What are anal sacs?

  • Anal sacs are a pair of small sacs that lie inside the anus between the internal and external anal sphincters. These sacs contain a foul smelling material that is used for scent marking. This material can range from watery and clear, to a thick and dark brown consistency. Dogs typically empty their anal sacs when defecating, but material can also be release when they run, jump, wag their tails, or even rest. There is a very small opening from the anal sac to the anus that allows for drainage. Inflammation and scar tissue can constrict, or even close the opening resulting in anal sac impaction.

How often do I need to have my dog’s anal sacs expressed?

  • Most dogs have no issues expressing their anal sacs. If your dog is not having any issues with their anal sacs, you don’t need to worry about expressing them. Some dogs, however, do have difficulty emptying their anal sacs. This can potentially result in anal sac impaction. Signs of anal sac problems include persistent scooting or licking of the anus, straining or pain during defecation, and blood around the anus or coating the stool. Health problems such as obesity, skin allergies, and persistent soft stools/diarrhea can contribute to anal sac problems. Routine expression for animals with normal anal sacs is not necessary or recommended. Typically, anal gland expression is reserved for animals showing some of the problems listed above.

Treating anal sac impaction.

  • Many times mild impactions can be resolved through expression. However, sometimes anal sac lavage, oral anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics may be required. More severe anal gland impactions and anal gland ruptures will result in scar tissue formation that will further narrow the opening to the anal sac and predispose to future anal sac problems. Dogs with persistent anal sac problems may benefit from treating predisposing health problems (allergies, obesity, and gastrointestinal disease). Surgical removal of the anal glands is another option for dogs with chronic anal sac disease.

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