Popularly called ‘anal glands’, these are two small pouches located on either side of the anus at approximately the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. The sacs are lined with numerous specialized sebaceous (skin) glands that produce a foul smelling secretion. Each sac is connected to the outside by a small duct which opens just inside the anus.
The secretion acts as a territorial marker — a dog’s ‘calling card’. The ‘glands’ are present in both male and female dogs. Normally they empty when the dog defecates. This is why dogs are so interested in one another’s feces. Anal gland (sac) disease is very common in dogs. The sacs frequently become impacted, usually due to blocking of the ducts. This is followed by thickening and hardening of the secretion. It is then painful for your dog to pass feces. The secreted material within the anal sacs (glands) forms an ideal medium on which germs can multiply so that an abscess can easily form. Pain increases and sometimes a red, angry swelling will appear on one or both sides of the anus indicating abscessation. These abscesses often burst and release a quantity of greenish yellow or bloody pus. If untreated, the infection can quickly spread and cause severe damage to the anus and rectum.
How will I know if my dog has anal sac problems?
The first sign is often scooting or dragging the rear along the ground. There may be excessive licking or biting, often at the root of the tail rather than the anal area. Anal sac impaction and infection is very painful. Even normally gentle dogs may snap or growl if you touch the tail or anus when they have anal sac disease. If the anal sac ruptures, you may see blood or pus draining from the rectum.
What should I do?
Problems with the anal gland are common in all dogs, regardless of size or breed. If you are concerned that your pet may have an anal sac problem, do not hesitate to call us. Treatment for impaction involves flushing and removal of the solidified material. Since this condition is painful, many pets will require a sedative or an anesthetic. Antibiotics are often prescribed and sometimes instilled into the glands over a period of several days. In advanced cases, surgery may be necessary.
My dog is very nervous and sometimes seems to express his own glands. Is this normal?
It is common for dogs to express their anal sacs, particularly if frightened. Some dogs even appear to lack control of the anus or anal sac ducts so that small quantities of fluid will drain out when they are resting. This, of course, leaves an unpleasant lingering odor in the home.