Anal Sac Expression
What are anal sacs?
The anal sacs (commonly referred to as anal glands) are paired sacs, which sit on either side of the anus, at approximately 4 and 8 o’clock. They routinely fill with fluid used naturally to scent mark. Most dogs empty their anal sacs periodically while toileting but can also empty them suddenly if scared or stressed.
Sometimes the anal sacs become impacted, inflamed or infected. In these cases, we usually need to step in, manually emptying the sacs and sometimes giving additional treatment.
Symptoms of Anal Sac Disease
Dogs with anal sac disease often lick or chew at their back end, sometimes obsessively. They may rub or scoot their back end on the floor, and some struggle to sit down comfortably. You may notice them straining to toilet, blood around the back end, or discharge in the case of infections.
Treatment of Anal Sac Disease
Most anal sac disease can be identified on clinical examination. If your dog is very sore or dislikes the vets, they may need sedation to allow proper examination. To fully assess the anal sacs, the vet or nurse will need to insert a gloved finger into the rectum just past the sacs, approximately 2-3cm in.
Anal sacs can become impacted by dried out material or inflammation around the gland opening. Often, in a cooperative patient, impactions can be cleared manually by expressing (emptying) the sacs. Sometimes, it is helpful to express the sacs again 24-48 hours later.
If emptying the sacs is too painful or abscess’ form, your pet will be managed medically with anti-inflammatories or antibiotics, and the anal sac may need to be lanced. In more severe cases, it can be beneficial to flush the sacs under sedation or anaesthesia.
Patients with anal sac disease that is not resolving, or is recurring regularly, may be candidates for surgical anal sacculectomy (removal of the anal sacs).
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