Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Dr. Gary Thompson

Vet may have options besides surgery for dog

Dear Dr. Thompson: I have a 5-month-old English springer spaniel named Jack. Since we have had him, we have been having problems with a gland and the smell. We do empty the gland and clean it often, but it still is a problem. He seems to release the smell when he is very excited or something scares him. Our vet said removing the gland can be dangerous and can cause other problems.

The glands you are describing are normal scent glands that sit just beneath the opening of the rectum. They are normally expressed when having a bowel movement or when a dog is scared or excited. Some exuberant dogs will express these glands at inappropriate times, and there are few odors on the planet as foul as these excretions, in my opinion.

Your veterinarian is right that removing these glands is not without a potentially serious complication. The back part of the gland runs very close to a nerve that when damaged can cause incontinence. It is not a complication I gloss over when talking to people and is an important reason why I do not recommend removing the glands unless absolutely necessary. Typically that involves recurring painful infection or other medical problems.

I would suggest trying alternatives to surgical removal if at all possible. You may be able to work with your dog to avoid the triggers that may cause the inappropriate expression of these glands. It may also be a phase that he outgrows. Sometimes adding fiber to the diet can improve your dog's natural ability to empty these glands.

Your veterinarian may be willing to teach you to express these glands at home to help with this problem.

If all of those do not work and he is increasingly difficult to live with, then surgical removal may be an option to consider with your veterinarian. Surgical removal is relatively straightforward and within a few days your dog can be back to normal.

Dear Dr. Thompson: I have multiple indoor cats that I care for, so naturally, there is a lot of kitty litter to scoop each day. I need a few suggestions on how to get rid of it.

I had been scooping it into those plastic sleeves that the paper comes in and then throwing it in the trash, but it makes the trash bags too heavy. I don't really have anyplace outdoors where I can dispose of it, so what should I do?

I am sympathetic to your problem and commend you on keeping the boxes scooped on a regular basis. It is the single best way to avoid litter box problems with your cats.

However, I would caution you on looking for an alternative litter to minimize the refuse. You can try to find biodegradable litters and even litters that reportedly can be flushed down the toilet. But by potentially solving one problem for you, you may create a huge problem for your cats. If they don't like your choice of litter, they might start eliminating outside of the box.

If you do want to try another type of litter, set up a new box with the new litter right next to the old one and let your cats tell you how they feel about it.

If it is untouched, then do not make the switch. If you can't find a litter they like, then I might try another type of trash bag. I think I even saw one on television that held the pieces of a whole piano.

Questions for Dr. Thompson can be e-mailed to or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 North Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.

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