Anal Sac Disease

Pets that lick under their tail repeatedly or drag their rear ends along the ground are doing so in an attempt to relieve “anal irritation” which they experience as an itch or pain. Anal irritation can result from a number of causes one of the most common being “anal sac disease” .

An animals anal sacs are located on either side of the pets anus and empty their contents into the rectal area by way of a small connecting duct. Each sac fills up with a thick, foul smelling, brownish fluid which normally is expelled when the animal has a bowel movement. The odor produced by these sac helps the pet “mark his territory” and may be responsible for much of what is described as the characteristic “doggy odor”. Problems arise when the anal sacs can not easily empty their contents and become infected or overly full causing the animal discomfort and even pain. When this happens dogs and cats often develop an offensive odor and try to relieve their discomfort through biting, licking and scooting along the ground

Anal sac disease can be caused either by an infection or simply a physical obstruction. Bacteria which are abundant around the anal area may invade the anal sac where they produce an inflammation and swelling of the inside lining of the sac and its emptying duct. The swelling causes a narrowing of the diameter of the duct and as a result the fluid can not flow out into the rectum as easily and consequently is retained. The longer the fluid remains in the anal sac the more likely it is to become thicker and paste like. Eventually the consistency of the anal sac material may reach a toothpaste like consistency. At this point it is almost impossible for the sac to empty itself naturally and help is required to open up and empty the plugged sac.

In order for your veterinarian to help relieve the animals discomfort he will put on a lubricated rubber glove and with one finger inserted into the rectum and another finger on the outside he will attempt to squeeze the contents through the plugged or narrowed duct. If the anal sac material is very thick or the duct very narrow, manual squeezing may not be successful and additional treatment may be necessary.

In cases where manual pressure does not completely empty your pets anal sac your veterinarian will most likely recommend that the anal sac be catheterized and flushed out with a solution that softens the pasty material and wash it away. After a thorough flushing he may infuse an antibiotic cortisone paste which helps treat both infection and inflammation. It is often necessary for this flushing process to be repeated after several weeks.

Besides infection another cause of anal sac disease is a poor quality diet that leads to the production of soft feces. Soft feces usually cannot exert the necessary pressure for emptying the sacs. Poor muscle tone, especially in obese dogs can predispose an animal to anal sac disease. Both of these can be prevented through exercise and dietary management.

When a dog or cat owner notices his or her pet scooting, along with an offensive odor it is time to take the animal to the veterinarian. If this condition is left untreated the condition may develop into an anal sac abscess which results in the drainage of a bloody pussy fluid through a hole in the skin. An anal gland abscess usually requires surgery but is easily avoidable with early treatment.

In order to prevent anal gland problems some pets, especially the very small ones, will need their anal sacs emptied every few month by their veterinarian. Pets that have frequent anal sac problems may need to have these sacs surgically removed if medical treatment does not provide a solution.

I am sure that neither you, your pet, or your veterinarian enjoy dealing with smelly anal glands, but untreated the problem will not go away. So pay attention to your pets behavior and nip anal sac disease in the butt.

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