The staff at Blue Lake Animal Care Center often is asked by owners why their pet is predisposed to recurrent anal sac impactions and blockages. As a result, we will try to disperse some useful information to pet owners that would like to learn more about this condition.
The anal sacs(glands) are 2 small scent glands just inside the anus. They are often why animals sniff each other, and the purpose is to mark natural territory by coating stool. It is not uncommon to become blocked and painful, but this can be resolved through expression of the sacs. Pets can also suffer secondary problems such as anal gland abscesses, or develop tumors as well.
Did you know:
- Cats also have them, but problems are less common.
- People are often unaware of potential problems of anal sacs, as we don’t have them.
- Scooting – dogs dragging their bottom on the floor. This is more common the small breed dog, but occurs in all sizes and breeds.
- Biting or licking excessively at the skin near the anus, base of the tail, or even the hind legs
- Baldness or red skin at the tail base
- A foul smell that occurs if your pet empties a blocked gland/sac. This smell is a very unpleasant, ‘fishy’ odor
- Swelling around the anus, these are often abscessed, which can burst and drain blood and pus.
- As stool slides past the sac, it normally gets squashed, which forces the liquid out of the small holes and coats it. Also,muscle contractions around the sac when the animal defecates helps to empty them.
- If the glands are not emptied for a few days, the contents inside will start to thicken and solidify into a paste, which means it is more difficult to force out of the small holes.
- The glands might not empty because
- Your pet doesn’t defecate for a few days(for example they are constipated or don’t eat).
- The feces is very soft, so it doesn’t have the strength to compress the gland and force out the feces. This can occur if you pet has diarrhea, or if they are fed a overly high-fat diet.
- The only way to treat blocked anal glands is to express them digitally(finger). Our veterinary team will be able to do this very easily(usually). In rare cases, we can even teach owners how to express their pet at home.
- Correcting the problem using two fingers to “milk” the obstructed anal glands . This subsequently provides immediate relief to your pet.
- If infected, a culture of the sample and antibiotics is required.
- If abscessed, sedation with lancing and flushing is required.
- In cases with severe recurring anal gland problems, the glands are surgically removed. However, there is a small chance that the muscles/nerves of the anus can become damaged. This can make an animal partially but permanently fecal incontinent. While rare, owners should be aware of the risks vs. rewards of this procedure.
If you have additional concerns, feel free to schedule an appointment to go over your options.