Effects of Anal Sac Disease – From the Dog’s Point of View
Canine anal sac disorders are relatively common. The anal sacs are paired structures located on either side of a dog’s anus (the terminal end of the digestive tract through which feces is expelled). Normally, the anal sacs secrete a very smelly substance when a dog defecates, which probably acts as a form of territorial marking. When these sacs become irritated, inflamed, impacted or infected – which can occur for a number of reasons – their contents can’t drain normally, although the glandular tissue lining the sacs continue to produce the substance. The discomfort, itchiness and pain suffered by dogs with impacted anal glands can range from quite mild to extremely severe. Affected animals will be uncomfortable, at best.
Symptoms of Anal Sac Disease – What the Owner Sees
Dogs with anal sac disorders usually show signs of physical discomfort in the area around their anus, called the “perianal” or “perineal” region. The region may be swollen and red, both of which are recognized signs of inflammation and irritation. Blood and/or pus may be seen on the dog’s feces or on the skin and hair around its anus; this is more common in long-haired breeds and when an anal sac abscess has ruptured. Owners may notice one or more of the following signs if something is wrong with their dogs’ anal sacs:
- Licking and biting at the perianal area (can be intermittent or relentless)
- Straining to defecate (tenesmus)
- Scooting the rear end along the floor, grass or ground in a sitting position
- Reluctance to sit still
- Fresh blood on fecal material
- Pus on fecal material (pus is a protein-rich inflammatory byproduct made of cells (leukocytes), a thin liquid (liquor puris) and cellular debris; it usually is a sign of bacterial infection)
- Visible swelling and redness around the anus
- Open, weeping wounds adjacent to the anus, with or without the presence of pus or blood
- Foul odor coming from the anal area
- Bad breath (halitosis; from licking the rear end)
- Fever, if infection is present
If a dog has anal sac tumors, its owner may (or may not) notice a visible mass or bulge near the dog’s anus.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Small breed dogs develop anal sac disorders more commonly than do larger breeds – particularly Miniature Poodles, Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas. Long-haired dogs and fat animals are at a higher risk, as well. Older female dogs are particularly predisposed to developing anal sac tumors, which may or may not be malignant or even visible to the naked eye. Dogs suffering from chronic diarrhea, soft feces and/or poor rectal muscle tone, regardless of the cause of those conditions, are predisposed to anal sac disease, as well.