How to Deal With Canine Anal Sac Problems
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.
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© 2012 Bob Bamberg