Discussing the back end of a dog isn’t a topic most people want to talk about. Nonetheless, understanding what a dog’s anal sacs are and issues that can arise from unhealthy glands is something dog owners need to be aware of. If your dog’s anal sacs become infected it can be an expensive health issue to deal with for you, and a painful experience for your dog.
Where are the anal sacs located?
Two small oval shaped sacs under the skin are situated at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock on either side of the opening of the anus. The sacs are lined with glands that produce fluid and empty into the anal sacs. When dogs do their business, small amounts of the fluid is released. Normally, we don’t even notice when liquid is released, but other dogs can. The brown liquid that comes out of the anal sacs is part of what gives dogs their own unique and individual scent.
What’s the purpose of the anal sacs?
When pressure is placed on the sacs by the rectum muscles during defecation, small amounts of the fluid is deposited on the stool as it comes out of the body. Since the only known purpose of the sacs is for production of tiny amounts of secretion, scientists believe the fluid is another way for dogs to mark their territory, and identify each other when meeting. The fluid is normally a watery to pasty yellowish brown to grayish in color. The act of lifting the tail when dogs greet each other will cause tiny amounts of liquid to be expressed, and this is the scent that garners the attention of the dog doing the sniffing. It gives them important information about the other dog’s age, sex, health, and whether a female is in season or not, which is identical to what a canine learns when sniffing another dog’s feces or urine marking. To dogs, this is a polite and natural ritual in the same way we view a handshake as being polite. The only time you would notice a bad smell coming from the anal sacs is if one or both have become infected, impacted, or inflamed. A frighten or startled dog may empty the sacs when the anal sphincter, the muscle going around the anus, is contracted.
Problems with the anal sacs
If the anal sacs don’t empty like they are designed to do, bacteria can build up and cause problems. Most dogs will never have a issues with the sacs, but the ones that do suffer with anal sac issues can experience a lot of pain when one becomes infected or impacted. Left untreated, an anal abscess could develop which can cause other complications and more pain. Chronic diarrhea and soft stools don’t put the right amount of pressure on the sacs to release fluid during defecation and if the anus muscles don’t have anything to push against, no liquid will be expressed from the sacs, and that’s when problems can begin. Inflamed sacs can become abscessed and rupture causing the the foul smelling liquid to drain out through the skin.
Symptoms a anal sac disease
Scooting the rear end on the floor or ground is a symptom, but scooting can also be due to other issues. Other symptoms include: chewing around the rectum, licking the area, a tenderness when sitting or being touched, soft stools, difficulty when having a bowel movement that resembles constipation, or chasing the tail. If a sac has become infected, you will notice a foul or fishy smell coming from your dog’s behind. Cats can also suffer from problems with the anal sacs and have the same symptoms. If you notice any symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away. Redness or swelling around the anus indicates inflammation or infected sacs that require immediate attention. A dog or cat that’s had problems with their anal sacs should be monitored regularly by your vet, and it may be necessary for you to express the sacs manually. If it comes to that, talk to your vet before trying to do it on your own for proper instructions on how and when to do it. Pain medication and antibiotics may be prescribed. Tumors in the anal sacs can develop and are often malignant. That’s why it’s best to let your vet make a diagnose and treatment plan. Dogs that are experiencing problems with their anal sacs may develop tonsillitis from licking their behind.
Diet can play a role
The quality of food you feed your pet can play a role in anal sac problems. Cheaper brands of food have more cereal fillers in them. Higher priced food contain more fiber which helps pets have stools that are firm enough to express liquid from the anal sacs. If your dog or cat doesn’t have enough fiber in his diet, you can add steamed or canned pumpkin. Just make sure to use plain pumpkin and not the one with spices added to it for pumpkin pie, and don’t use a pumpkin that was carved for Halloween. They have harmful mold and bacteria that could be toxic to pets. Small pets 15 pounds or less can have 1-2 teaspoons each day, medium sized pets under 35 pounds 1-2 tablespoons, and pets over 35 pounds can have 2-3 tablespoons daily. Pumpkin works to counter bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Add fiber gradually so your pet can adjust to it.
Dogs that are small or overweight canines are more prone to having anal sac issues, but larger dogs can also develop problems. Most pets will never have a problem, but the ones that do can experience a lot of pain, and it can be expensive to treat a sac that’s become infected, impacted, or abscessed.
Pictured: Dog with abscess on right anal sac.
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