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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Anal Sac Disease

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Condition Overview

The dog has 2 anal sacs or glands located at 5 and 5 o'clock in reference to the circumference of the anus. They can be seen by drawing down on the the skin of the lower part of the anus and looking in those locations. The anal sacs are similar to scent glands.

Symptoms

Scooting (rubbing hind quarters on the ground), malodor, licking and biting at the rear are all common symptoms that your dog may be experiencing an anal gland issue.

Causes

Anal Sac Impaction

Impaction is the accumulation of pastry secretions in the anal sacs. The sacs become distended and mildly tender. The expressed secretions are thick and dark to grayish brown. The sacs become impacted when they don't empty completely. This may be due to insufficient pressure on the sacs during defecation because of small, soft stools, in adequate sphincter pressure, or blockage of the openings by thick, dry secretions. Impactions tend to occur most often in small-breed or overweight dogs.

Anal Sac Infection (Sacculitis)

Anal sac infection complicates impaction. Infection is recognized by a painful swelling on one or both sides of the anus. The anal secretions are thin, yellowish, or blood-tinged. The dog will scoot, lick, and bite at his rear.

Anal Sac Abscess

Abscess is recognized by fever and the signs of anal sac infection. The swelling, usually on one side, is red at first, and then later turns deep purple.

Unlike anal sac infection, the swelling of an abscess cannot be reduced by emptying the sac. An abscess often ruptures through the adjacent skin, producing a drainage tract.

Diagnosis

Always, take your pet to the vet for an evaluation of their anal glands. Do not let groomers voluntarily express the anal glands of any dog who has not been determined to have an issue.

Treatment

Anal Sac Impaction: is treated by manually expressing the secretions. Dogs with recurrent anal sac impactions should have their sacs emptied at regular intervals. Place the dog on a high-fiber diet or a bulk laxative to increase the size of the stools.

Anal Sac Infection (Sacculitis): Begin by expressing the anal sacs (see: Support below). Repeat in one to two weeks. For recurrent infection, empty the sacs weekly. After emptying the sacs, an antibiotic is instilled into the sacs. This procedure should be done by your veterinarian. Dogs with recurrent anal sac infections should have their anal sacs surgically removed. This is best done during a period between infections.

Anal Sac Abscess: If the abscess has not ruptured spontaneously, it should be lanced by your veterinarian when it becomes soft and fluid-like. The cavity is flushed repeatedly and the dog is placed on an oral antibiotic. Your veterinarian may ask you to flush the cavity twice a day with a topical antiseptic such as dilute Betadine solution for 1 - 2 weeks, and apply warm compresses to the area.

Prevention

There is no prevention for this condition.

Support

How to empty the anal sacs

NOTE:This is to be performed by a veterinarian only, unless you have been trained in the procedure and the application of such procedure has been approved by a veterinarian.

Manually emptying the anal sacs is called "expressing". It is not necessary to express the anal sacs unless the dog has an anal sac disease, or when frequent malodor poses a problem.

  1. Begin by putting on a disposable latex glove or plastic surgical glove
  2. Raise the dog's tail up over its back
  3. The anal sacs are at 5 and 7 o'clock positions on the anus, and you should be able to feel them if they are full - they will feel a bit like peas or marbles under the skin.
  4. The ducts that empty them to the outside are higher, at 4 and 8 o'clock
  5. Using your thumb and forefinger, squeeze in a C-shaped sweeping arc (starting below the 5 and 7 o'clock positions and moving upward) to express the fluid.
  6. When an anal sack is impacted (blocked), it is usually best to empty the sacs with a finger in teh anal canal and a thumb on the outside.
As the sac empties, you may smell a strong odor. Wipe the secretions with a damp cloth or gently hose the dog's rectal area. Normal secretions are liquid and brown. If the fluid is yellow, bloody, or pus-like, the sac is infected and you will need to seek veterinary attention.

Show Sources & Contributors +

Sources

Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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