Q: Our dog was recently at the groomer’s and they noticed that one of her anal glands didn’t feel normal when they were trying to express her glands. They told us that our veterinarian should check it out, which he did, finding a growth on the one side. We were told that she needs surgery to remove the gland and tumor and that it could be cancerous. We are reluctant to do surgery because she is 13 years old. Are there any other alternatives that we could try?
A: So far, it sounds like all of the advice and recommendations that you have received are right on track. Although you didn’t mention how large the growth is, if your dog routinely gets her glands expressed at the groomer and has it done fairly often, the chances are good that the growth is still very small. Anal gland tumors can be either benign or cancerous, but either form can be bad because as they enlarge they may put pressure on the rectum or even invade the rectal tissue, eventually causing issues with defecating.
I would definitely recommend surgery, unless your dog has other serious health problems that would preclude a safe anesthetic procedure. If your veterinarian feels comfortable with the procedure, he should be able to remove the gland with the growth inside of it and then send it off to be evaluated by a pathologist. If the tumor is already fairly large, he may recommend setting up an appointment with a board-certified veterinary surgeon to do the procedure as they usually have more experience and expertise with removal of large, difficult-to-remove growths in that area.
The main thing at this point is to try to come to a decision quickly as these tumors can sometimes grow very rapidly, so the sooner it is removed, the better the outcome may be.