Anal Sacculitis

Pet Anal Glands

Anal glands are normal anatomical structures found in all dogs and cats. They are used for scent marking. For some pets, anal glands can fill and become uncomfortable or even cause infections and other disease. It is mostly a domestic life style with a lack of territorial marking effort and inactivity that contribute to the problem. Wild canines rarely demonstrate this problem.

What are anal glands?
Anal glands are pouches or sacs which are located near the anus. Every dog and cat have a pair of anal glands normally, one gland located on each side of the anal region. The openings to these glands are located just inside the anus very near the juncture between the anus and the skin at approximately the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock position.
Anal glands in dogs and cats secrete a liquid substance which is held inside of the sac until the animal moves it's bowels, marks it's territory, or has a fight or flight moment. In dogs and cats with normal anal glands, this liquid is expressed from the glands along with the bowel movement scenting as well territory. Many animals will also express the contents of these glands when they become frightened, nervous or excited. This expression will result in a foul smelling, colored liquid substance being seen near the rectum of the animal, under the tail or on the floor or ground near the pet.

Cats and dogs "scoot" when anal glands become over-filled.
The most common symptom seen in dogs and cats related to the anal glands is scooting (i.e. sitting and pulling their rear across the floor). This occurs when the anal glands fill with fluid and are not expressed properly. Over-filling and inadequate emptying is not an uncommon occurrence, particularly in dogs. When this occurs the anal gland region begins to become uncomfortable for the pet, leading to the scooting behavior. Other symptoms commonly noted are hesitation or delays during BMs, smaller diametered feces, licking and/or biting at the area surrounding the anus and under the tail. Some dogs will hold their tails tucked down and under their legs when their anal glands are bothering them as well. More subtle clues can be mood swings like decreased appetite or play, intermittent vomiting and /or diarrheas, inappropriate BM placement, and even unilateral rear leg lameness.

Expressing the anal glands for a dog or cat
When the anal glands become over-filled, it is possible to manually express them.
External manual expression involves squeezing the area on either side of the anus to milk the fluid out of the glands. When expressed properly, the fluid from the glands will be visible exiting through the openings near the anus. Very often with anal gland problems the material has become to thick to express externally.
Internal manual expression involves inserting a gloved finger inside of the rectum of the dog and expressing the fluid from the anal glands by pressuring it between two fingers, one inside the rectum and one outside. As with the external method, material will be visible exiting the anal gland openings when expression is accomplished successfully.
Pet owners who are not comfortable expressing their pet's anal glands should consult a veterinarian for assistance in emptying the glands.

When anal glands are not emptied in dogs and cats
If intervention does not occur to empty the over-filled anal glands, eventually the fluid inside of the anal glands begins to change in consistency, becoming much thicker and more difficult to express. At this stage, it is often still possible to express the material from the anal glands, however.
Left unexpressed, anal glands can eventually become infected and may even abscess and rupture, leaving an open, painful wound near the anus. Treatment for anal gland infections and/or abscesses may involve flushing the anal gland and treating with antibiotics, either systemically, topically or both. Flushing the diseased anal gland may require sedation and pain relief for the affected pet.

Surgical removal of anal glands
It is possible to surgically remove the anal glands from pets experiencing repeated anal gland issues. This results in a cure to the pet's misery. Surgical removal of anal glands should be done by an experienced veterinarian. Although this is only a skin deep incision involving no bone or muscle disruption, a careful dissecting out of the diseased gland is required to avoid local nerve or muscle injury. Out patient, short surgical recoveries are typical. One or two small sutures next to the anus are the rule.