What are the anal sacs?
Popularly called ‘anal glands’, these are two small pouches located on
either side of the anus at approximately the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock
positions. The sacs are lined with numerous specialized sebaceous
(skin) glands that produce a foul smelling secretion. Each sac is
connected to the outside by a small duct which opens just inside the
What is their function?
secretion acts as a territorial marker – a dog’s ‘calling card’. The
‘glands’ are present in both male and female dogs. Normally they empty
when the dog defecates. This is why dogs are so interested in one
Why are they important?
gland (sac) disease is very common in dogs. The sacs frequently become
impacted, usually due to blocking of the ducts. This is followed by
thickening and hardening of the secretion. It is then painful for your
dog to pass feces. The secreted material within the anal sacs (glands)
forms an ideal medium on which germs can multiply so that an abscess
can easily form. Pain increases and sometimes a red, angry swelling
will appear on one or both sides of the anus indicating abscessation.
These abscesses often burst and release a quantity of greenish yellow
or bloody pus. If untreated, the infection can quickly spread and
cause severe damage to the anus and rectum.
How will I know if my dog has anal sac
The first sign is often scooting or
dragging the rear along the ground. There may be excessive licking or
biting, often at the root of the tail rather than the anal area. Anal
sac impaction and infection is very painful. Even normally gentle dogs
may snap or growl if you touch the tail or anus when they have anal
sac disease. If the anal sac ruptures, you may see blood or pus
draining from the rectum.
What should I do?
Problems with the anal gland are
common in all dogs, regardless of size or breed. If you are concerned
that your pet may have an anal sac problem, do not hesitate to call
us. Treatment for impaction involves flushing and removal of the
solidified material. Since this condition is painful, many pets will
require a sedative or an anesthetic. Antibiotics are often prescribed
and sometimes instilled into the glands over a period of several days.
In advanced cases, surgery may be necessary.
Is the condition likely to recur?
Many dogs will have recurrent anal sac
impaction due to blocking of the secretions in the ducts or the sacs
themselves. If this recurs frequently, surgical removal of the sacs is
indicated since repeated treatment often results in scarring and
narrowing of the duct.
Are anal glands unnecessary for my
dog? Will removal have any adverse effects? Will my pet miss them?
glands produce the pungent smelling secretion that allows the dog to
define his or her territory. For our domesticated dogs, this is
unnecessary and will not adversely affect your pet.
there any other risks attached to surgery?
a specialized surgery. Many veterinarians perform this procedure
routinely; however, veterinary surgical specialists may be recommended
depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. The primary concern
is permanent damage to the nerves that allow the anus to close. This
can result in fecal incontinence or the inability to control bowel
movements. While this is rare, we want to minimize the risk of any
complication for your pet.
dogs will experience loose stools or lack of bowel control for one to
three weeks following surgery. This resolves without further treatment
in the majority of pets.
any surgery, there are risks and potential complications. Today’s
modern anesthetics and surgical techniques ensure that these risks are
minimized. For dogs suffering from chronic anal sac infection or
impaction, surgery is the only permanent cure.
My dog is very nervous and sometimes
seems to express his own glands. Is this normal?
It is common for dogs to express their
anal sacs, particularly if frightened. Some dogs even appear to lack
control of the anus or anal sac ducts so that small quantities of
fluid will drain out when they are resting. This, of course, leaves an
unpleasant lingering odor in the home. For dogs with this condition,
surgery may be recommended.