How to Deal With Canine Anal Sac Problems

Updated on July 9, 2019
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock, and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

Oh yeah?  You'd be cranky, too.
Oh yeah? You'd be cranky, too. | Source

Dog Anal Sac Issues

If you haven’t yet been introduced to your dog’s anal sacs, be patient. Your day will come. I know it’s a crappy subject, but all dog owners should be aware of these little devils because of the problems they can create. For the dog, they can literally be a pain in the butt.

First a little A & P. The anal sacs are two glands, each about the size of a kidney bean, located on either side of your dog’s anus. If the sphincter were a clock, the sacs would be at 5 and 7. They contain what’s politely referred to as a “foul-smelling fluid.” The fluid is dispensed onto the stool and the fur surrounding the anus when dogs pass a bowel movement.

This fluid, about the consistency of oil, gives the stool your dog’s signature scent. When other dogs sniff the stool or your dog's hiney, they can learn your dog’s identity (phew, that’s definitely Boomer), gender, breeding status, etc.. You, on the other hand, can simply look at your dog and know all that stuff; and doesn't that just make you so happy that you're civilized and not merely domesticated?


How Diet Influences Anal Sac Health

Before becoming domesticated, dogs would eat a lot of meat and bone, producing very hard stools that did a good job of expressing (squeezing) and emptying the sacs. Today’s high-quality commercial diets produce firm, easy-to-pick-up stools, but not the real hard ones of days of yore.

If the sacs don’t completely empty, the fluid thickens, and the sacs may become impacted. Sometimes they will spontaneously empty, and they’re not particularly fussy about where they do this . . . a potential disadvantage to owning a lap dog.

If they don’t empty by themselves, they must be manually expressed lest they become inflamed or abscessed, which can lead to rupture. It’s at times like these that you wished you owned a goldfish.

All kidding aside, this is a painful condition which should be taken care of immediately. The procedure can be performed at the vet’s office, and some groomers offer the service as well. If you’ve mastered the technique, you can do it yourself.

If it happens occasionally, most vets or groomers will be willing to teach you how to express the sacs yourself. If it happens repeatedly, your vet may feel that surgical removal of the anal sacs is an option to seriously consider.

Experts don’t know for sure what causes anal sacs to become impacted, but chronically soft stools, occasional diarrhea, and poor anal muscle tone are among those considered to be predisposing factors.

If your dog’s anal sacs need attention, he'll probably do some scooting, may constantly lick or scratch the area, chase his tail, strain to move his bowels, or you may notice a discharge from the dog’s hind end.

Typical "Scooting" Associated With Anal Sac Emptying

Treating Reoccurring Anal Sac Problems

It’s not unusual for the veterinarian to do a complete physical on the dog, so be prepared to give a thorough history. The vet will also need to know when the symptoms began and possible incidents that might have led to this condition; things such as a recent change of diet or perhaps a course of antibiotics.

Once the fluid has been expressed, the vet may send it to the lab for a culture and sensitivity testing. The sacs will be cleaned and flushed, and a disinfecting rinse may be used to flush them. Most vets will schedule a follow-up appointment within a week or so.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. As troublesome as the anal sacs can be, there are many dog owners who have owned dogs for years and never encountered a problem, a record that they should be very grateful for.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Bob Bamberg


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      • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

        Bob Bamberg 

        4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        Hello, Marty, thanks for stopping by and God Speed and thank you to your husband as he deploys.

        The fact that your dog has never been aggressive while being rough housed by your daughter is no guarantee that he won't bite in the future. It's just something to keep in mind. Any animal can be unpredictable.

        You will need to assume the "alpha" role now and that means a big change in your own mindset. A few tips: make your dog earn everything he gets. Before giving him food, treats and toys, bring him to a sit command. Don't feed him until after you've finished your meal...and don't share your food with him, either at or away from the table.

        When taking him outside, you walk out first and make him follow you. The same coming inside. Don't let him be physically at your level, such as on the sofa or bed.

        If he jumps up on either, don't remove him, but instead slide into his spot, forcing him to move, and continue to do so until he is off the couch or bed. In doing this, you are taking possession of that spot.

        In short, continuously exert your dominance in a calm but firm manner until the dog is comfortable with his subordinate position. These are simplified examples, but it's important that you be persistent and consistent. If he gets away with something you've been working to deny him, it will set your training back some.

        When the baby arrives, the dog will naturally be curious. There are some things about babies that can be scary or dangerously appealing to a dog. The strange sounds and the jerky spasmodic movement can either be frightening or stimulating. The odors associated with babies can have a primal appeal to dogs. It would not be considered wise to leave the dog and baby unattended.

        That being said, if I were a betting man I'd bet that everything will be fine. You don't often hear of serious problems when a new baby is introduced into the household, although pediatricians and veterinarians could probably recall some during their careers. You'd probably be smart to be more cautious, observant, and attentive as regards the dog for several months after the baby arrives.

        Finally, you'll certainly have your hands full, but as best you can, try to keep things normal for the dog. The baby will certainly demand more of your attention, but try not to neglect the dog. Give him some quality time, too...some chin-scratch or belly-rub time, playing ball, going for a walk...something that just you and he do together.

        Best wishes to you and your family and thanks for stopping by.

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        hey there! checked out your witesbe and am very interested in your assistance. We have a year old lab X greyhound (so we found out afterwards!) and all in all he is an amazing dog, we got him at 8 weeks and he has been around our daughter who had just turned 3 and is amazing with her she lays on him..pushes him is kind of in an aggressive stage right now and we try really hard to stress to her NOT to be like that lol but anyway he has never growled, snapped, bit or snarled at her..or anyone for that matter.. he is a very loving and affectionate, licky/kissy dog.however, we have a baby on the way, and my husband was just called into the military and will be going away for quite a while. Bentley(dog) seems to listen to my husband more than me they are BFFS. And Bentley has and always has had an issue with jumping up, and pawing at people lol not aggressively but its still super frustrating, and we are concerned with the baby on the way and such and just want to get him under control while hes still young.Let me know what you think and We'd love to meet!

      • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

        Bob Bamberg 

        6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        Hi Rhonda, thanks for stopping by. Apparently having the sacs removed is akin to us having our tonsils or appendix removed. The dog doesn't really need them. They do lubricate the stool to facilitate easier passage, but today's high quality foods, with fiber properly balanced, probably facilitate that anyway. They're likely a source of discomfort for your dog. Thanks for the comment and the votes. Regards, Bob

      • RhondaHumphreys1 profile image

        Rhonda Humphreys 

        6 years ago from Michigan

        This is great information Bob. I had never had a dog that had these problems before now. I have a Bernese Mountain Dog that the vet has suggested we take them out. After reading your piece I will have to reconsider. Voted up and useful

      • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

        Bob Bamberg 

        6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        Hi Christine, good to see you. OMG is an understatement! Out of the mouths of babes, right? Don't you wish you could write a hub about that episode. It would be hilarious, but the automatic content filter gods would be all over you.

        You should do a screen-shot of this so that years from now, you can show it to your daughter sometime when she and her boyfriend are at the house. It would be better than a "bare on a bear skin rug" picture.

        Thanks for the laugh and the votes. Regards, Bob

      • Christine Miranda profile image

        Christine Miranda 

        6 years ago from My office.

        OMG do I have a funny story for you!!! I was visiting my sister when my daughter ran out and said to me "Spot (not his real name for confidentiality reasons) has anal s-e-x on the bed!" My mouth dropped open and I made her repeat it. Again, "Spot has anal s-e-x on the bed!"

        At this point I am speechless and make her bring me into the room to explain, thinking that she must have learned some inappropriate term from the older kids. As we walk in the room she points to "Spot" sitting attentively on the bed and says "See, his anal sacs are on the bed!" I almost pissed my pants! It was then that I remembered that when I first got my 14 lb dog a few months ago my sister had filled me in on the possible anal sac issues with small dogs. Evidently my daughter heard the details as well. =o) As usual, great hub Bob! Voted up & more.

      • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

        Bob Bamberg 

        6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        Hi Jaye, thanks for stopping by. I used that tactic in the headline to appease the filter gods. I had actually written it back in August, using the term anal sac in the title, but they disabled the ads on it.

        I had a free minute, so I unpublished it and republished it with the new title. Voila! It's still "Pending" but the ads have not been disabled.

        I had a similar episode just recently when I wrote about feline anorexia and used the term in the headline. They disabled the ads on that one, so I changed the title only, and it passed through the filters OK. Like most dogs, they're pretty easy to trick. :)

        Maybe your dog just had defective anal sacs. They can be removed without consequence because, as far as I know anyway, their only function is to add the dog's signature scent to the stool.

        Now, when other dogs sniff her stool or her hind end, shes "the mystique lady." Actually, she's probably only "the mystique" because her gender pheromone is missing.

        Nice to see you, as always, thanks for commenting and voting. Regards, Bob

      • JayeWisdom profile image

        Jaye Denman 

        6 years ago from Deep South, USA

        My dog's a_n_l (trying to keep you out of trouble with the automatic content filters) sacs had to be removed surgically before she was three years old because they were constantly becoming impacted. This happened even though her groomer and the vet expressed them regularly. I think the problem was the commercial food I was feeding her back then.

        She gets along fine without them--never any problems when she has to potty. I attribute that to the wholesome, healthy home-made food she now eats. She doesn't miss those sacs, and--believe me--neither do I!

        Voted Up++



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