Hemorrhoids are an embarrassing and debilitating condition occurring from enlarged blood vessels in the anal region. Hemorrhoids in people are fairly common, but what about dogs? Do dogs get hemorrhoids?
The short answer is yes – in theory, dogs can get hemorrhoids. However, they are not typically expected in practice, and if you suspect hemorrhoids, chances are your dog has some other pathology.
In this article, we will review hemorrhoids and discuss several "hemorrhoid look-a-likes" in dogs and detail the appearance and etiology of abscessed anal glands, rectal prolapse, anal tumors, and anal fissures. We will also talk about treatment options based on underlying causes.
Can Dogs Get Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels from the rectum. Over time they keep distending and eventually start hanging out from the anal sphincter. Once out, they are a serious cause for irritation which, more often than not, culminates in a painful condition.
Luckily, hemorrhoids in dogs are quite rare. Perhaps the dog's horizontal posture has something to do with the low incidence of this painful and challenging condition. However, some dogs can and do develop hemorrhoids.
The exact reasons for developing hemorrhoids in dogs are unknown. It is believed that there is a group of risk factors such as inadequate dietary choices, lack of physical activity, and genetics. Hemorrhoids are reported in dogs with sedentary lifestyles and long cage rest recoveries.
As in humans, there are two types of hemorrhoids – internal and external. The pain and consequences of their presence depend on the exact location and size. Hemorrhoids are prone to rupturing and bleeding.
A dog with hemorrhoids will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Excessive licking of the rear end
- Loss of appetite.
A vet sets the diagnosis through the elimination of the potential differential diagnoses. The vet will determine the right course of action based on the unique situation. Generally speaking, surgical procedures are rarely performed because of the problem's location and the high risk of postoperative infections.
Therefore, the mainstream for managing hemorrhoids in dogs is creams and topicals. The treatment focuses on relieving the pain and irritation and shrinking the blood vessels. Applying cold compresses at home is also helpful.
In the long run, to prevent a recurrence, diet and exercise changes are imperative.
Hemorrhoid "Look-a-Likes" in Dogs
As mentioned, although possible, hemorrhoids are an improbable diagnosis in dogs. If your dog shows signs you think to resemble hemorrhoids take a look at these diagnoses as they are more likely.
1) Anal Gland Issues
The anal glands are two bean-shaped sacs located on either side of the rectum at roughly about 4 and 8 o'clock. They are prone to several issues like impaction, infection, and rupture.
Anal gland issues occur due to irregular and infrequent emptying, which develops due to a combination of factors including genetics, poor dietary choices, and lack of physical activity.
There are no particular predispositions and risk factors, basically, all dogs can develop some form of anal gland issued at some point in their life.
Common red flags for anal gland issues include carpet scooting, frequent licking of the anal region, brown staining, radiating a repulsive foul odor, and walking with a low carried rear end.
Palpation is enough for the vet to determine the root of the problem. In cases of an abscessed gland, the diagnosis will be even more striking. There is no need for special tests and diagnostic procedures.
The treatment is pretty simple and consists of expulsing or emptying the gland, which is done manually. In cases of frequent anal gland issues, the vet will probably wash the glands – a procedure best done on a sedated dog.
If the gland is abscessed, the vet will prescribe antibiotics. For dogs with frequent issues, surgical removal of the anal glands is the best option.
Dogs with anal gland issues tend to experience problems on a regular basis. Although not life-threatening, anal gland issues are uncomfortable or even painful, and surgical removal ensures excellent outcomes.
2) Rectal prolapse
The term rectal prolapse indicates that the last portion of the rectum protrudes from the anus – pretty much like a pink cylinder coming out of the dog's rear end. It can be complete (if all of the rectum's layers are protruding) or incomplete.
Rectal prolapse occurs due to straining while defecating. As for the straining itself can be caused by various reasons such as diarrhea, constipation, and attempting to eliminate a foreign object. In females, it can also occur during birth due to straining to pass the puppies.
There are no concrete predispositions to rectal prolapse. However, the condition is more frequently reported in young puppies because of the higher likelihood of heavy worm infestations.
In addition to the unique and striking pink cylinder-like mass protruding from the dog's butt, other signs and symptoms of rectal prolapse in dogs include scooting, diarrhea, crying while defecating, and bleeding.
There is no need for specialized diagnostic procedures when a dog presents with a prolapsed rectum. The vet will know what he/she is dealing with just by looking at the rear end.
Rectal prolapse is considered a medical emergency, thus warranting immediate veterinary attention. The vet will reposition the rectum and place sutures to address the immediate problem to keep it in place for several days. In the long run, it is imperative to determine and adequately manage the underlying cause.
The prognosis is excellent for dogs with a resolved underlying cause. If the real culprit behind the prolapse is not identified, the dog's rectum will prolapse as soon as the sutures are removed.
3) Perianal Adenoma
Perianal adenomas or hepatoid gland tumors are non-painful and slow-growing masses and account for 80 percent of the tumors in the perianal area.
As in most tumors, the exact cause is unknown. It is postulated that the culprit is a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. Considering the fact that perianal adenomas occur in non-neutered dogs, hormonal imbalances are one of the main underlying issues.
Perianal adenomas are widespread among non-neutered males from particular breeds like Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Bulldogs, and Pekingese dogs.
The condition manifests with small pink nodules that ulcerate and start bleeding. Difficulty defecating, vomiting, lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, and weight loss are also common.
An experienced vet will suspect perianal adenomas just by looking at them and making a rectal examination. However, the vet will take a tissue sample for analysis via fine needle aspiration or biopsy to confirm the suspicion.
Generally speaking, the treatment on choice is neutering and mass removal. In more advanced cases, the vet may also recommend hormonal therapies and anti-cancer therapies like radiation, chemotherapy, and laser ablation.
Perianal adenomas are debilitating and decrease the dog's quality of life. Luckily, the condition has low recurring rates (less than 10 percent), and once the dog is neutered and mass removed, the prognosis is good.
4) Perianal Fistulae
Perianal fistulae, also known as perianal fissures, are unnatural openings in the anus area. They are extremely painful, tend to bleed a lot, and are susceptible to infections.
The exact cause of anal fissures is unknown. Since the condition is usually diagnosed in dogs with colitis (inflammation of the colon) and frequent diarrhea bouts, it is believed there is a closer connection.
All dogs can develop this condition, but it is generally associated with German Shepherds. The predisposing factor is the way of carrying the tail – low and between the hip bones.
A dog with perianal fistulae is likely to exhibit straining when attempting to defecate, excessive licking of the rear end, biting the anus, constipation or diarrhea, blood or mucus in the stool, and a foul-smelling discharge.
After performing a thorough physical examination, the vet will rely on the findings from the digital anal exam. In dogs with this problem, the exam will be painful, and chances are the patient will be mildly sedated. To reach a diagnosis, the vet can also take examples for microscopic examinations.
Fistulas tend to reoccur in over 80 percent of the cases. To ensure long-term results, the vet will combine medical and surgical approaches.
The medical aspect of the treatment involves diet changes and antibiotics and the surgical aspect removal of the damaged tissues. In recurring cases, the vet may recommend amputating the tail.
Perianal fistulae are not life-threatening, but in most cases, they are recurring and require lifelong medical management. To prevent anal fissures, diagnosed German Shepherds should not be bred.
Concluding Thoughts on Dogs and Hemorrhoids
In dogs, having a lump on the butt does not always equal hemorrhoids. While common in people, hemorrhoids in dogs are extremely rare.
However, dogs are prone to a myriad of health issues resembling the clinical manifestation of hemorrhoids.
Differentiating between hemorrhoids and other pathologies affecting your dog's rear end on your own is impossible.
If your dog is showing red flags, it is critical to schedule an appointment with your vet, let a professional evaluate the situation, and set a diagnosis.