Essential oils for anal gland issues

Over the past 20 years, essential oils have been used in over 800 anal gland cases in dogs and cats, ranging from pruritus to cancer. The keys to success lie in oil quality and proper techniques.

“The effectiveness of essential oil treatments stems from our common biochemical and cellular heritage with plants.” – Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD, VMAA Conference 2019

Anal gland issues, ranging from pruritus and scooting to neoplasia, account for a large portion of an average veterinarian’s monthly visits, and solutions are limited. Essential oil clinical research and serial case studies over the last 20 years reveal tremendous success in all stages of anal gland disease (in both dogs and cats). Biologically-active essential oils, or essential oils with a strict adherence to GMP and QC standards above the industry standards, are capable of changing the environment of anal gland cells and tissues. With attention to oil quality and the technique used, specific protocols have proven consistently successful in restoring the gland to normal function, with minimal side effects.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Given the pathophysiology of anal gland tumors, the use of specific essential oil techniques are warranted early in the progression of cancer pathologies, lessening the need for manual expression. Considering the possibility of iatrogenically-caused anal sacculitis and cellulitis (especially with external expression), early intervention with essential oils is again warranted.

Progression and pathophysiology of anal gland disease

Signalment and history

Preexisting factors contributing to a higher incidence of anal gland disease include:

  1. Breed: Some breeds seem to have retained anatomically large anal glands, even though the breed itself is now a smaller version. Yorkies are a great example.
  2. Diet: Foods lacking in fiber and probiotics will increase susceptibility to anal sac issues.
  3. Obesity: Too much excess weight creates increased fat tissue in the anal area that obstructs proper expression of the glands during a bowel movement.
  4. Behavior: From an evolutionary perspective, anal gland expression serves as a behavior strategy to mark territories and boundaries. Some pets simply do not wish to leave their mark.
  5. Stress: In addition to food changes, stress can also alter stool consistencies, with subsequent softening of the stool and decreased anal gland release.


Initially, the primary historical report is scooting, licking the rear end, or biting at the tail. The primary physical signs are inflamed painful tissue with full or partially full anal glands. All the following etiologies should be considered when chronic anal gland expression is needed or unsuccessful:

• Above-mentioned signalment or historical factors along with inflammatory conditions such as dysbiosis, atopy or topical irritants.
• Iatrogenically-induced problem from incorrect or too-frequent expression of the glands.
• Neuritis such as tail head subluxations or neuropathology involving the anal glands.
• Parasites or other forms of dermatitis.

Treatments at this stage may include consistent, appropriately-spaced manual anal gland expression. However, external expression seems to carry more risk of partial release and induced cellulitis than correctly-performed internal expression.

Spinal manipulation is highly effective if neuritis is involved. Acupuncture to help relieve stagnations resulting in anal gland sacculitis is also helpful.

Additionally, specific essential oil suppositories are highly successful at restoring cellular function, and eliminating the inflammation and scarring that lead to further stagnations, dysfunction and mass production.

Chronic anal sacculitis

Historically, the patient requires anal gland expression every one to four weeks. Progression of physical changes has led to thickening and scarring of the glandular tissue and ducts. At this stage, the anal gland is now anatomically and physiologically dysfunctional.

Probiotics and diet changes are still recommended along with spinal manipulations, laser or TCM approaches.

The addition of specific essential oil techniques at this stage helps eliminate scarring, thickening and smoldering infections, with a dramatic decrease in pain and swelling on manual palpation. Further, the author has observed a decrease in the frequency of
expressions from weekly to every three to six months.

Anal gland abscessation and/or fistulation

Manifestation may include tissue rupture or cellulitis. Injection techniques using specific essential oils have proven highly successful, resulting in an elimination of infections without
recurrence, and minimal to no scarring of the gland. Usually, no surgical intervention is needed following these treatments.


As disease progresses untreated, both anatomical and physical dysfunction continue, with chronic tissue irritation, inflammation and stagnation. Fibrosis ensues with the potential for subsequent mass formation (see sidebar below).

Anal gland masses

Pathophysiology of masses, according to many medical systems, demonstrates that the longer the tissue is in a state of irritation and stagnation, the more likely the cellular structure will be compromised. In simple terms, chronic tissue inflammation will lead to fibrosis and then the formation of masses. These masses can be benign or neoplastic. Diagnosis of cellular type is important.

Anal gland carcinomas

Current treatment approaches include surgical excision and chemotherapy. The utilization of specific essential oil techniques has yielded the following results in my practice:

  1. With surgery: Application of essential oils during surgery significantly lessens pain, discomfort and postoperative infection. There is also a decreased occurrence of tumor regrowth at the site and/or metastasis to area lymph nodes (post op exams at one month and then every three months for two years).
  2. Without surgery: The mass seems to go into a “hibernation” of sorts. Repeated specific essential oil injections are needed every one to three months. The use of rectal suppositories administered at home will also decrease metastases to local lymph nodes.

Using essential oils for anal gland disease


  1. Make prevention the cure. Anal gland care should include prophylactic essential oil therapy.
  2. The use of essential oils during surgery may decrease recurrence and metastasis post op. With specific techniques, there is significant reduction in post op infections and
    dehiscence, and a decrease in poor healing.
  3. Essential oils are safe with chemotherapy. If radiation is used, a different protocol is needed.
  4. If there is no evidence of malignancy, the use of laser therapy with the essential oil protocol seems to enhance the beneficial effects of both.
  5. Some techniques are appropriate for in-home use.


Specific essential oil techniques

Topical technique:

Dilution is important to decrease tissue irritation.

For dogs: Dilute in 2 ounces organic coconut oil:
• 10 drops Boswellia sacra*
• 5 drops proprietary blend†
• 5 drops Copaifera offi cinalis*

For cats: Dilute in 4 ounces organic coconut oil:
• 10 drops Boswellia sacra*
• 5 drops proprietary blend†
• 5 drops Copaifera offi cinalis*

Apply on location 1 drop per cm2 once a day for three weeks, and then as needed, no more than three times a week.

Rectal suppositories:

These offer an effective technique for clean-up post operatively as the oils follow circulatory and lymph flow patterns of metastasis.

For dogs: Dilute in 2 ounces organic coconut oil:
• 60 drops Boswellia sacra*
• 30 drops proprietary blend†
• 30 drops Copaifera offi cinalis*

For cats: Dilute in 6 ounces organic coconut oil:
• 10 drops Boswellia sacra*
• 5 drops proprietary blend†
• 5 drops Copaifera officinalis*
Make into suppository molds and freeze, or use rectal catheter or bulb syringe to administer.

Give rectally, 0.5 cc for every 25 lbs (10 lbs still gets 0.5 cc) once a day for five days, followed by three times a week until resolved, and then weekly as a preventative.

For administration by veterinarian only:
• cc Boswellia sacra* undiluted
• 0.6 cc sterile saline

Inject into the abscess, fistula or mass at multiple angles, every one to three months. If you can get your fingers around it, you can inject it.

Surgical site:
• 0.05 cc or 1 drop per 1 cm2 of Boswellia sacra* undiluted, placed directly onto tissue

Use a sterile syringe or glass dropper to drop essential oil onto the area of exposed tissue after homeostasis is achieved and before closing the subcutaneous tissue and skin. Do not cauterize once essential oils are placed as they can be flammable.

Potential side effects and their management


If techniques are followed with appropriate essential oils, the risk of dermatitis is minimal. If dermatitis does occur, discontinue essential oil therapy and use Epsom salts topically three times a day for three days. (Dilute 1 tbsp of Epsom salts into 1 cup warm water – make a poultice from the solution.)


If local rectal irritation occurs – this is prevalent with poor quality essential oils – discontinue use. It is important to adhere to “less is better” with these techniques. If irritation results, it’s helpful to discontinue for three weeks then resume at once per week.


Two mechanisms of action with the injectable essential oil technique are tissue irritation and immune stimulation, resulting in pain, inflammation and/or rupture of the mass. Prepare the owner for this possibility. The use of steroids or NSAIDS should be avoided for better results. It is advisable to use opioids, like tramadol, at least six hours prior to injection and then for three days post injection to decrease pain and discomfort. Owners should be advised to use Epsom salt poultices three times a day for three days if there is discomfort or discharge post injection. Topical Traumeel® cream is helpful.

Infusions into abscesses or fistulations:
Conditions of injection apply – see above paragraph.

Surgical site considerations:
Do not use cautery or a surgical cutting laser if essential oils have been applied, as these oils may be flammable. Level 4 and lower warm/cold lasers work well after essential oil application, enhancing the results of both. Do not use laser over malignant masses.

Essential oils are strongly antimicrobial and promote tissue regeneration and faster healing times. The oils do not introduce infection. However, good surgical technique should be used to apply the essential oils. Furthermore, if the oils do not meet the stringent GMP/QC standards, the risk of introducing infection and tissue irritation goes up exponentially. Many well-known brands of essential oils are diluted with carrier oils and should never be used in these techniques. In fact, the primary causes of side effects in Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy® are the use of poor quality oils and/or misdirected techniques.


At the time of this writing, the techniques covered in this article have been used in over 800 cases spanning a 20-year period. However, controlled double-blinded studies need to be performed. For those new to essential oil therapy, keep the following in mind:

  1. These techniques are easy to integrate into your current protocols.
  2. They are highly safe and low in risk when the rules are followed.
  3. Both in-hospital and at-home techniques can be used on their own or in combination.
  4. The OTC nature of essential oils makes understanding the techniques of use and the pharmacognosy of Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy® essential to their safe and effective application.


Good oils + bad technique = bad outcomes
Bad oils + good techniques = bad outcomes
Good oils + good technique + critical thinking (knowing how to course correct) = best outcomes

To learn more: The Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy Association ( is setting the standards for the safe and effective use of essential oils in pets, and offers a RACEapproved
course in Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy®.

* A Biologically Active® essential oil that meets all the stringent qualifi cations of both GMP and QC, as outlined in the book The Dig Deep Method by Nancy Brandt DVM, CVC, CVA, CVMA (2018),

† A custom-formulated proprietary blend of essential oils, including Melaleuca alternifolia, Melaleuca quinquenervia and Rosmarinus officianalis CT 1,8 cineol and Syzygium aromaticum.


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Dr. Nancy Brandt graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 1990, and later began her studies in acupuncture, Chinese medicine, chiropractic medicine, and naturopathic modalities. In 1999, she founded her practice, Natural Care Institute. In 2017, Dr. Brandt founded UnBound Center for Animal Wellness, for special needs pets. She pioneered the field of Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy® and founded the Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy Association ( and