A white and grey dog waving its paw

Does your dog regularly scoot its cute backside across the living room floor?

Do you occasionally notice an unpleasant, musky odor in the air or spot a brown streak on the carpet?

Have you noticed your pet obsessively licking its rear end?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, your pet’s anal sacs may be to blame.

While not the most exciting topic, knowing what the anal sacs are and how to properly care for them is an important component of your pet’s care.

Form and Function

Anal sacs, also called anal glands, are located just inside both sides of the anus. The lining of the sacs secrete an oily, dark brown, smelly substance that is stored inside the sacs themselves. 

Unlike skunks that can secrete the contents of their anal sacs forcefully and at will, dogs’ and cats’ anal sacs are normally expressed during defecation, or when nervous or anxious. It is thought that the odorous secretions are a way for pets to convey information about themselves or communicate territorial markings. The oily substance can also serve to lubricate the stool as it is excreted.

Common Concerns

Impaction of anal sac secretions is the most common cause of anal sac problems in dogs (and sometimes cats). Impaction occurs when the secretions aren’t properly expressed (emptied) at the time a pet defecates. Over time, as the sacs continue to fill and become even more impacted, infection and abscess will set in if the problem is left untreated. Not only is this painful for a pet, medical treatment involving opening and draining the abscess will be required. In some cases where the impaction problem is chronic, the anal sacs may need to be removed surgically. 

Fortunately, most of our pets will make it obvious when they are having anal sac issues. These are the most common signs:

  • Scooting the rear end across the floor 
  • Incessant licking / biting at the rear end 
  • Having difficulty defecating (or appearing constipated) 
  • A swollen area surrounding the anus. 

The Care and Keeping of Anal Sacs

If you suspect your pet may be having anal sac trouble, contact us at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center. Some dogs need to have their anal sacs emptied manually on a regular basis, which requires skill, a gentle touch, and some patience. Since it can be a rather odiferous and messy task for both human and pet, it is a service that we are happy to provide for you. 

Here are additional things you can do to help your pet maintain normal functioning anal sacs:

  • A change in diet – Adding more fiber to your pet’s diet will create firm, bulky stool that may aid in expressing the anal sacs. Your veterinarian will be happy to provide recommendations for dietary changes.
  • A healthy weightObese and overweight pets are at higher risk for anal sac problems. Manage your pet’s weight through a high quality diet, portion control, and daily physical activity / exercise.
  • Manage skin conditions – Allergic dermatitis and other chronic skin problems can exacerbate anal gland issues. Make sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for proper management of skin and haircoat conditions.
  • Regular physical exams – Take your pet to all of its regularly scheduled exam appointments, where anal sac problems can be caught and dealt with before they progress and cause other problems. 

For more information on anal sacs, read our blog “Beware of the Scoot” posted in November, 2016 on our website Blog Page. 

As always, the team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center is here for you. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you have about your pet’s health and well-being.