Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

The types of diseases in dogs that involve the anal sacs are often due to impaction of the duct by the glandular secretions.  Dogs have 2 anal sacs on either side of the anus near the junction where the skin meets the rectal mucous membranes.  These sacs are often mistakenly called glands.  Actually, these sacs have glandular lining that produces an oily secretion that has a very intense, unpleasant odor.  The oily secretions are excreted through a duct that opens on either side of the anus at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock position.  Expression of the sacs often occurs when a dog defecates, or if the dog is frightened or too excited.  The ducts are narrow and can often become clogged resulting in accumulation of the glandular secretions.  This can result in swelling and rupture of the anal sacs resulting in inflammation.  Often there is a secondary bacterial infection associated with this problem.

Could your Dog have an Anal Sac Disease?

golden retriever featured1 One of the first signs of anal sac diseases in dogs is scooting the rear end on the ground.  Dogs will also frequently lick or chew at their tail base.  If an owner lifts the tail and looks at the anal region, the area on either side of the anus may appear swollen and inflamed.  Pain associated with the condition may lead to difficulty defecating.  If the condition is painful to the dog, care should be taken by the owner to not be bitten by their dog when examining the area.   Abscess formation can occur with a secondary bacterial infection.  Eventually, the abscess will rupture and drain.

Treatment of anal sac diseases in dogs will depend on the severity of the condition.

In situations where the anal sac duct is clogged but inflammation is not associated with the impaction, simple pressure on the anal sacs may allow for release of the impaction and removal of the glandular secretions.  This is performed with latex gloves and a lubricant such as KY jelly or Vaseline.  Place your index finger in the rectum and with that finger and the thumb, place gentle pressure on the sac from the outer reaches toward the anal opening to try and express the contents.  Expression of the anal sacs is a common part of routine grooming procedures.

Treatment of anal sac diseases in dogs associated with inflammation often requires the attention of a veterinarian.  Treatment involves mechanical removal of the contents with some type of flushing solution such as saline or dilute chlorohexidene.  Placing some ointment such as Panalog or other antibiotic containing ointment may aid in the healing process.  Antibiotics and/or analgesics may be prescribed by a veterinarian.  It is important to prevent the site from sealing up until medication has had 1-3 days to take effect to prevent an abscess from reforming.

Treatment for Dogs with Chronic Anal Sac Disease

Anal sac diseases in dogs that are chronic or recurrent in nature often will benefit from removal of the anal sac.   Dogs do not need their anal sacs and surgical removal can provide a permanent solution.  However, the procedure does require general anesthesia. If you think this might be a good solution for your dog, speak with your veterinarian.

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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