On either side of the anus in both dogs and cats, there are structures called Anal Sacs. These sacs are lined with anal glands, which secrete a very smelly fluid. The fluid stored in the sacs is expressed through ducts when the pet defecates, and is a way of ‘marking’ the area with the pet’s unique scent. The anal sacs can also be expressed when the pet is stressed.
Anal sacs can very commonly get impacted, usually due to blocked ducts that do not allow the fluid to be expressed. This can happen in both dogs and cats, but is most common in small breed dogs. Signs can include ‘scooting’ or rubbing of the bottom on the ground, or frequent licking of the area around the anus. If this happens, the sacs may need to be emptied by a veterinarian or veterinary technician. There are some groomers who are also able to empty impacted sacs. Some dogs require regular expression of the anal glands, and a high fiber diet may aid in naturally emptying the sacs. Adding plain bran, leafy green vegetables or other forms of fiber may help. Anal sacculectomy, or surgery to remove the sacs, may be considered when the problem occurs very frequently.
If the impaction becomes severe, it could become infected and abscessed. This will cause similar signs as impaction; however it will be accompanied by pain. An infected or abscessed gland warrants a visit to the veterinarian and requires treatment with antibiotics with or without surgery.
There are also some tumors that can occur in or near the anal sacs and the treatment for these is far more complicated. Like with any tumor, the veterinarian will most likely start with a biopsy, and then make recommendations based on the lab results.
Did your pet ever suffer from impacted anal sacs? What did your vet recommend and how did you treat the problem? Please share with us in the comments below.