Anal Sac Problems in Dogs

Does your dog scoot across your carpet on his butt?  He may have an anal sac problem.  Most owners do not even know what an anal sac is, or that it exists.  The anal sacs are two small sacs on either side of the anus and are filled with fluid.  As the dog has a bowl movement, this fluid leaves the anal sacs and covers the fecal matter.  Apparently, each dog’s anal sac fluid smells a little different and dog’s can tell who is who by the smell.  To humans, the anal sac fluid just smells foul.  Anal sac problems include impaction, inflammation of the anal sac, and an absess of the anal sac, which can lead to anal sac rupture.

Impaction of the anal sac is the most common problem.  The symptoms of impaction include scooting across the floor on the butt, straining to defecate, itching and subsequent scratching of the region, tail chasing, discharge from the anus, and licking and biting the anus.  Small dogs such as toy Poodles, Chihuahuas, and Miniature Pinchers are most likely to have this problem, although all dogs can get it.

What causes impaction?  Much of the reason a particular dog will get impacted anal sacs is not known.  However, chronically soft feces, diarrhea, excessive glandular secretions, and poor anal muscle tone are all known contributors.  So are anal sacs that are too far back in the anus.

How are anal sac difficulties diagnosed? Your veterinarian will take a history of the symptoms, do some blood work and a urinalysis to ensure there are no other problems, and palpate the anal glands.  The glands are considered impacted it they are clearly palpatable.  In addition, the normally clear or yellowish fluid will have become a thick brown fluid with a foul smell.  If the gland is abscessed, the fluid will be reddish brown with blood in it.  It will also be tender and the dog may bite at anyone palpating the glands.

Treatment consists of emptying the anal sacs.  This is best done with latex gloves on and two people — one to hold the dog’s head and the other to empty the anal sacs.  The anal sacs are then cleaned and flushed and filled with an antibiotic ointment.  If they were abscessed, the dog may also be placed on oral antibiotics

The veterinarian will have you bring your dog back in three to seven days for a recheck, to ensure that the anal sacs are draining normally again.  If not, treatment will be repeated.  .  In dogs suffering from chronic anal sac infections, the anal sacs may need to be removed.  This carries a danger that the anal sphincter may be damaged, allowing fecal matter to exit at inappropriate times (in other words, the dog may become incontinent).

There is really no preventative measures the owner can take to keep anal sac problems from developing except making sure the dog’s feces are appropriate to flush the anal sacs naturally.  If the feces are chronically soft or diarrhea, a food change may be in order.