In veterinary medicine, anal sacs aren’t the most pleasant parts of animal anatomy. Nonetheless, they require the same care and attention we afford the rest of the body. Inattention to these parts can lead to problems including pain and disease.
Anal sac problems can occur in any dog or cat. They are more common in dogs than in cats, and in dogs they are most common in small breeds and obese or overweight dogs.
Anal sacs contain sweat and oil glands. They’re located under the skin on either side of the anus, in between the internal and external layers of sphincter muscles. The glands produce and secrete an oily fluid with a distinct odor that’s used for territorial marking and identification. This is the reason dogs love to sniff rears and other dogs’ leavings.
Usually, anal sacs empty naturally during defecation. Sometimes they empty involuntarily when a dog or cat experiences a sudden surprise or scare. When sacs don’t empty, and fluid builds up within, it can cause inflammation and pain and lead to more serious problems.
Accumulated fluid becomes thick and foul smelling. The heavy viscosity increases the difficulty of fluid secretion. Infection, fever, and even dangerous abscesses may occur when bacteria, normally evacuated with natural expression, enter the sacs. Without treatment, impaction and infection can lead to anal sac ruptures.
It’s crucial to have a veterinarian check your pet if you notice any symptoms of anal sac discomfort. These symptoms include:
- Paying extra attention (licking, biting, chasing tail) to the rear end
- Pain/struggling when defecating or sitting
- Pus or blood in stool or around anus
- Dark, foul smelling discharge
Treatment will include an examination and anal sac expression. If infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed. The most severe cases may require surgery.
An anal sacculectomy is the surgical removal of anal sacs. It’s usually the last resort in severe cases of reoccurring impaction. This is due to the complicated nature of the surgery and the high risk of resulting nerve damage, fecal incontinence, and leakage.
Prevention of anal sac disease is difficult. The best way to reduce risk is to keep pets at a healthy weight. Feed pets an appropriately nutritious diet and exercise them regularly. If you notice any symptoms, make an appointment with your veterinarian to prevent progression.
Anal sac disease is a common issue among pets, especially dogs. While this problem can cause discomfort, treatment is usually quick, simple, and brings great relief to those afflicted. Because of its common occurrence, it’s important to keep watch for symptoms and have them addressed early at your veterinarian clinic.