Anal Sac Disease

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The PetStuff Online Newsletter
Volume 1 Issue 9  October 8, 1999


Produced by Dr Dan

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"Anal Sac Disease - Scooting"

Ever been disgusted by your dog or cat rubbing its' bottom across the carpet? Chances are it was having problems with its' anal sacs. This a very common problem in both dogs and cats.

What are the anal sacs and what is their purpose?
The archaic anal sacs are an organ of the past and have no purpose in modern pets. The anal sacs are paired organs located beneath the skin and anal sphincter muscles at about the five and seven o'clock positions surrounding the rectum (See the first image below). Tiny ducts lead to the tissue just inside the rectum. The secretion that comes from these glands is brown in color and about the consistency of water or oil. The secretion has a very disagreeable odor to humans. As the pet defecates, the anal sphincter squeezes the sacs against the hard passing feces and causes the anal secretion to discharge onto the fecal mass. In olden times, this was used to mark a unique scent on the BM. It was like a sign-post used to communicate with the other dogs and cats.

Why so many problems?
You will notice in the above description that the anal sphincter must squeeze the sac against hard feces to express the contents. My idea of why modern pets have so many problems is that the feces are just not hard enough.  In ancient times, dogs and cats ate large quantities of meat and bone making their feces the consistency of concrete. Now, we feed diets with vegetable protein as the main ingredient. This produces a much softer stool so there is nothing for the glands to be squeezed against. The secretions build up and the pet has problems.

The degree of problems
When the fluid begins building up and the animal scoots to try to relieve the pressure we have signs of an impaction. Treatment at this point will save the pet from more serious problems later on.  This is why the anal sacs should always be checked by the veterinarian or groomer whenever working with the pet. If the secretion stays in the sacs for very long it begins to thicken and become like peanut butter in consistency. At this point it is very difficult to be expressed and subject to bacterial invasion and abscessation.  Once an abscess forms and there is no route of escape for the secretion and pus it may rupture through the skin causing an unsightly mess and lots of pain for the pet (See the second image below).   This is a situation we want to avoid.

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Expressing the anal glands

Normally the anal sacs are about the size of a kidney bean and difficult to feel beneath the skin surrounding the rectum. As they become impacted they increase in size until they feel like grapes or walnuts beneath the skin. It is at this stage that they should be expressed. Since the secretion smells so bad, it is a good idea to do this at bath time. To express the normal glands you just put a finger on each side of the rectum on the outside edges of the anal sacs. You then press towards the rectum, up and inward to trap the sacs. If a fluid is not expressed then you need assistance from your veterinarian. The secretion may have thickened or you haven't mastered the technique. 

If the secretion is inspisated (thickened) your veterinarian may need to give a sedative and pass a catheter into the duct of the gland. The anal sac is filled with water and worked until the secretion can be removed. Often times the sacs are then filled with an antibiotic ointment to kill the infection. If the gland has abscessed and broken out to the skin surface the wound must be debrided and flushed with an antiseptic solution daily until the wound heals from the inside out. This is painful, costly and dangerous. Systemic antibiotics must also be used when the glands have abscessed.

Removal of the anal sacs

If your pet has recurring problems with its' anal sacs the best treatment is the surgical removal of the gland.  This is accomplished by first given a general anesthetic and then filling the gland with a synthetic gel which makes them easier to find.  Incissions are made and the glands are removed. The surgical incisions are closed with suture material.

Parting words...
If your pet is scooting there has to be a reason. Look for feces stuck to the hair or the evidence of tapeworms or roundworms.  If you find neither then it's time to have your veterinarian check the anal sacs. Anal sac problems are extremely common and can cause tremendous pain for your pet. Early treatment can save lots of money for and spare your pet of much discomfort.

Next Week
October 17th - Feline Leukemia Disease - AIDS of the Cat World
October 24th - Antifreeze Can Kill Your Pet!

New Dog Breeds Recognized by AKC

The following new combination dog breeds are now recognized by the AKC:

Collie + Lhasa Apso
Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport

Spitz + Chow Chow
Spitz-Chow, a dog that throws up a lot

Pointer + Setter
Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet

Malamute + Pointer
Moot Point, owned by....oh, well, it doesn't matter anyway

Great Pyrenees + Dachshund
Pyradachs, a puzzling breed

Pekingnese + Lhasa Apso
Peekasso, an abstract dog

Irish Water Spaniel + English Springer Spaniel
Irish Springer, a dog fresh and clean as a whistle

Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever
Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of research scientists

Newfoundland + Basset Hound
Newfound Asset Hound, a dog for financial advisors

Terrier + Bulldog
Terribull, a dog that makes awful mistakes

Bloodhound + Labrador
Blabador, a dog that barks incessantly

Collie + Malamute
Commute, a dog that travels to work

Deerhound + Terrier
Derriere, a dog that's true to the end

Bull Terrier + Shitzu
Bull.....  Oh, never mind

Images used in this publication taken from Hill's Atlas of Clinical Anatomy, Published by Veterinary Medicine Publishing Company, Inc. A publication donated to veterinarians by the Hill's Pet Food Company to teach clients about their dogs and cats in sickness and in health. Hill's Pet Food Company produces Hill's Prescription Diets and Science Diet Premium Pet Food.

Have A Nice Weekend

Later,  Dr Dan