Anal Sac Disorders in Dogs

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Dogs have anal sacs on either side of the anus that fill with fluid produced by the anal glands. This fluid is a scent marker that’s useful for communicating with other dogs, such as to delineate territory.

Anal sac disorders involve impaction of anal sac fluid, inflammation of the sac(s) and abscess of the sac(s), which can lead to a dog having a ruptured anal gland. Impaction is the most common disorder of the anal glands. Small breed dogs like Toy Poodles, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas are more predisposed than other breeds.

Symptoms and Types

  • Dog is scooting

  • Straining to defecate

  • Itching/Scratching

  • Tail chasing

  • Discharge from the anal glands

  • Licking and biting around the anus


  • Conformation (body shape)

  • Allergies

  • Chronically soft feces

  • Recent bout of diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Excessive glandular secretions

  • Poor anal muscle tone

  • Anal gland tumor


Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Your veterinarian may order a fecal test, blood count and chemical profile, and a urinalysis to rule out other causes of disease.

The anal sacs are considered enlarged if they are easily palpable during the physical exam. The normal clear or pale yellow-brown secretion will have turned to a thick, pasty brown fluid if the anal glands have been impacted. Abscessed anal sacs will have a red-brown exudate, and show signs of swelling and redness. The anal sacs may also be clearly ruptured.

Your veterinarian will try to gently empty your dog’s anal sacs. Based on the consistency and color of the material, and the difficultly involved in expressing it, your veterinarian will choose a treatment.

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