to reduce in size or disappear completely.
Surgical removal of some tumors may be advised, but depending on the size and location of the tumor there may be some risk of nerve damage in the anal area. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be treatment options for some types of perianal tumors.
The MSD vet manual describes a perianal fistula as “chronic, foul-smelling wounds in the tissues surrounding the anus”. It sounds pretty gross, right? They are like little tunnels from the anal canal which open onto the skin outside the anus. At first, they look like small, red, oozing wounds, but can dramatically increase in size if not treated.
The cause is unknown but it has been linked to chronic gastrointestinal issues, skin allergies, and dogs with low thyroid hormone levels. German Shepherds are the most commonly affected breed.
Treatment may include a change in diet, antibiotics, daily cleaning of the area and immune-suppressant medication. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove any diseased tissue.
Unfortunately, this condition often recurs in about 80% of dogs and lifelong management may be required.
A perineal hernia is a type of hernia that occurs near the anus. The muscles around the anus become weak allowing gaps to form, this allows some organs to pass from the abdomen into this space. This causes swelling on one or both sides of the anus.
It occurs most commonly in middle-aged to older male, unneutered dogs, and German Shepherds seem to be at higher risk of developing this condition. The underlying cause of this condition is not fully known yet!
Common signs include swelling of the anal area, constipation, and straining and pain on passing stools.
Surgery is normally required to repair the pelvic muscles. It is also recommended that all patients are neutered during the surgical correction, as this will help reduce the risk of the hernia reoccurring. (3)
Polyps are abnormal growths of pink tissue often with a little stalk. Rectal polyps aren’t that common in dogs. They can occur in the rectum or near the anus, and in rare cases, the polyps may protrude from the anus and be mistaken for hemorrhoids.
Usually, rectal polyps are non-cancerous, and the exact cause of this condition is unknown. Common clinical signs include: straining or pain when passing stools and streaks of blood in the stools.
The polyp may be felt by the veterinarian during a rectal examination, or a small flexible camera may be passed into the rectum (colonoscopy) to view the intestinal tract more clearly.
Surgical removal of the polyp is usually curative, but more polyps may develop in the future. Once the polyp is removed it should be analyzed to check for cancerous cells (histopathology). (4)
Hemorrhoids are a really rare condition in dogs. If you see something which looks like hemorrhoid on your dog’s bum, its probably one of the more common anal problems which affect dogs and have a similar appearance.
The take-home message is that if your dog seems irritated with his rear end or you see swelling, wound or pink mass in that area, you should take your dog to a veterinarian for a full check-up.
You could risk your dog getting a serious infection or causing severe damage to his anus if you wait around to see if your dog gets better by himself.
It is easy to ignore butt problems in dogs, but just think how uncomfortable it must be for your pup, it is always best to get to check out sooner rather than later.
This article has been written by Dr Margarita Boyd, BVSc MRCVS.
Margarita graduated from the University of Liverpool, earning a Bachelor in Veterinary Science with distinction. She worked in small animal and equine practice for a few years, before choosing to focus solely on companion animals. She has developed a special interest in internal medicine and ophthalmology.