Anal Sac Disorders in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
March 23, 2009
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Image via iStock.com/mpikula

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

Causes

  • Conformation (body shape)

  • Allergies

  • Chronically soft feces

  • Recent bout of diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Excessive glandular secretions

  • Poor anal muscle tone

  • Anal gland tumor

Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

If the anal sacs were full, but the material was normal and easily cleaned, your veterinarian may discuss a diet change or dog supplements. Some anal gland issues are responsive to added fiber or different types of dog food. If there is evidence of infection, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic.

Abscessed anal sacs will be opened to the exterior near the anus in order to allow drainage. The anal sacs will then be cleaned and flushed, and prescription pet antibiotics will be infused into them.

If your dog is suffering from chronic anal sac infection, the anal sacs may need to be surgically removed. However, if your dog is suffering from severe fistulation (abnormal openings in the anal sacs), it may benefit from oral cyclosporine therapy.

During treatment, your veterinarian may recommend a diet or supplements to loosen the consistency of the feces. This may make it less irritating to defecate so that your dog does not develop constipation.

If your veterinarian believes your dog’s anal gland issues are related to allergies, she will recommend treatment accordingly.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule a follow-up appointment three to seven days after diagnosing and beginning treatment for your dog. Your veterinarian will schedule subsequent follow-up appointments as necessary to treat your dog's condition.

If your dog is constantly licking at its anus after treatment, you will need to ask your veterinarian for an Elizabethan collar (recovery cone) to prevent the dog from reaching its anus. Also, contact your veterinarian for further treatment if the anal glands continue to drain after a few days of treatment, or if they appear to be red and swollen.