The anal sacs are a pair of small glandular structures located on each side of the anus. Each sac has a small duct that empties just inside the anus. They produce a foul-smelling fluid that is normally squeezed out onto a dog or cat's faeces every time it defaecates. Anal sacs have no useful function. They are a remnant of our pets' ancestors' previous existence as wild animals: they used their faeces, each with their own individual smell from the anal sacs, to mark the limits of their territory. This is why dogs always tend to smell each other's backsides!
The first sign you will notice is irritation around the anus. Your dog may 'scoot' (drag its bottom along the ground), or chew at the anal area. Usually the root of the problem is that the duct of the anal sac has become blocked. This can progress to infection, abscess formation and/or rupture. These are all very painful conditions.
Blocked anal sacs with no infection can usually be relieved by carefully squeezing out the contents using a finger inserted into the rectum. This can be quite painful and may require sedation. If the sacs are infected, antibiotics may also be required. If an abscess has formed, it will need to be lanced and flushed under sedation or even anaesthesia. Usually we will dispense pain relief for you to give at home.
Unfortunately, there is a high recurrence rate of all types of anal sac disease. If your pet continues to suffer from anal sac problems, talk to us about surgery to remove the sacs. The operation is quite delicate, as the anal sacs lie within the anal sphincter muscle very close to the nerves and arteries supplying the anus. Results are excellent and healing is rapid.
Here you can find information and advice about common problems and diseases. Please remember, though, that this information can't replace a visit to the vet!