Q  What are the anal/scent glands, and do they need to be emptied?

A  The anal glands or anal sacs are small glands found near the anus in many mammals, including dogs and cats. They are paired sacs located on either side of the anus between the external and internal sphincter muscles. Sebaceous glands within the lining secrete a liquid that is used for identification of members within a species.

In dogs, these glands are occasionally referred to as "scent glands", because they enable the animals to mark their territory and identify other dogs. The glands can spontaneously empty, especially under times of stress, and create a very sudden unpleasant change in the odor of the dog. Dog feces are normally firm, and the anal glands usually empty when the dog defecates. When the dog's stools are soft they may not exert enough pressure on the glands, which then may fail to empty. This may cause discomfort as the full anal gland pushes on the anus. The glands can be emptied by the dog's keeper, or more typically by a groomer or veterinarian. This is an important aspect of dog grooming. A dog groomer addresses this need by squeezing the gland so the contents are released through the small openings on either side of the anus. This technique is known as anal sac expression. Anal sac expression must be performed to maintain the dog's hygiene and to eliminate discomfort. Discomfort is evidenced by the dog dragging its posterior on the ground ("scooting"), licking or biting at the anus, sitting uncomfortably, having difficulty sitting or standing, or chasing its tail. Discomfort may also be evident with impaction or infection of the anal glands. Anal gland impaction results from blockage of the duct leading from the gland to the opening. The gland is usually nonpainful and swollen. Anal gland infection results in pain, swelling, and sometimes abscessation and fever. Treatment is by expression of the gland, lancing of an abscess, and oral antibiotics and antibiotic infusion into the gland in the case of infection. The most common bacterial isolates from anal gland infection are E. coli, Enterococcus faecalis, Clostridium perfringens, and Proteus species.

Anal glands may be removed surgically in a procedure known as anal sacculectomy. This is usually done in the case of recurrent infection or because of the presence of an anal sac adenocarcinoma, a malignant tumor. Potential complications include fecal incontinence (especially when both glands are removed), tenesmus from stricture or scar formation, and persistent draining fistulae.

Anal gland fluid is normally yellow to tan in color and watery in consistency. Impacted anal gland material is usually brown or gray and thick. The presence of blood or pus indicates infection.

Q  What are Ticks?

A  Ticks, like mites, have bodies which are divided into two primary sections: the anterior capitulum (or gnathosoma), which contains the head and mouthparts; and the posterior idiosoma which contains the legs, digestive tract, and reproductive organs.

Ticks satisfy all of their nutritional requirements on a diet of blood, a practice known as hemaophagy. They extract the blood by cutting a hole in the host's epidermis, into which they insert their hypostome, likely keeping the blood from clotting by excreting an anticoagulant. Blood is a requirement for ticks surviving and moving from one stage of their life to the next. As such, ticks unable to find a host to feed on will die. Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals' breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture and vibrations. They are incapable of flying or jumping, but many tick species wait in a position known as "questing". While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs onto the host. Some ticks will attach quickly while others will wander looking for thinner skin like the ear. Depending on the species and the life stage, preparing to feed can take from ten minutes to two hours.On locating a suitable feeding spot, the tick grasps the skin and cuts into the surface.

Both male and female adults feed on blood, and they mate off the host.